it’s been 100 days…

It’s been 100 days since I took my last teensy-tiny dose of xanax, the prescription anti-anxiety medication I was prescribed for many years.

But my journey with getting off xanax – a journey that has been (and still continues to be) unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone – started long before that August day.

By the time I took that last dose, I had been slowly and gradually tapering for 17 months.

By the time I took that last dose, I was down to crumbs of the lowest-dose pill, taking approximately .015 mg. When I started my taper, I was on a daily dose of 1 mg (and my prescription allowed for me to take up to an extra .5 mg daily for “breakthrough anxiety”).

Xanax is one medication in a class of medications known as benzos, short for benzodiazepines. Generically (I always took the generic) xanax is alprazolam. Other commonly-prescribed (in the US at least) benzos include ativan (lorazepam), klonopin (clonazepam), and valium  (diazepam).

There are millions of people in the US who are prescribed a benzodiazepine medication. If you’re not taking one, chances are you know someone who is… although they might not tell you about it. There’s still a lot of stigma about medications that are usually prescribed for mental/emotional health (although many prescriptions for benzos are for other things, such as insomnia or pain).

Stopping one of these medications must be done slowly and gradually, because it can be life-threatening to stop too quickly.

And stopping one of these medications, even in a gradual and slow way, can bring about a whole host of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. This doesn’t happen for everyone, and especially if the person is withdrawing from one of these medications for the first time.

But it’s what has been happening for me.

Actually, my neurologist believes (and I agree, especially after coming to learn so much more than I ever did before about benzodiazepines and their impact on every system of the body) xanax was probably contributing to my physical problems for years before I ever started tapering off the medication. But I didn’t realize it, and neither did any of the doctors I saw in my quest to figure out what was happening to my health. Ironically, the one medication I was willing to take turned out to be incredibly costly to my life.

This journey has been completely nonlinear in terms of symptoms and healing, and it can change (from mostly-okay to terrible, or from excruciating to tolerable) within a single hour, and multiple times within a day or week.

And although xanax once helped calm my anxiety enough for me to feel “normal” – not zoned or zonked out, not numbed or sedated, not stoned or sleepy, simply like me but without such severe anxiety that I couldn’t function – tapering and withdrawing from xanax has resulted in chemical anxiety that’s worse than the bouts of debilitating anxiety I had before being prescribed the medication in the first place.

My journey to discontinue xanax has been physically difficult, with many physical symptoms, some of them quite scary, and there have been times I’ve seriously wondered if I would make it through – and this really is one of those things where the only way out is through.


For today to mark 100 days completely free from xanax feels like a milestone and a victory and an accomplishment.

And yet…

The journey definitely is not over.

I’ve been told the average time to heal from this is 6 to 18 months. In that context, 100 days seems like a short time.

I still have physical symptoms that come and go, and wax and wane. And although overall I think things are getting slowly better, physical symptoms are still with me daily and still impacting my life in ways big and small.


I believe I am healing.

And even though the journey is still difficult most every day, and even though I still struggle with physical symptoms, and even though I still deal with chemical anxiety that can sometimes feel through the proverbial roof, and even though I sometimes get scared this is my “new normal” and it won’t get better than this –

Again and again, I bring myself back to believing I am healing, and I bring myself back to choosing to focus on joy, and I bring myself back to doing what I need to do to get through.


All of this – my lifelong struggle with anxiety that has impacted my life in so many ways, and the horror show of benzo tolerance and tapering and withdrawal, and the high anxiety I continue to have – all of this is why I talk here so much about joy, and calming, and soul nourishment.

Because those things are life necessities for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. And one reason I share my stories, and share what helps me, is in case someone comes across my words and recognizes something about their own journey… and maybe they’ll feel less alone.

There are many things I’ve done to help me get through my taper and discontinuation. Things I still turn to, especially as many of them help me with anxiety in general, and anxiety is still such a problem for me. I’ve written about some of them before, and I’ll probably be sharing about others.

