Saturday, February 26, 2011

My experience with Ambien addiction and withdrawal, benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal, alcohol addiction and withdrawal

I am writing this essay as a free speech essay ONLY.  This is my own PERSONAL story, and these are my own personal amateur opinions and amateur conclusions that I have drawn through “hard won” lessons on the subject of benzo/Ambien/alcohol addiction and withdrawal.  NOTHING more is claimed or implied by the following essay.  Different people have different situations and certainly different body chemistries, so what you read below is simply what worked for ME and for me alone.

I am NOT a doctor AND this essay is in NO WAY being written to influence people’s actions or behavior in any way.  Please do your own due diligence and draw your own conclusions.

March 11 2012-  The essay below has been written over the last three years while I have been extricating myself from dependence on Ambien, alcohol and benzodiazepines. (Restoril, Ativan and Xanax.)  If you feel that you are addicted to Ambien, addicted to alcohol, addicted to benzodiazepines, well, I was probably even MORE addicted to all three COMBINED than you are now.  My guess is I was probably about in the same position as Michael Jackson just before he died.  I suppose I was just luckier than Michael Jackson to find a doctor who knew about the right withdrawal meds to straighten me out.  Michael Jackson’s doctor’s advice was REALLY wrong, but my doctor has proven to me that he (my doctor) was REALLY right.  Are you having trouble sleeping without taking A LOT of drugs and alcohol?  I was too.  Is your memory beginning to get foggy?  Mine was too.  Is your life going down hill based on drugs and alcohol consumption?  My life was also going down hill…

Is there an answer?  My opinion based on my experience is most certainly YES.

The good news is I am totally drug and alcohol free today, AND I went through the last 3 years relatively comfortably.  So how did I do it?  Well, my whole rambling story is below on this blog site, but what is the quick final analysis?

I went totally “cold turkey” in one day on all consumption of alcohol, Ambien and benzodiazepines, BUT I was coached by a sharp and experienced physician to take 100 mg. pills of Lyrica every 3 hours.  Further my doctor told me to take an extra Lyrica pill anytime things began to get uncomfortable.

300 mg. of Lyrica per day made me comfortable and allowed me to sleep peacefully each night in the total absence of alcohol, Ambien and benzodiazepines.  Amazing yes, and in my opinion , Lyrica saved my life from a LIFE of drugs and alcohol dependency.

Was I uncomfortable during my “cold turkey” withdrawal ordeal?  No.  Lyrica is amazing.  Did I sleep well at night?  Yes.  Again, Lyrica is amazing.

Some anecdotal evidence of Lyrica (generic name Pregabalin) use in Portugal for withdrawal cases:

The two primary drugs that I took to get me through my withdrawal from Ambien, benzodiazepines and alcohol are:

Lyrica    (generic name Pregabalin)
Gabapentin    (generic name Neurontin).

My opinion: IF Michael Jackson had taken enough Lyrica, he’d be alive today.  The problem being that Lyrica only recently became commercially available.  Michael’s doctor may not have had access to Lyrica while Michael was still alive.  (I suspect however that Gabapentin was available and I suspect Gabapentin would have worked to lessen Michael’s extreme benzo and drug withdrawal symptoms.  More on Gabapentin below.) 

My opinion:  Had Michael taken A LOT of Lyrica, AND, had Michael concurrently stopped taking benzos and dope, Michael would be alive today, and he would NOT have had trouble sleeping at night.  Propofol use was an absurd sleeping selection when Gabapentin (maybe Lyrica) was readily available.  I’m convinced that Michael’s doctor simply didn’t have the appropriate knowledge on this subject.  Michael’s doctor was giving Michael IV Ativan (benzo) so that Michael could sleep.  The Propofol supposedly is what killed Michael, but the IV Ativan couldn’t have been good.  I would think that Michael’s benzo addiction was getting progressively worse using this crazy nightly IV sleeping routine.

Michael Jackson's attempt to battle a sleep disorder:

“The 2004 document details a dark picture of Jackson's attempts to battle his sleeping disorder.  One security guard that sheriff's deputies interviewed said he expressed his concern about Jackson's use of 10-plus pills a night to another staffer.  The second staffer replied: ‘Jackson was doing better because he was down from 30 to 40 Xanax pills a night,’ according to the document.”

Whitney Houston’s drug related death?  Well, see if you see any similarities to YOUR life in this quote:

"Whitney Houston had taken Valium, Xanax, and alcohol, which led to her death. The coroner is waiting on final toxicology results to determine which one of the three was the major contributing factor of her demise,"

Lethal combo killed artist Thomas Kinkade

The artist Thomas Kinkade, 54, died in April from a lethal combination of alcohol and Valium, according to an autopsy report from the Santa Clara County, California, medical examiner.

I stumbled into my benzo/Ambien/alcohol addiction and withdrawal ordeal without access to what other people had done when faced with my same set of circumstances.  I remember spending entire nights pouring over one Google referenced article after article in an attempt to find someone who had the guts to publish what had worked for them personally.  (Right or wrong, I wanted to see what others had to say on this subject.  I make my OWN decisions, just give me the information!)  Wikipedia helped, various amateur content benzodiazepine withdrawal web sites helped, various medical study synopsizes helped, but what I was looking for was someone’s story from start to finish concerning their own personal withdrawal ordeal, with hopefully with a successful conclusion.  This I never found!  Good Lord, there are BILLIONS of articles referenced on Google and nothing completely pertaining to what I needed?  Well, mostly this is true.  Benzo withdrawal has been an identified condition for perhaps 30 years or more.  Where was someone’s personal success story about this subject?  I couldn’t find much.  Ambien is now being prescribed in unbelievable amounts worldwide.  Where are the stories of personal addiction and withdrawal ordeals from using Ambien?  I couldn’t find much on that subject either...

Now, two years into my personal withdrawal ordeal I am telling you my story because this essay is what I wish I had been able to find two years ago.  Do with this information what you wish, but please don’t blame me for having the guts to tell you MY story, AND/OR don’t blame me for having the guts to give you my very “amateur” opinions on the various withdrawal drugs that I have used to get through this ordeal.  Again, I only wish I had been able to find a story like this 2 years ago.  Feel free to totally reject what I am writing here.  Accept or reject information is the very nature of free speech.

As I write this it is in the early weeks of 2011.  I started my withdrawal ordeal in the early weeks of 2009.  Yes, I am still (approx. 2 years) experiencing some residual affects of:

1.  Ambien (generic names Zolpidem and Stilnox) withdrawals
2.  Restoril Benzodiazepine (generic name Temazepam) withdrawals
3.  Alcohol withdrawals

**See my essay (below) dated May 2009.  This May 2009 essay was posted on an amateur Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Internet chat board.  I wrote that essay (see below) about 3 days into my initial withdrawal experience.  I think the significance of the essay (see below) is that it gives you some insight into what you can expect to experience if you anticipate entering withdrawals on any combination of Ambien, benzodiazepines or alcohol.

I made a lot of mistakes, so my lessons came primarily (but not entirely) from “the school of hard knocks”.  I must say that I am “no worse for wear” after 2 years, but without question I could have done things a LOT better.  To be sure, getting into this mess in the first place was a case of sheer stupidity on my part.  In my limited defense however, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  There actually is a phrase for foolish people like myself who inadvertently get hooked on this stuff.  They call us, “Accidental Addicts”.  That phrase is just about right for me!  I honestly did NOT completely comprehend the risks I was facing as I took the benzos, Ambien and alcohol.  I probably drank alcohol every day for maybe 30 years.  What happened was that as I progressed into consuming larger amounts of alcohol each day, I began to notice that I couldn’t sleep through the night with any regularity.  This posed a problem for me which I will explain more completely below.  Solving my problems in sleeping led me into a personal case of Ambien withdrawal, benzodiazepine withdrawal AND alcohol withdrawal, (all at the same time I might add).  The truth is that I know now that when I decided to quit consuming all this foolishness, (when I entered withdrawals) I put myself on the “ragged edge” of having a life threatening seizure because my withdrawal symptoms kicked in with ferocious intensity.  It turns out that I never had a seizure (thank God) but withdrawal seizures are often FATAL.  I only wish that someone had taken the time to do what I am doing today and write about their own personal, hopefully successful, withdrawal experience.  Anecdotal knowledge CAN be enormously beneficial.  I sincerely hope that by my writing this essay today, some unfortunate soul will gain the benefit of my experience and put their own life onto the right track.  I have read stories concerning several celebrities who attempted suicide over withdrawal issues almost identical to my own experience.  As amazing as it may sound, my case is WAY too common these days.

