The Lovely Grind Coaching Sessions by Michael Priebe
Surviving - Healing - Growing
"Compassionate, knowledgeable support from someone who's been there."
Sessions take place via Skype, phone, and WhatsApp.
"I enjoy my coaching sessions with Michael because he is empathetic, compassionate, and a great listener. He is also very encouraging and motivating, and his follow-up notes are invaluable. I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone out there who is going through tapering or withdrawal." Brett, CA
“Michael’s been there and understands. [Prior to working with Michael] I’d tried other counselors, but they couldn’t understand the root of the problem and just caused frustration by suggesting things that were not helpful to my situation. Most everyone in the counseling and medical fields seem to be in denial that [prescription drug withdrawal] could happen or be severe, so it's wonderful to find someone who validates the truth. I appreciated Michael’s encouragement—assurance that comes from someone who’s passed through the storm—and I would recommend his coaching to others.” Amy, Ohio
“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions to anyone going through withdrawal.” Shelly, Ohio
“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”
Andi, North Carolina
"My conversations with Michael encouraged me. I enjoyed his transparency, intelligence, and kindness, and I would without question recommend his coaching services to others in this situation." David, Washington DC
"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal." Miguel, Atlanta, GA
"Because of Michael I feel supported and not so alone. It’s comforting to talk to someone who has gone through the same ordeal and actually healed from it. The feedback that Michael sends after our talks is very useful and encouraging, and I would definitely recommend his services to anyone going through withdrawal. He is a wonderful resource that I hope more people use!" Kathy, CA
“Prescription drug withdrawal is a very under-the-radar battle that SO many people face in silence with littler support or understanding. I decided to try Michael's coaching services because I wanted to find someone who had gone through the withdrawal process to be my guide—to have empathy, and to coach me through supplementation recommendations, lifestyle change recommendations, and daily challenges. I also liked the fact that he incorporated a spiritual healing element to his approach.
"Because of my conversations with Michael, I am more confident in my decisions and my long-term view on the [withdrawal and healing] process. He has been through withdrawal and spoken with people going through it, and that makes him a [unique] source of wisdom and experience. Michael’s positive attitude and outlook are comforting, and I would absolutely recommend his coaching to others who are going through this process.” James, MO
What is My Approach to Healing?
Too often individuals going through withdrawal seek help solely from physicians, psychiatrists, or addiction specialists, and while there is certainly a place for these people in a team approach to recovery, such individuals often don't understand the true nature of antidepressant and/or benzodiazepine withdrawal. They often recommend more prescriptions or lump the situation in with other alcohol and hard-drug addiction scenarios. I know from experience that antidepressant and benzo withdrawal is a unique challenge that requires an original approach to recovery.
I believe that with time, support, and the proper tools and strategies, we all find healing. It doesn't matter if we were on one drug or several, it doesn't matter if our taper was perfect or not. We can all find healing!
My approach to coaching mirrors the approach I took to my own healing; it is the same approach that allowed me to survive and grow during my personal withdrawal journey (read more about that below).
My approach is a positive one that is determined to see results; it is a holistic, total-health approach that cares for the body, mind, and soul. We are whole, complex beings (much more than a simple collection of synapses and receptors), and as such we require an approach to healing that is thoughtful. That is my approach: thoughtful, positive, and holistic; physical, mental, and spiritual.
“Michael is warm, compassionate, and wise, and most importantly he knows this process from a firsthand perspective. I enjoyed many different things about working with Michael. He provided reassurance and direction, and his counsel opened up the door for hope and determination. Also, his summary notes were invaluable, as were the supporting spiritual resources he provided. I would absolutely recommend his coaching services with a resounding yes!”
"I initially decided to work with Michael because I was seeking support from someone who had gone through withdrawal themselves. I had watched some of his YouTube videos and appreciated his insight, sensitivity, and holistic approach to healing. I also liked the fact that he emphasized spirituality and daily devotions as important tools in the process." Kathy, CA
"I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision." Yasmin, Cairo, Egypt
“It was a no brainer to contact Michael. I had noted a lot of positive comments from others who were familiar with his coaching sessions, and I was convinced that I would get some firsthand insight from him. The uncanny similarities of our recovery situations was really a morale boost for me, and I would definitely recommend Michael’s coaching to anyone on this pathway.” Onyeka, Nigeria, West Africa
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because I wanted to talk to someone who had been through benzo withdrawal and healed. I found Michael to be a balanced and well-rounded guy who spoke factually. He saw the deeper meaning in this withdrawal process, and he assisted me in viewing the “smaller” things in a different light. I would surely recommend Michael’s coaching services to others going through this process.”