But in case you’ve found this post and you’re tapering from (or are dealing with the discontinuation of) a benzo, I’d like to mention some of the things that have been helpful for me. I’m sure I’ll leave some out, and these are in no particular order:

laughing (at anything, whatever you can find that makes you laugh)
brain retraining
calming techniques
things that help the vagus nerve
very gentle exercise
energy medicine
prayer and spiritual connection
laughter yoga
avoiding foods/drinks that result in feeling worse physically
being careful with supplements
breathing techniques
and did I say distraction?? (in case it’s not obvious, that’s a huge one)

Getting off a benzo can be done, but it’s important to do it safely.

And if you’re on the journey to withdrawing from one, or have discontinued one and are dealing with symptoms, please don’t give up hope, please keep going, and please know you’re not alone – even though this can feel like an incredibly lonely and isolating time.

The journey to healing isn’t linear, it’s a road that twists and turns, with ups and downs.

But we just keep following that winding road – and we keep heading for the light ahead. And if we can find moments of joy and calm and delight along the way, we grab hold of them whenever we can.


10 terrific tips for calming…

Because of years and years (and years) living with anxiety and trying all sorts of things to help, I have a toolkit of calming techniques. I’m always on the lookout for more things that help, and I add to my metaphorical kit whenever I discover something that works for me.

There are times when one technique or tool works better for me than the others. And there are times when something that usually works wonderfully simply won’t do the trick in a particular moment.

That’s why it’s important to have a variety of these tools and techniques, like a buffet we can survey, picking the best-for-us thing at the time.

I’ve compiled ten of my favorite calming techniques into a downloadable and printable pdf for you to have if you wish. As with the other freebies here on my blog, there’s  no charge, no need to sign up for anything – simply download the file (and print if you’d like).

You can find the pdf, 10 Terrific Tips for Calming, here.

Wishing you calm.


joy and anxiety…

During these last few months of the year, one of the main themes I’m blogging about is my journey with joy.

But I have to admit it’s hard sometimes for me to connect with joy because there are times when anxiety – and outright fear – get in the way.

My struggle with anxiety is actually what made me realize, several years ago, how very important it is for me to connect with joy… and how I need to be intentional about it. Because otherwise the anxiety and fear and grief and worry and other not-so-great-feeling things can be so much at the forefront that joy isn’t noticed (and maybe especially those small moments of joy that can pass us by before we catch them).

This isn’t about ignoring reality and pretending things are great when they’re not. It’s about paying attention, being intentional, and looking for anything big or small that brings a sense of joy.

But… is it truly possible to connect with joy and experience anxiety too?

That question has been on my mind lately, as anxiety and fear have been spiking sky high many days. Part of what’s going on for me is rebound anxiety, chemical anxiety, spurred by my body trying to adjust to no longer having anti-anxiety medication in my system. And part of what’s going on has been one life stress after another (some big, some small) piled on top of each other with seemingly little or no breathing room before something else is added to the stack.

I’m trying not to worry and fear and dread the future – but those feelings are there. I’m praying, I’m working my neural retraining programs, I’m using a variety of anxiety and stress coping tools, I’m seeking comfort in my spirituality and faith – but far too often, the anxiety and fear are dominant.

Can I really connect with joy while feeling those things?

Yes. And it’s important for me to do so.

Connecting with joy helps relieve the fear and anxiety, even if only temporarily, and even if fear and anxiety don’t completely go away.

I can sing along to a song that lights up my heart…and I’ll experience a time of joy, and the anxiety will ease, but sometimes it doesn’t completely go away. My connection to joy will mingle with a background feeling of anxiety, an unease at the edges of my awareness, maybe quieter but still present.

At other times, joy takes over and the anxiety disappears for a while. I’m grateful, so very grateful, for those times. Sunday afternoon was a recent example of this, as my husband and I took a brief walk in the park, enjoying an afternoon of somewhat-rare-lately lovely weather. I focused on joy. I breathed the fresh air. I gave thanks for the time of peace and ease.

Anxiety and fear roared back with a vengeance only a few hours later. So I focused on looking for more small moments, small things, small ways to connect with joy. Petting the cat. Snuggling under the covers to watch a favorite show. Noticing the calming glow of the fairy lights in the room.

I can’t just wait for anxiety to leave before noticing what brings me joy. I can’t simply wait for joy to unexpectedly show up (although it definitely can do that!).

I have to look for it. I have to be aware. I have to notice.

I have to consciously connect with joy.

Even when – and maybe, sometimes, especially when – anxiety is present too.