This is a direct “paraphrased” quote from Wikipedia for the generic version of Ambien, generic name “Zolpidem” or “Stilnox”:

"the tolerance producing potential of zolpidem was the same as that of benzodiazepines.[42]Tolerance can develop in some people to the effects of zolpidem in just a few weeks. Abrupt withdrawal of zolpidem may cause delirium, seizures or other severe effects, especially if used for prolonged periods and at high dosages.[43][44][45]"

I believe that the biggest problem TODAY on this addiction and “withdrawal” subject is that doctors don’t completely understand how insidious “Ambien” can be.  I think the hazards of benzodiazepines are pretty well understood, but it appears that Ambien is “considered” safe (very wrong perception) for long term use.   My experience:  This is a HUGE mistake in perception concerning Ambien. (And a particularly bad drug perception mistake if you are a doctor.)

I believe what doctors need to realize is that if you abuse alcohol, (lots of other drugs also) YOU CAN’T SLEEP through the night!  So what do you do if you want to continue drinking excessive amounts of alcohol? (Or take various other stupid drugs, but I’ll concentrate on alcohol for the sake of this essay.)  Well, you tell your doctor that you have insomnia.  Hmmm… do you really?  No, you just drink too much.  People should realize (and your doctor should also realize) that alcohol wears off at about 3AM typically BUT the “adrenaline” that your body puts up to counter the alcohol stays in your blood for hours after the alcohol wears off, maybe until noon tomorrow or even longer.  The point is that the “adrenaline” still in your blood at 3AM (after the alcohol wears off) wakes you up.  Yes, you feel like you could run a marathon at 3AM!  Sleep?  No possible way.  So what do you do at 3AM to get back to sleep?  You take an Ambien of course.  You need to be up to go to work at 6AM and you can’t be groggy or boozy.  Ambien does the trick, at least for tonight.  There is a catch however as follows:  Doctors don’t like to prescribe Ambien for more than 10 days.  Hmmm… what do you do after that 10th day?  You still want to drink, right?  “Oh my my, I won’t be able to sleep past 3AM each night, but I need to drive to work in the morning AND I need to function normally at work as well.  Hmmm….  I’ll convince my doctor that I have a chronic sleep disorder and get him/her to keep the Ambien prescription open indefinitely.”

Mr. Doctor, your patients are not that sneaky, right?  Think again.  That patient who is pitching you for more Ambien is probably doing so along these lines (paragraph above) in a very high percentage of the cases.  Amazingly, Ambien is (I think) the most highly prescribed medication in the US right now!  Wow!  My opinion on this subject?  Answer, this is no great surprise.  People want to keep drinking or doing some other dope I suppose.

I think that if I were a doctor and had a patient show up asking me to renew his/her Ambien prescription (you are probably getting hustled doc) I believe I would print this essay out and hand it to the Ambien requesting patient.  This essay may not apply to every patient asking you for Ambien, but I’d be willing to bet that this essay applies to a high percentage of your Ambien prescription requesters.  You’d be amazed at how influential anecdotal stories can be at favorably influencing the behavior of these people.  You may be their doctor, but trust me, they probably won’t listen to you on this subject.  However, they hear about the “downside” from someone like me who has been though their exact same wringer?  Well yes, they MAY in fact listen to me.  (This is also the AA experience on this subject.)  Perhaps another life/path will be corrected.

Taking Ambien because YOU want to drink too much?  Lord what a mistake ladies and gentlemen!  I could however give you a half a dozen people I know who are most likely doing this exact thing right now with Ambien, and their doctors believe they are only experiencing sleep disorders!  Will they end up with problems like I did?  I suspect yes.  I’ll explain below the “affected human biology” as I understand it.  Valium may be used with alcohol (dangerously) exactly as I am describing above, but I really believe that the only difference (Ambien vs. Valium) is that doctors are more on guard for alcohol-Valium abusers and less on guard for alcohol-Ambien abusers.  Otherwise the scenario is the exact same.  I have a “recovering” alcoholic friend who described doing this exact thing (alcohol-Valium) some decades earlier in order to sleep at night.  Drugs, decades and circumstances may change, but human nature and the human biology never changes.

Did I contemplate suicide in the early stages of my withdrawal and BEFORE I got on the correct withdrawal meds?  Yes I did.  Was my withdrawal trauma necessary?  No, the correct withdrawal medications are easily available, but I did not have a clue what to take, what to expect, and where to get the necessary withdrawal medications.  Suicide as an answer to withdrawal symptoms?  RIDICULOUS!  So what was the problem in my case?  Well, the problem was that I did not find an essay like this one to get me headed in the right direction.

A very violent and horrible “alcohol withdrawal” anecdote as follows:

A friend of mine had TWO almost fatal alcohol withdrawal seizures because he simply ran out of vodka!  Admittedly he was on a pretty big “bender” at the time, but, he ran out of vodka?  Yes, and he had TWO seizures which “fortunately” were observed by his girlfriend such that she called 911.  I didn’t see the incident, but I got a cell phone call with a “blow by blow” charged emotional commentary of the ordeal from my friend’s girlfriend.  My friend bit his tongue all the way through and was flopping on the floor spitting blood all over his living room walls.  From what I read now, this type of seizure becomes a FATALITY in roughly 25-30% of the cases.

My opinion based on my personal “amateur” experience:  My friend should have had a bottle of Lyrica or Gabapentin on the shelf ready to take as soon as he ran out of vodka and thus entered withdrawals.  I suspect that a 100-150 mg pill of Lyrica every 3 hours (or a 300 mg pill of Gabapentin every 3 hours) would have kept my friend from having an alcohol withdrawal seizure.  If for no other reason than safety, have this stuff around ladies and gentlemen!  Why take a chance?

MESSAGE:  Withdrawal from alcohol/Ambien/benzos can be EXTREMELY dangerous.  Get as prepared as you possibly can if you anticipate entering withdrawals.  Probably the best advice would be to enter medical rehab or hospital care in ADVANCE of going into withdrawals.  I know, run out of vodka and enter a $50,000. Betty Ford rehab?  Yeh right…  Well, it still is good advice even if it is impractical or even impossible for most people.  Knowledge is power.  Be prepared, and get as educated as you can on what may happen in withdrawals and how to avoid the major issues.

Just before my friend’s alcohol withdrawal seizure happened, I was talking to another friend of mine who happens to be a doctor.  I told the doctor that this other friend was uncomfortable because he had just run out of vodka.  (At the time, I was not that alarmed because I didn’t yet comprehend the risks involved.)  Anyway, the doctor suddenly got VERY alarmed and told me to get the alcohol withdrawing friend into the hospital emergency IMMEDIATELY.  The doctor said that our alcohol withdrawing friend may be DEAD very soon without the proper treatment.  I remember thinking, “What?  The guy just ran out of vodka!”  My thinking was that the guy should quit drinking under any circumstances.  Well, here is what happened next:  I called the alcohol withdrawing friend and told him what the doctor said.  My friend said, “no, I’m beginning to feel better now, I’m not going to the hospital..”  I called the doctor again and said that the alcohol withdrawing friend was suddenly feeling better.  The doctor got even more alarmed and said, “these people start to feel better JUST BEFORE THEY HAVE A SEIZURE!”  Minutes later my alcohol withdrawing friend had his two massive seizures mentioned above.

My friend survived thank God, but barely.  It turns out that he probably would have avoided the seizures had he taken just one shot of vodka per hour (or one beer per hour) and simply tapered down from that dose level for the next few days.  (People have been using this method for centuries to wean off alcohol.)  The doctor I was talking to just before the seizure incident told me that “in the old days” hospital emergency rooms would IV straight alcohol into the veins of these alcohol withdrawal patients to avoid seizures.  My friend’s girlfriend in retrospect should have run out and bought a bottle of vodka as a stop-gap measure to protect him from the seizure risk.  Oh well….  NONE of us knew then what his risks were.  We all just thought that he should stop drinking!  True enough, but he should have done so correctly, gradually and intelligently.

