My addiction to benzos and sleeping pills nearly took my life. In an effort to self-medicate my depression, anxiety and insomnia away, I lost total control and plunged deeper and deeper into the abyss of mental illness and addiction. I lived in a clouded haze because I couldn’t handle the realities of life, at least I thought I couldn’t.
My cautionary tale began years ago; depression has been a part of that tale throughout. It undermined me as an underlying malady for the first 22 years of my life. I had no idea that I had this disease. It wasn’t until 2006, after I graduated from college, that I began to understand the lifelong battle I would have to wage.
I was prescribed “medication” for the insomnia, anxiety and depression. I abused the sleeping pills for years but managed to hide it for nearly a decade. Taking 20 Ambien and washing it down with a few beers became dangerously common for me. I cannot even fathom how lucky I am to be here. Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it. The benzos entered the picture and I descended further into the chasm of drug abuse. I was soon abusing Xanax and sleeping pills. I was high around the clock. My connection to reality faded and blackouts and trips to the ER soon followed. The perilous game was going to end one way or another. Fortunately, it ended with treatment, education and recovery.
In November 2016, I reached a breaking point in my battle with depression, anxiety and insomnia. I had been in bed for three straight days and there were no signs of hope. Thanks to my counselor, I went into Alexian's Behavioral Health Hospital for intensive outpatient treatment.
I was in the program for about six weeks. It is not an understatement to say that it saved my life. I learned integral tools and discovered my true self. It has formed who I am today. I still have depression, anxiety and insomnia, but now I win the battle each day because of what I learned there.
The other healthy connector I have is music. I write about my struggles and it helps me navigate the murky waters of mental illness. I have formed a band called Grey Shore Avenue. I write songs about my struggles, but they come from a place of strength and fortitude. They are a reflection of how I am fighting back against the demons and putting them in their proper place each day. It is a lifelong battle, but, now, I have weapons to use against my disease.