Without question my friend would have been better off using modern withdrawal medications to withdraw from his alcohol “bender”, some of which I describe in this blog (there are many other medications for this purpose also) but I recognize that we don’t all have access to modern withdrawal medications at the point when we REALLY need them.  (Many of us don’t even HAVE health insurance, so this essay may be particularly important to some folks.) Under the circumstances for my alcohol withdrawing friend, I do believe (amateur opinion) that “one shot of vodka per hour” would have done the trick in avoiding my friend’s seizures.   I think that one of the most important lessons that I have learned is that “going cold turkey” on alcohol/Ambien/benzos, or any combination thereof, can be life threatening.  “Going cold turkey” can result in seizures, and seizures can be FATAL.  The good news is that Lyrica and/or Gabapentin (and even alcohol in smaller doses) all deal with various aspects of the “seizure” risk.  Take note:  Get prepared with meds in hand if you are considering “going cold turkey”, the risk of seizure is very real and VERY dangerous.

The following link is a study presented at a European medical conference by a Portuguese doctor concerning using Pregabalin (Lyrica) in alcohol withdrawal.  I think after you read this article you will agree that my alcohol withdrawing friend should have had a bottle of Lyrica on the shelf “just in case” he ran out of vodka and entered withdrawal:

The applicable “withdrawal” human biology as I understand it:

If you really want to get an education on this subject, read the following link carefully.  And yes, the following Wikipedia link applies very much to long term Ambien use as well as long term benzo use, and even to some extent long term alcohol use:

Suffice to say that Ambien, benzodiazepines and alcohol work on the brain’s nerve cell “GABA” receptors in a very similar way.  GABA is a calming hormone or chemical in the human blood and Ambien, benzodiazepines and alcohol work by opening the nerve cell receptors to let the GABA in, thus calming your nerves as well as putting you to sleep.  Perhaps good, but there is a catch:  The human brain nerve cells adapt to these drugs and alcohol such that they change over time “to this forcing open” of the GABA nerve cell receptors.  The human nerve cells actually change and REVERSE the function of the GABA nerve cell receptors such that they affectively DON’T let the GABA in and thus you will be unable to fall asleep (or calm down naturally) until you get more Ambien and/or perhaps more benzos and alcohol.  This nerve cell change happens over time, but once it happens, you are seriously hooked.  Further, if you let this condition continue by taking these drugs in ever larger doses or over longer periods of time, your nerve cells will actually start to CREATE anxiety to counter the depressing affects of the drugs you are ingesting.  Stop taking the drugs, Ambien etc., and you probably will experience major anxiety/panic attacks or worse (seizure).  This is serious stuff ladies and gentlemen.  Please take all of this information seriously before it is too late, hopefully before you even think about going “cold turkey” thus creating a withdrawal condition, or better yet, don’t take these drugs in the first place!  (Yes I know, I know, that was preaching….)

I remember when my withdrawal doc prescribed Lyrica originally he told me two things:

1.       “You won’t be uncomfortable now.”
2.       “Throw away your remaining Ambien and benzodiazepines.”

As it turns out, this was sound advice.  I was in fact pretty comfortable once I got on Lyrica.  The truth is however, I didn’t have the guts to toss out my Ambien and benzos!  Admission:  I never again took another benzo or Ambien.  I have however had a drink or two along the way, but each time I drank, it was a BIG mistake.  Alcohol is “cross tolerant” with Ambien and benzos such that it kicks off the old withdrawal symptoms in a powerful way.  This is the best motivation EVER to stay off booze!  Drink a beer or two and I feel like someone hit me on the head with a 2 by 4.  Yes the Lyrica or Gabapentin dose goes WAY up for the next week or two as my body treats me to another round of withdrawals as a result of those lousy few beers I drank.  Booze any more simply ain’t worth the pain in my opinion.  As such, I am amazingly sober these days!  (Man does a beer sound good however right about now….. NFW!)

Another perhaps “controversial conversation” I had with my withdrawal doctor 2 years ago:  I asked my doctor what he thought of the “Ashton” Valium tapering method of using Valium to gradually wean off benzos and/or Ambien.  My doctor was pretty blunt in telling me,

“That was how we treated this condition ten year ago”.

Obviously that was simply one doctor’s opinion, but as such, I never did the “Ashton” Valium tapering method in my benzo/Ambien/alcohol withdrawal process, right or wrong.  (I realize the Ashton method has worked well for many other people, but I went directly to Lyrica and never took another benzo or Ambien, ever.)

I suggest that you Google the drugs mentioned here to educate yourself, or better yet, talk to your doctor if you have access to one.  These drugs are available without prescription and “over the counter” in Mexican pharmacies:

Lyrica  150 mg. pills (Cost in Mexico is between $1.00 and $2.00 per pill.)

Gabapentin  300 mg. pills.  (Cost in Mexico is less than $1.00 per pill.  Called Gabapentina in Mexico.)

Opinion:  The Mexican drug policy is far smarter than the American drug policies on this exact subject.  You can NOT buy Ambien or Valium (benzos) in Mexico without a prescription, but you CAN buy the withdrawal medications you’ll need to get OFF of Ambien and Valium (benzos) and/or alcohol in Mexico, and you can buy these withdrawal medications in Mexico without a prescription and for fairly little money.  Thank you Mexico!

Rough equivalencies from my experience:

100 mg. Lyrica = 300 mg. Gabapentin.  (Called Gabapentina in Mexico.)

Paraphrased quote taken directly from the Wikipedia on Gabapentin:

"One study also demonstrates a significant reduction in the severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.[8]"

Lyrica is probably a better drug than Gabapentin for dealing with this withdrawal issue, but costs more money to buy because it is not generic.  Both Lyrica and Gabapentin were designed to mimic the natural human GABA nerve calming function that I described above.  In theory, your nerve cells will function on these drugs (they will calm) essentially as if your nerve cells were accepting in human GABA normally.  You should be able to sleep and relax once you start taking these drugs, and sleep and relax in the total absence of benzos/Ambien/alcohol.  What is my experience with these drugs?  Take enough of either Lyrica or Gabapentin and you will become completely relaxed.  Completely relaxed even in the throws of the most vicious case of withdrawals!  Also, if you Google either of these medications you will find that each med is technically “non-addictive”.  My experience is that this is mostly true, but if you are dealing with a serious withdrawal condition from Ambien, benzos or alcohol, then stopping either Lyrica or Gabapentin will not feel very good.  The underlying condition will eventually heal and you can quit taking Lyrica and/or Gabapentin I believe, but the operative word is that your nerve cells will “eventually” heal.  Taking these drugs however will give your GABA nerve cell receptors a chance to heal up naturally without driving YOU crazy in the mean time.  I’ll explain more on this below.  Now, if you anticipate going through Ambien, benzo or alcohol withdrawal (or all three at once, like my stupid move) things get VERY dangerous and UNBELIEVABLY uncomfortable.  You will need a lot of Lyrica or Gabapentin, and you’ll need to have enough to dose it correctly for quite some time.  Realize that IF your nerve cells won’t calm naturally, you run the risk of a seizure and MONSTER panic/anxiety attacks which can lead you to suicide believe it or not.  YOU RUN A SERIOUS RISK OF DEATH from seizure or suicide from withdrawal from benzos, Ambien and/or alcohol.  Don’t take this warning lightly.  The good news (in my experience) is that Lyrica and/or Gabapentin pretty much eliminate the withdrawal problem if you take the right amount of either drug.  Further, you will be relatively comfortable even in the early stages of your withdrawal.  You won’t feel boozy or drunk, or even particularly tired (assuming you don’t take TOO much), you’ll just feel calm.  I couldn’t believe how well I felt once I found these drugs.  I specifically asked my doctor if I should drive my car while taking Lyrica.  The answer the doctor gave was “YES, go ahead and drive”.  The doctor said to wait a few days before driving to make sure I was not too tired to drive.  I never really felt that unusually tired on Lyrica (just calm and relaxed), so I drove the same day as I started taking Lyrica.  People around me couldn’t believe that I went from being a “neurotic mess” one day to acting “normal and relaxed” the next day.  Their attitude was that I had been “faking my symptoms” the day before!  Well, the symptoms were very real the day before, it just seems the Lyrica took those symptoms away.  What an amazing and sudden change in my body.  I think whoever invented these drugs (Lyrica and Gabapentin) should get the Nobel Prize!  These drugs saved my life.  Further, my doctor told me to take more of either drug if I started to feel anxious.  (I surmise from this instruction that there is limited OD risk in taking these drugs.)  Amazingly effective drugs indeed, and I suspect life saving medications for many people.  Now realize that I was being coached by an experienced physician while taking my Lyrica, BUT I certainly do recognize that NOT everyone has the attention of a physician who knows the ropes on this subject.  In many ways I was just lucky to have found an expert in this area of expertise.  Not all doctors know much about this subject.

During my early withdrawal treatment I was taking 100 mg. of Lyrica, 3 times a day.  Yes that was 300 mg. of Lyrica per day total dose, but spaced out over a few hours per 100 mg. dose.  Later when I tried Gabapentina from Mexico, I found that 300 mg. pills taken 3 times a day worked just about as well as Lyrica, at least for me.  Yes that is 900 mg. Gabapentin total dose per day.  I think you will find that Lyrica is a somewhat more expensive drug than Gabapentin, and that your health plan may not cover it at all.  Gabapentina in Mexico is cheap and seems to work quite well for this withdrawal problem.  The good news is that I found that it works just about as good as Lyrica, but it is a cheaper alternative.  My guess is that most health plans in the US will cover Gabapentin if you can get a doctor to prescribe it.  Gabapentin is generic so it is real cheap in the US as well as Mexico.  I doubt my body chemistry is that much different from anyone else’s, so I’d guess your experience with these two meds will be similar to mine.  If you read up on these two meds (Lyrica and Gabapentin) you will see that Lyrica is considered the better of the two choices.  I suppose you pick Lyrica under the circumstances if you do have a choice.

This next quote is an amateur post from a benzo-ambien related web site concerning Lyrica and Neurontin (Gabapentin).  This amateur opinion is pretty correct in my amateur opinion:

"Lyrica and Neurontin do not have a direct connection to GABA.  Lyrica and Neurontin were originally synthesized as chemical analogues of GABA - drugs with similar structure.  The assumption was they could be used on GABA receptors.  By a complete fluke, they do not.  They interact primarily with the alpha-2-sigma receptor of the voltage gated calcium channel. Unfortunately due to their names and structures, some professionals are still misinformed as to their actual properties.  It is not widely known for having an Effexor, or benzodiazepine level of severity on stopping the drug - however as with any drug, you may experience things when stopping it.   Stopping Lyrica or Neurontin does NOT cause significant withdrawal issues that have been identified.  Flukes are always possible, as people have displayed addiction with all sorts of things.  Lyrica or Neurontin also do not have major tolerance issues that have been identified. Your experience may vary slightly here, but generally dose escalation is not a major characteristic of Lyrica or Neurontin use once an effective dose is established.”

This next quote (appears to also be either an amateur or translated text) is regarding Gabapentin (Neurontin).  Notice the various references to addiction treatment where doctors have found Gabapentin effective in managing addiction withdrawal symptoms:

“Neurontin is a prescription medication that was developed to treat epilepsy but is more typically used to treat neuropathic pain.  Neurontin has been used since 1994 as a medication to manage partial seizures.  Neurontin has been found effective in treating cocaine, alcohol, and methamphetamine addiction and withdrawals.  It is usually taken for this purpose at 1200 mg per day for 40 to 60 days.  It helps in the treatment of drug addiction because it seems to help curb the desire to use the drugs. Typically Neurontin helps to reduce the SEVERITY of the withdrawal symptoms that are associated with addiction.  Neurontin is prescribed for smoking cessation as well as complex regional pain syndrome.  Neurontin indications are always expanding as doctors find new off label uses for the drug.  As is the case with all medications, some side effects are possible. Usually these side effects will resolve themselves in a week or two.”

I know for a fact that some people take higher doses of these drugs (higher than my dose) for their own withdrawals, and I know that some people have been able to take less of each/either and they feel just fine.  You’ll have to determine what dose works best for you.

I believe it is important that you do your own “due diligence” before taking or buying these medications.  Please don’t simply take my word for any of this.  Again, this essay is just written from my own personal experience.  I am NOT a doctor.  So what else have I learned?  Well, for those who DON’T have a premium health plan, Lyrica and Gabapentin (Neurontin) are available without a prescription in Mexico.  Lyrica seems to be better than Gabapentin, perhaps more “high tech”, but my experience is that Gabapentin in the right dosage works just about as good for alleviating benzo/Ambien/alcohol withdrawal symptoms as does Lyrica.  You will have to see what works best for you.  If I had to give a personal opinion, I’d say that Lyrica made me the most comfortable overall during my withdrawals.
Important point:  Ambien/benzo/alcohol withdrawal is a LONG term process, so get your meds right, and get personally comfortable for the long haul.  You must feel comfortable during the day AND you must be able to sleep through the night to succeed in your withdrawal.  Otherwise you will be right back on the drugs and/or alcohol that you are trying to withdraw from.  Personally I am a few months short of 2 years into my withdrawal ordeal and I still find it necessary to take either 100 mg. or Lyrica per day or 300 mg. of Gabapentin per day.  I actually have tried to stop taking each/either med completely, but I found that I am not yet totally comfortable without still taking at least one of these drugs per day.  (I feel neurotic when I stop these medications totally.  I no longer get anxiety feelings, but I still get neurotic feelings and have trouble sleeping.  Yes I have tapered my dose way down from the early days of my withdrawal, but my GABA nerve cell receptors are not totally healed up yet in my opinion.)

Now finally there is one last trick that I have learned during my withdrawal process.  Regular “over the counter” Tylenol works real well at calming my nerves at night.  I realize that this sounds a little unorthodox, but my experience is that it works, it’s easily available, and in many ways it is a logical solution as follows:  Tylenol deals with pain, which is in fact an over active “nerve” issue.  Logically, those of us going through withdrawals have “over active” nerves and Tylenol deals with over active “painful” nerves by calming them down or perhaps numbing them to some extent.  (Another amateur view I realize, but this is how I see the issue.)  Now I will make the point AGAIN that I am not drinking alcohol anymore, so the interaction between alcohol and Tylenol is not an issue for me.  I am well aware that alcohol and Tylenol mixed can poison a human liver, so this is another drug that you SHOULD NEVER mix with alcohol.  If you have NOT had a drop of alcohol in some time, well this is another trick to help you sleep through the night peacefully.  I think you’ll be amazed at how well it works.  This idea came from a non-doctor friend of mine, so I bounced this idea off my withdrawal doctor and the doc said, “no problem”.  My doc did however give me the warning about mixing Tylenol and alcohol.  Yes I know…


So this last point may apply to SOME people reading this essay.  I think that if I had my life to live over again, AND I knew that I was about to face a very ugly withdrawal ordeal, then I think I would take a couple of weeks vacation in Mexico and determine what “withdrawal” drugs I would need to accomplish a successful withdrawal.  My goal?  Before I returned home from Mexico, I would be sleeping through the night “benzo, Ambien and alcohol free”.  This Mexico vacation idea may not work or even be appropriate for a lot of people, but this is certainly what I would do knowing what I know now on this subject.  My guess is that within a few days you’ll be able to make a smooth withdrawal AND know WHICH withdrawal drugs work for you.  Again, if you are peacefully sleeping through the night in your hotel room in Mexico, AND you are sleeping WITHOUT the old “bad” drugs and/or alcohol, then clearly you will know what works for your body.  Then, travel back home, get an appointment with your doctor (explain what has worked for you to solve your problem) and try to get him/her to write the prescriptions you will need to maintain a comfortable withdrawal.

Things I have learned about traveling to Mexico:

Right or wrong, I have driven to the border with Mexico, walked across the border into Mexico, and bought “over the counter” and “without a prescription” (available quite legally in Mexico) Gabapentina and Lyrica, and bought them both for very little money in Mexico.

Log on to and book a hotel room for a week or two in Tijuana Mexico.  I’d probably book the “Hotel Lucerna” or “The Grand Hotel”, both of these hotels are in Tijuana Mexico and both are quite nice.  (I have stayed at each of these hotels.  The Grand Hotel is considered a 5 star luxury high rise hotel and is available for about $85. per night on  Hotel Lucerna is also quite nice.  The President of Mexico stays at the Hotel Lucerna when he is in TJ.  There are really quite good restaurants at the Hotel Lucerna in Tijuana Mexico.)  Anyway, take a cab from the San Diego Airport to the border, or park on the US side of the border if you drive down, walk across the border into TJ and have a Mexican cab take you to the hotel of your choice.

**Make sure you bring your passport before you enter Mexico.  The US border guards DO check passports when you return to the US.

Check into your hotel in Mexico, take a cab to a “Farmacia” (Pharmacy) and buy the meds you will need to withdraw safely.  ***This is all very legal in Mexico, and you’ll need NO prescription to buy these listed withdrawal medications at the local Farmacias.

(For the life of me, I can’t understand why the US won’t let us do things like this on this side of the border??!!  It would seem the FDA doesn’t believe we are smart or responsible enough to figure this all out on our own.  Well, the US drug policies almost killed ME!  The first couple of doctors I went to, emergency room docs etc., had no idea of what my problem was!  I had to figure this all out on my own, then eventually I needed to go to MEXICO to get the medications I needed?  Absurd indeed, but this is the drug policy in the US.  Again, thank you Mexico.)

Anyway, it may be smart to bring along to Mexico whatever medications you are trying to withdraw from, just in case…. 

Mexico hotel anecdote:  I remember sitting on a lounge chair in the pool area at the Hotel Lucerna reading a book I brought along about the old west and Wyatt Earp.  Anyway, I must have had my Lyrica and/or Gabapentin dose at the right level because I was overwhelmed at how peaceful and beautiful I was feeling.  I remember thinking how nice life can be under the right circumstances.  Now realize that I was COMPLETELY sober while at this hotel having NOT taken any Ambien, benzos or alcohol for quite some time when this incident took place.  This anecdote is an example of how I personally felt, SOBER, but, in the throws of withdrawals.  I ONCE  AGAIN must emphasize that Lyrica worked amazingly well for me.

I remember thinking:

I had slept remarkably well the night before in my hotel room,
I had just had an excellent breakfast in the hotel cafe, and
The weather was clear and warm.

Most importantly:

My body was COMPLETELY calm and relaxed even though I was going through Ambien benzo AND alcohol withdrawal!

I was truly happy and that moment has stuck in my memory.

So what is the final analysis?  Well my guess is that I will personally be totally off withdrawal medications within the next year.  But for now, I feel fine and I sleep “like a baby”.  (This is heaven on earth ladies and gentlemen!)  My opinion is that even the WORST case of withdrawal can be managed by intelligently and adequately using the medications I’ve outlined above.  When I found out how to negotiate the withdrawal path using the various medications itemized above, I recall telling my withdrawal doctor, “I feel fine!”  The doctor said, “Well, you got your life back!”  Very true indeed, and I certainly hope this essay proves helpful to many many people who can perhaps benefit from my own “hard won” lessons.  Peacefully sleeping WITHOUT Ambien, benzos and/or alcohol will be your clue that you got your medications right.  You’ll gradually heal up and get back to normal, you’ll see.

The very good news is that I am “no worse for wear” at just under two years into my withdrawal ordeal.  I don’t drink a drop, I take no Ambien, and I certainly take no benzos.  Further, and probably most importantly, I sleep each night “like a baby” and I am generally a happy, peaceful and content person.  (I wonder how many people can truly make THAT statement!?)

Have faith ladies and gentlemen, my opinion is that the answer is really pretty simple if you know the ropes on this subject.

God bless, and good night!  Life can be sweet and peaceful.  My final word of advice?  Withdraw slowly, safely and intelligently, then stay away from Ambien, benzos and alcohol forever!  Cheers

Dec 2011- My follow-up experience having now taken Lyrica for 2.5 years.  I started taking Lyrica in May of 2009.  As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I started taking 100 mg. Lyrica 3 times a day to deal with my initial case of benzo/Ambien/alcohol withdrawals.  As I previously mentioned in this blog, Lyrica did wonders for making me comfortable while I was going through one wicked case of withdrawals.  Until recently, I was still taking 100 mg. Lyrica once per day, but I believe Lyrica was beginning to cause it’s own set of issues in my body.  Now realize that I took Lyrica every day for roughly 2.5 years.  My (amateur) opinion is that my body began to develop a “tolerance” to Lyrica.  Tolerance to a medication and “withdrawals” in my experience are linked events.  So what was happening to me?  Well, I would take Lyrica at about 4PM every day as I began to “amp up” or feel anxious.  I would take a 100 mg. Lyrica pill and feel fine.  My face by 4PM began to look like I had been drinking even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in years!  OK, so what was going on in my body?  Well, I believe that I was experiencing Lyrica withdrawals each day by about 4PM.  (This condition only started a few months ago.)  I would feel just about like you do when you need a cigarette real bad.  The “sympathetic nervous system” kicks in when you are in withdrawals.  (Another amateur opinion I realize, but this is how I see it.)

To investigate my “Lyrica withdrawals” suspicion, I made an appointment with my doctor to see if my Lyrica withdrawal suspicion was at all plausible.  Turns out the doc confirmed that some people do develop a dependence on Lyrica, and that I may be experiencing Lyrica withdrawals each day at 4PM.  Further, my doctor told me that “nobody seems to get hooked on Gabapentin”.  So what did my doc suggest?  Stop taking Lyrica and step up my Gabapentin dose for a while.  So what happened next?  Well, it has been about 3 weeks without Lyrica and I no longer look like I have been drinking each day at 4PM!  I feel like I just “kicked another habit”!  Further, I have now backed off of my “step up” Gabapentin dose, and I feel just fine.

My amateur opinion based on my personal experience:  Lyrica is fairly easy to withdraw from.  I wouldn’t be afraid of taking it long term even if you do get hooked on it.  I would suggest having plenty of Gabapentin around if you decide to quit taking Lyrica however.  Stay tuned.  I will soon be stopping Gabapentin entirely because I suspect I no longer need it.  My guess is I will soon be sleeping through the night with Tylenol alone.  I hope this all helps.  Cheers

Written May 2009

* This essay was written in the first few days of my benzo-Ambien-alcohol withdrawals.  I posted this essay as an amateur contribution to a Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Internet chat board.  Unfortunately, that chat board has shut down since I originally posted this essay.  Fortunately I saved the Word document that I used to write the essay just before I posted it to the chat board.

* Important and somewhat AMAZING point:  Up until recently, if you Googled benzo withdrawal and Lyrica, THIS amateur essay was the #1 or #2 in the search position!  Wow.  I can only conclude that a lot of people were clicking on my amateur essay.  I hope it proved helpful to a lot of people!

Lyrica seems to be working with MY benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.

Some doctors appear to already know that Lyrica will work for benzo withdrawals because my “addiction specialist” doctor has a lot of samples of Lyrica.  My guess is that Lyrica is not yet approved or “indicated” for benzo/Ambien/alcohol withdrawals, but the truth is already known by some people.  I checked Google for a reference of Lyrica and benzodiazepine withdrawals and I found only two write ups.  One was written by doctors in Germany who successfully treated a woman coming off of Xanax with Lyrica.  The woman apparently completely got off Xanax by taking Lyrica over a period of a few months.  The other write up I found using Google search was a group of doctors in Greece who also successfully used Lyrica with a benzo withdrawal patient.  I think both of these articles were in 2008, so this is a real recent discovery it would seem.  Here is my “real time” as I write this personal experience:  As I sit here and write this, I can feel my withdrawals beginning to come on.  I was coached by my doctor to take a 50 mg Lyrica pill, or if things get bad take another 75 mg Lyrica pill.  As I write this I am not 100% comfortable, but I am OK.  A few times today I got the meds correct and I felt almost symptom free. Thank God for these new modern meds, particularly Lyrica.  The following is why I personally am going through benzo withdrawals as I write this:

This is approx. what I was taking most days for the better part of the last 5 years:

10 mg Ambien at bed time, another 10 mg Ambien at 2-3AM (Message to everyone: Ambien works on your GABA receptors very similarly to a benzodiazepine.  Ambien will give you withdrawal symptoms. Get off Ambien NOW if you can.)

30 mg Restoril at bed time

2 mg Ativan pills during the day (This I did only recently, I’ll explain below.)

Alcohol most days

Caffeine every morning

What happened was that I started to go through “tolerance withdrawals”.  I wasn’t sleeping well even though I was taking all the pills and drinking the alcohol.  Further, my face would turn red (flush) at about 2PM every day and stay red until about 2AM. Very weird, but it was happening.  Then I started to notice that my memory was beginning to get real bad.  Recall and learning was not even close to what it used to be.  I knew something was very wrong, so about 3 months ago I decided to stop taking all meds and I stopped drinking any alcohol.  I went cold turkey on EVERYTHING, and I really do mean everything.  I didn’t even drink coffee.  Interestingly, the sh## didn’t “hit the fan” for about 8 days.  At the time I didn’t know anything about Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, so the experience landed me in the hospital emergency room.  I remember the doctor taking my “vitals” as follows: 155 over 100 and a pulse rate of approx. 117. I was in a major panic attack which had lasted for about a day and a half. The doctor asked me, “how long has this been going on?” I said for about 30 hours. He couldn’t believe it and told me that it sounded like a thyroid condition.  (He did blood work and my thyroid was fine.)  What the doctor did was give me a big shot in the rear end of Ativan.  (Big benzo shot.)  My symptoms went away and he prescribed me 45 pills of 2 mg Ativan, and said to take these if the anxiety returned.  He sent me on my way and I felt great.  I still was in the dark as to what had caused my problem, but again, I felt fine.  Ok, so about 2 weeks ago, I decided to go “cold turkey” AGAIN on all pills and alcohol.  Let us just say that the sh## REALLY hit the fan this time around.  I spent about 3 days in the most unbelievable hell that anyone can imagine.  I couldn’t sleep, I paced back and forth hour after hour, I seriously contemplated suicide.  Then I thought to myself, well if it comes down to “biting the site”, or “taking an Ativan”, then “take an Ativan you idiot”. At 3:30AM after 3 days in hell, I took my first benzo (1 mg Ativan) that I had taken in 8 days.  The symptoms went away and I slept until 8AM.  OK, next morning I went to work to really fix the problem.  I knew then that each time the problem had come up it was after I had stopped Ambien and Restoril.  This time I had also stopped Ativan.  I spent hours pouring over the subject and came upon a Wikipedia article on “Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome”.  Reading it was very scary, but I knew that I had found my answer.  This information in hand, I became damned and determined to solve the problem under any circumstances, and the solution this time would not include a shot of Ativan.  I started to call drug rehab hotlines to see if anyone knew anything.  I found a guy who it turns out was really familiar with the whole benzo withdrawal issue. He told me to go to an “addiction specialist” doctor. He gave me a referral to a local doctor with that specialty, and here I am writing you this letter about 3 days into my treatment.  I can tell you that my withdrawal symptoms are “right under the surface” but as I sit here I am comfortable.  Lyrica really does seem to work.  I start to feel the vibrations in my legs and I take another Lyrica.  The doctor told me that if I need to take 2 Lyricas at a time, do so.  I can tell you that I slept like a baby the last two nights, having taken only Lyrica, which by itself is amazing.  (Try sleeping while going through benzo, Ambien AND alcohol withdrawals simultaneously. It will never happen.)  My doctor tells me that I will be on these meds for 3-4 months.  I suppose the question is now what will my experience be after 3-4 months of taking these meds?  Will there be Lyrica withdrawals?  I don’t know, but from what I read, Lyrica withdrawals are nothing like benzo withdrawals.  I’ll know in a few months.  I’ll also let you know.  Very seriously though, I thank God for these new meds.  Pfizer should publish this information before some unfortunate soul commits suicide.  I suppose I came close to that point in retrospect.  This is very real if YOU are going through it.  I wonder what will happen when all these people who are taking Ambien decide to stop and they experience withdrawals like I did.  I shudder to think about it.  I hope that this letter reaches people that can be helped by this information.  Good night, I’m going to bed!

March 13 2012-  My latest news on my withdrawal ordeal:  It has been now 2 years and 10 months since I went cold turkey on Ambien, benzodiazepines and alcohol.  See my post of a few months ago indicating that I stopped taking Lyrica.  Having stopped Lyrica after perhaps 2+ years, I took only Gabapentin and Tylenol to sleep through the night.  Well, I am now sleeping WITHOUT Gabapentin.  (Just Tylenol.)  For me, this is a big step in the right direction.  Clearly my GABA nerve cell receptors have healed up A LOT from 3 years ago.

I suppose it is important to note that I am still feeling a low level of withdrawal symptoms.  My current withdrawals feel like a vibration under my skin, fortunately at a pretty low level.  If I very carefully put my teeth together, I can detect the same small vibration in my teeth chattering.  Emphasis is on the VERY slight vibration.  Today, one Tylenol pill before I sleep and I can eliminate these feelings of vibration.  I keep another Tylenol on my night stand with a glass of water just in case I wake up in the night with restless or anxious feelings.  This extra Tylenol pill is necessary just about every other night now.  Also, my skin vibrations seem to be getting increasingly less significant.  Mostly I can get back to sleep without the extra Tylenol pill, but that extra Tylenol pill calms my nerves very quickly letting me go right back to sleep.

I am also still experiencing ringing in my ears.  The noise level is now much lower than 2-3 years ago, but it is still happening.  A “recovering alcoholic” friend of mind told me that his ears rang for a few years after he stopped drinking, but eventually his ears stopped ringing.  Also at about 70 years old, he is NOT hearing impaired today.  This is good news for you and me I suppose.  How long did it take for his ears to stop ringing?  He couldn’t recall, but the good news is that the ringing did stop eventually in the total absence of Ambien, benzodiazepines and alcohol.  (This is the guy who drank heavily for many years, but would also take Valium to sleep through the night.)

I just got done reading a book on alcoholism and withdrawal.  This book is now a little dated, (first written in 1983 long before the availability of Lyrica or Gabapentin) but this book gave me large amounts of new and valuable information.  The author makes the point that alcohol will cause nerve alterations over time and that your nerves can take “several years” to heal up after you stop drinking.  (and/or stop taking Ambien and/or benzos)  Certainly I have found this “long term healing process” to be true.  The author also outlines nerve changes that cause “protracted withdrawals” to continue long after the initial “cold turkey” phase of drug and alcohol withdrawal.  The book says that “protracted withdrawals” are often why people go back to drinking after initially “drying out”.  Not sleeping seems to be the main problem caused by “protracted withdrawals” and most long term drug and alcohol users have some degree of “protracted withdrawals”, therefore they have trouble sleeping for quite some time.  The good thing about going through withdrawals using Lyrica and Gabapentin is that you can ameliorate your withdrawal symptoms even years after you quit drinking.  Protracted withdrawals can be insidious and long lasting.  Try NOT sleeping for a few days or weeks and then see if you can stay away from the drugs or alcohol!  We all have our breaking point in this regard.  If the answer to protracted withdrawals is to take another Lyrica and go back to sleep, well there is a good chance that you will be able to stay sober.  This is my opinion anyway, but certainly based on my personal experience with protracted withdrawals.

This book also made a big point that "vitamin deficiencies" are involved in people who are experiencing drug and alcohol withdrawals, and particularly implicit in people experiencing protracted withdrawals.  According to the book's authors, "B vitamins" and a mineral called "Thiamin" are necessary to reverse the nerve damage caused by years of  drugs and alcohol use.  The author also said that "in the absence" of B vitamins and Thiamin, your drug and alcohol nerve damage MAY NEVER heal and you may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms INDEFINITELY.

My experience?  Well, reading this book was reason enough for me to start taking a Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement (vitamin pill) every day.  I take "Centrum Silver 50+".  I buy 250 tablet bottles at Costco.  Does it work?  I don't know, but I think it DOES work.  I hit sort of a "plateau" in my withdrawal symptoms some months back when things didn't seem to be improving much.  I then started taking one of these Centrum Silver pills each morning.  (Don't take these pills at night because the B vitamins will keep you awake.)  Suddenly things DID start to improve.  Suddenly my sleep was better without having to take additional Lyrica or Gabapentin.  Was the improvement a co-incidence?  I don't know, but I certainly feel that the vitamin pills can't hurt and MAY be very beneficial.

Available for $7.99 on

Under The Influence
By James R. Milam Ph.D., and Katherine Ketcham

March 20 2012 – I watched a powerful movie last night.   ANYBODY reading this blog should watch this movie:

The Lost Weekend
Starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman

This movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 1945, and also the Best Actor Oscar for Ray Milland that year.  The movie is about the struggles of a hopeless alcoholic in New York City.  I can tell you FOR CERTAIN that whoever wrote that movie screen play was intimately familiar with the problems of alcohol addiction and withdrawal.  The movie was such a brilliant portrayal of what I have personally experienced, that I am reasonably confident that the writer himself was an alcoholic.  (The character in the movie would have surely been doing Ambien and benzos too if those drugs had been available back then!)

Anyway, in 1945 when this movie came out, Lyrica and Gabapentin were decades away from being invented and so were not available to aid in alcohol withdrawal.  As such, the character suffers from unbelievable alcohol withdrawals in between his drunken benders.  The character (when sober) is irritable, agitated, unable to sleep, at odds with family and friends, ultimately suicidal, UNTIL he gets drunk again!  Hmmm… this sounds familiar!  Time, decades and circumstances change, but human beings never change.

What kept going through my mind as I watched the movie was that Ray Milland’s character was in desperate need of a Lyrica pill every 3 hours, AND to quit drinking completely.  I kept thinking that this character absolutely could NOT relax without bottle of booze in his hand.  (I can certainly relate to that.)  So what if he had been able to take a 100-150 mg. pill of Lyrica every 3 hours and go cold turkey?  Well, my guess is he would have relaxed, slept deeply and peacefully each night, and thus he’d have a fighting chance of getting off the booze completely.

Keep in mind that withdrawals from benzos, Ambien and alcohol are all very similar experiences, so this movie will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect if you plan to go “cold turkey” on Ambien, benzos or alcohol, or all three at once!.  The good news?  Well, we have Lyrica today.  Thank God. 

If you even remotely are concerned that you might be an alcoholic, (or also an Ambien or benzo addict) or if you are concerned that you might BECOME an addict, do yourself a HUGE favor and go out and buy/rent this movie.  My guess is you’ll find this movie pretty scary because you will spot similarities in yourself. 

This movie was a huge hit in 1945.  My guess is that a lot of lives were put on the right track as a result of people watching this movie.  The issue back then was that these unfortunate alcoholics had to suffer through wrenching withdrawals without Lyrica or Gabapentin.  Oh my God what misery these people must have lived through.  You can see why the vast majority of the people who tried to quit drinking back then couldn’t stick with their sobriety programs.  One of the hospital workers in the movie makes the point that “they always go back to drinking..”  I have little doubt however that “going back to drinking” was somewhat MORE true then than it is today.  Again, try not sleeping for a few nights and good chance you’ll be back on the bottle.  The character in the movie clearly is experiencing serious “protracted withdrawals”.  Getting past the initial withdrawal period is pretty horrible for the character, but that was just the beginning.  Again, my experience?  The protracted withdrawal period will drive you nuts for YEARS without Lyrica or Gabapentin!  I have been feeling some “protracted withdrawals” lately at almost 3 years sober!  (I was in a Thai food restaurant tonight for dinner.  There was a poster on the wall advertising a Thai beer called Singha beer.  Oh my God was that poster tempting!  My body actually started to amp up at the thought of “pounding a few” of those Thai beers.)

Anyway, Lyrica or Gabapentin would have probably made the movie character comfortable while extricating himself from alcohol.  I sure am glad I went through my withdrawal ordeal in modern times and not 1945.

Oh, one more quote from the movie:  Ray Milland hits a NY City bar in the morning and tells the bartender that the “morning shots” of “rye” are “medicine”.  He says something like the “evening drinks are party” but the “morning shots are medicine”.  Again I can relate to these comments.  I remember my skin vibrating and waking me up at 6AM every morning.  Yes a shot or 2 of rye would do the trick as “medicine” those mornings.  Wow, I’ve come a long way I suppose in the last 3 years.  I strongly advise you watch this movie.  I would like to think that my words written here will put lives on the right track.  Cheers to you, and cheers to your future!

Available on DVD for $12.99 on

April 11 2012-  Well, if you have read this far in my blog, you will probably be interested to know how things are going for me at just under 3 years into my benzo/Ambien/alcohol withdrawal.  The good news is that I am REALLY drug free now.  I slept 8 hours last night without even so much as a Tylinol pill.  No Lyrica, no Gabapentin, no Tylinol, and CERTAINLY no benzos/Ambien/alcohol.  I slept through the night the “old fashion way”.  No drugs, nothing.  OK, so how do I feel?  Well, I went to bed last night with that same low level of vibration feeling in my body and some slight ringing in my ears.  For those of you who are drinkers, (hopefully you will stop drinking now after reading this blog) you would recognize this feeling because this is what you feel like at 3AM when the martinis you drank suddenly wake you up.  It feels like a buzzing, sort of a “zzzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz” feeling.  The good news is that the buzzing is low enough now that I can sleep even though it is still going on.  I can only conclude that my body created this buzzing to push back against the benzos/Ambien/alcohol that I was ingesting for so  long.  (What a genius I was!)  Anyway, from what I read this buzzing feeling will continue to lessen over time until it eventually goes away entirely.  The good news is that I can live with this feeling now and sleep through the night without needing withdrawal drugs.  When I wake up in the morning I drink coffee.  For what ever reason, coffee actually seems to CALM my nerves.  (Theoretically coffee should do the exact opposite.  I know however that kids with ADHD are given stimulants to calm their nerves.  Maybe I am ADHD.  Who knows.)  Anyway, I enjoy the euphoric feeling that coffee gives me in the morning and the buzzing seems to stop.  I seem to enjoy my mornings now more than ever before.  Come to think of it, coffee is the only drug that I now indulge myself with.  I don’t even smoke.  (I used to smoke from time to time.)

I am reading another alcohol withdrawal book which I will report on here when I get a chance to finish the book.  “Beyond the Influence”.  Anyway, so far the book’s authors have made the point that “if” someone stays away from alcohol for 6 years, then the likelihood of going back to alcohol is “relatively rare” thereafter.  This may be true at 6 years, but now at 3 years sober for me, there is little likelihood that I will put myself back through the bull sh*t of withdrawal pain that I just went through.  The last alcohol I drank was “a few beers” in the pool area bar at the Venetian Hotel in Vegas about 2 years ago.  That was roughly one year into my withdrawal ordeal.  (I know, I admit it, I slipped….foolish indeed.)  Anyway, the next week became “hell on earth” for me.  Talk about ruining a perfectly good trip to Vegas!  My body felt like it did in the first few days of my initial withdrawals.  Yes, the Lyrica and/or Gabapentin dose went right back up to the maximum dose level to settle my nerves down and let me sleep.  It would seem that my nerves have a LONG memory on how to deal with benzos/Ambien/alcohol in my system.  Remember, the point being that alcohol is “cross tolerant” with benzos and Ambien, so your body senses the alcohol and kicks off the old response appropriate for all three, benzos/Ambien/alcohol.  I can tell you from first hand knowledge that this is definitely true.  A few beer at the pool bar and my body hits me back like I just drank a bottle of Jack Daniels mixed in with a couple of Ambiens and a benzo pill.  Really, that is how hard I got hit with withdrawals.  What amazes me is how tempting the idea of drinking still is to me!  This reminds me of the movie “Animal House” where the little devil on the guy’s shoulder keeps whispering in his ear to do various bad things.  Yes, that little devil is sitting on MY shoulder and telling me to go buy a 40 oz. bottle of Cobra. 

Foolish anecdote:  Whenever I get approached by a bum asking me for “money for food” I will always ask him how much the 40s of Cobra sell for in his area.  They always know the answer to that question.  They will typically answer something like, “oh they have the 40s for $2.00 at the mini mart on the corner of ....  And yes, I have given money to bums with full knowledge that they will head straight to that mini mart and buy one of those 40s of Cobra.  Buy food?  Why waste cash on food when “The Mission” will provide food for free!  Money is for booze, and yes I know it.  I suppose I just have a soft spot in my heart for alcoholics and bums generally.  I really think the only difference between me and that bum is the FACT that some genius invented Lyrica.  Thank you Lord.  Cheers

Sept 15 2012-  I have a new story that I think will apply to this blog.  I went to visit a friend of mine who recently returned from an extended stay at the VA Hospital.  This is the same friend mentioned above who was a life long alcoholic but would also mix Valium with alcohol (very dangerously) to sleep at night.  He told me that the only reason he didn’t do Valium all the time is because he had a hard time getting Valium.  Wow.  Anyway, this man is now 70 years old and is completely sober today.  He told me that it has now been over a year since he has had a drink, and it has been perhaps 15 years since he drank with any regularity. 

Now here is the point of this story:

During this man’s recent stay at the VA Hospital, he got to know quite a number of young men “patients” suffering from various degrees of war trauma having recently returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to my friend, it seems these young men returned to the US and immediately “hit the bottle” real hard. 

I have read there is also a national emergency regarding the suicide rate of our returning combat veterans. 

War trauma is very real, and some people are dealing with the trauma with suicide, some are dealing with the problem with alcohol (according to my friend).  Without downplaying the severity of the subject, this reminds me of an old W.C. Fields quote: 

“I would rather have this bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”.

So, according to my friend, how is the VA Hospital dealing with this emergency?   (Combat vets in the VA Hospital suffering from war trauma/alcohol consumption and to some degree, suicide risk.)

The answer (according to my friend) is partially being handled using Gabapentin.  These young veterans were being given fairly LARGE doses of Gabapentin while at the VA Hospital.  I asked him if any of these men were drinking while at the hospital and the answer was “not while at the VA Hospital”.  The men were attending regular group sessions at the VA Hospital where they vocalized their horrible combat stories and heard the combat stories of other war trauma vets.  Gabapentin and group therapy was what my friend observed was the standard treatment for the war trauma vets.  Now granted my friend was not in touch with the treatment of more severe war trauma cases, but this is simply what he said was the most common treatment he saw at the VA Hospital. 

Now I have no way of verifying this NEXT part of the story, but this information does make sense: 

My friend told me that the war combat vets are “hitting the bottle” SO hard to “drown out their war memories” that they are getting “busted for drunk driving”.  My friend told me that one vet told him that the judges were saying, “it was either the slammer” or “treatment at the VA Hospital”.  (Realize that this makes logical sense, but “hear say” stories are hard to verify.)  Anyway, the VA Hospital gets these guys off the booze with Gabapentin and into the group therapy sessions to deal with their painful war memories.  (Certainly this does look better than either the slammer or suicide in dealing with painful war memories and resulting troubled minds.)  Further, according to my friend, he was approached more than once in the hospital by vets asking him if he had anymore Gabapentin!  It seems the vets are becoming peaceful and sleeping well while taking the Gabapentin in the total absence of alcohol.  I surmise that these vets reason that perhaps more Gabapentin would be better.  For the record, my experience is that once you reach your correct dosage of Gabapentin or Lyrica, more Gabapentin or Lyrica doesn’t create much additional benefit.  As mentioned many times in this blog, the goal is to become completely calm during the day and be able to sleep “like a baby” at night.  This would be “heaven on earth” for an emotionally troubled combat vet.

For the love of our troubled young combat vets, thank God some geniuses invented Gabapentin and Lyrica.  Semper Fi !

Oct 24 2012-  Well, if you have read this far, I suppose you may enjoy another somewhat related story that happened to me today:

I was at Lowes today.  For those who may not know, Lowes is essentially the same kind of store as Home Depot.  Anyway, I was waiting to have a pallet of siding taken down with a fork lift for a room addition we’re having done.  So, to kill time I was BS’n  with the fork lift driver.  Anyway, the driver was telling me a story that I was only “kinda sorta” listening to, UNTIL he said this:

“Those guys live for their 40s…”

I turned to him and said, “Oh, now you got my attention!  You must be talking about 40s of Cobra right?!”

He said, “yeh, or any other malt liquor they can get their hands on..”

I said, “OK, so WHO are you telling me ‘lives for 40s’ of Cobra?”

He said, “well, I had a friend who recently died while living under a freeway in the Valley..”

I said, “what freeway did he live under?”

He said, “oh, the I-5 freeway at about Penrose or Tuxford..”

I said, “oh, right near Industrial Metals..”

He said, “yeh, real close to there..”

He said, “there are a whole group of bums and alcoholics that live right there under the freeway overpasses and bridges..”

He said, “and yes, those guys LIVE for their 40s!”

He said, “those guys go out every day and dig through trash dumpsters to find recyclable metal.  They can get 30 or 40 bucks on a good day and that buys a lot of 40s!”

He said, “they all just get ‘hammered’ at night.”

I said, “how did your friend die?”

He said, “I think just alcoholism”.

I said, “how old was he?”

He said, “40 years old”

I said, “holy shit!! 40 years old??  how on earth did he get to that point?”

He said, “well, his old lady divorced him, she took the kids and he lost his job.  I guess he just said ‘f&^k it’ and started drinking heavy.  He just sort of dropped out…”

Now here comes the punch line that I suspect at least some of the readers of this story can relate to:

He said, “those guys have a pretty good life down there!”

I thought to myself, "wow, what a comment, BUT that 'little devil on my shoulder' would certainly agree with that comment!"  I took a look at the Lowes fork lift driver and thought to myself, ‘yeh, you and I are about one 40 of Cobra away from living under that bridge also..’

Oy vey….  I think the moral of this story is, ONCE AGAIN

Thank God for Lyrica and Gabapentin.  My experience is ONCE AGAIN that Lyrica and Gabapentin are the ticket to a sober and HAPPY life without drugs and alcohol.

Cheers and very best regards to YOU, the reader of this story.  (....but boy does a 40 of Cobra sound good right about now!  NFW)

9/12/2013-  Another story you may enjoy:  If you’ve read this blog to this point, you will know by now that I have a soft spot in my heart for bums and alcoholics generally.  Sooooo…..  here is what happened:

I had business in Lancaster California so I stopped into the AM/PM mini mart at Avenue I and the 14 freeway.  As I pulled in and got out of my car I was approached by an old black man asking me for money. 

I told him, “Sir, what you need is a beer” 

He said, “you got that right!” 

Anyway, I went into the store and bought a “Big Gulp” coke for myself, AND I bought a 40 oz. Cobra for my friend the old black guy.  I walked out of the store and handed him the Cobra bottle in a paper sack.

He said, “MAN, I was expecting a beer, not a Cobra!”

He said, “brother, whatever office you’re running for, you got my vote!”

(I am not running for any office.  An amusing comment however.)

He then went on to tell me about the military unit he had been with many years before.

Anyway, I drove away feeling like I had warmed the heart of a man I can unfortunately relate to, and warmed the heart of a military veteran as well.

A few days later I had occasion to be back at that AM/PM mini mart, AND guess who was sitting out front?  Yes, my friend the old black bum/veteran was there once again.  I approached him and once again said to him, “Sir you look like you need a beer”.

He said, “ohhh.. what’s happening brother!”

I said, “I got a question sir, how long did that Cobra last that I gave you a few days ago?”

He said, “ohhhh…  maybe about 3 minutes”

He said, “I had the cap off that bottle before you drove away”

Needless to say I bought him another 40 of Cobra that day.  I’m sure he had another pleasant evening.  Cheers!