Greg, Capetown, South Africa
"Since working with Michael, my outlook on withdrawal and healing has improved a lot. I enjoy working with him because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process." Ram, AZ
"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process." Eric, MI
“Michael has been through it. He knows how hard this journey is and has seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The fact that he is a “real person” who speaks [from a place of experience] is important. He has compassion and understanding and is very empathetic. His suggestions come from the heart, from a place of genuine concern. He’s also very flexible in his approach and works with what works best for you. Michael’s compassion and understanding can really help to paint a picture of the real withdrawal [and healing] experience, and I would absolutely, absolutely recommend his coaching to others.” Robin, Canada
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I found his YouTube videos when searching for answers about dealing with withdrawal. The videos are so impressive—especially when doctors don’t have the answers—the positivity and optimism in them makes people forget about symptoms for a while! I enjoyed my time with Michael because I was able to talk with someone who had experience the situation I was going through. Michael’s positive approach to the subject matter made me feel more optimistic, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who needs help.” Roisin, Ireland
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching services after I had watched many of his videos; those brought me such reassurance, and I really wanted to connect with him one on one. It was just such a relief to speak to someone about withdrawal, knowing he believed me and could completely sympathize with what I had been feeling and going through. I would 100 percent recommend Michael’s coaching to others.”
Gemma, United Kingdom
“Michael helped me to see some key points [about my situation] that I hadn’t seen before, which is helpful to my recovery. He was understanding and listened to everything I needed to say, plus some. Michael is easygoing, which makes the connection comfortable, and I would definitely recommend his coaching to anyone going through withdrawal.” Tonya, Minnesota
What Does a Coaching Session Involve?
Introductory coaching sessions are one hour, and after that sessions may be either 50 minutes or 30 minutes in length.
Sessions take place via phone, Skype, Facetime, or WhatsApp. Email communication and support is also an option.
During your sessions you will have the opportunity to ask me questions about my withdrawal and healing journey. You will also be able to tell me all about the specifics of your own story so that we can plan a way to move forward, both short- and long-term.
To facilitate your best results, I send detailed follow-up notes after each and every session so that you can return to important discussion points and themes later on in the week. Also, if you would like additional guidance, I will put together a detailed Personalized Progress Plan for you, a document that outlines survival & growth strategies specific to your history, symptoms, and personal goals.
“I feel like Michael’s been through something similar to what I’m going through, so his advice and encouragement carry a lot of weight. I was happy to come away from the coaching with some concrete advice and goals to work on, and I would recommend Michael’s services to others.”
“I contacted Michael for [withdrawal] coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him to anyone needing withdrawal advice and coaching.” Jon, British Columbia, Canada
"Michael's Personalized Progress Plan and session notes are extremely helpful—not many coaches online do that sort of thing at all—and I refer back to that 'care package' from him quite a bit. I definitely feel more encouraged after getting off the phone with Michael, and I would absolutely, 100 percent, recommend his coaching services to someone who is going through withdrawal." Brooke, OH
“Michael’s were the first positive messages I found regarding withdrawal, and they really spoke to me at a time when I needed it most. This can be an incredibly isolating experience, and our session reminded me that I am not alone in the process. Michael helped to push away the darkness and fear. After talking with him, my anxiety level has steadily decreased. I now know I will find healing, and I don’t need to be afraid. I would definitely recommend Michael’s coaching to anyone.”
“Michael recognizes that every individual is different, so he doesn’t push any agenda. I feel that he really listened and really cared what I had to say. I like his holistic approach [to healing and wellness], which includes things such as diet, exercise, work/life balance, spirituality, etc., as tools for recovery. I also appreciate the fact that he shares his life experiences, which helps others to feel less alone in their struggles. I feel the service he provides is well worth the fee, and I would definitely recommend his coaching services to others without question.” Marie, New York
“Michael listens and is very supportive, offering encouragement and guidance that goes beyond any other therapy or GP. I decided to contact Michael because I wanted support to get through a setback that had been intense and completely taken my strength. Because of Michael I am starting to have hope and am slowly regaining my sense of self-worth. He offers constructive tools to help people come back from the traumatic ordeal of prescription drug withdrawal. He has been through the same process himself, which is extremely important, and he can relate to you.
“Michael has great compassion and empathy, making it his goal to support you all the way. He also sends follow-up notes which are extremely helpful. Those notes help to remind me of the encouragements and advice that was offered during the session, which is helpful if I’ve forgotten something because I was very emotional at the time. I would recommend Michael 100 percent. He is kind, reassuring, and has a positive approach. I feel safe, encouraged, and validated knowing that Michael is walking with me step by step to regain my wellness.” Kim, United Kingdom
“I was so relieved and grateful to find Michael’ coaching program as I was looking for support titrating off my antidepressant. I enjoyed how easygoing Michael is, and I liked how he made me feel comforted and empowered to continue pushing forward. Maybe it is because we’re both from the Midwest, but I found his laid back and positive attitude to be so comforting while talking about something as deep and challenging as getting off of antidepressants.
It was so useful to feel the support of someone who has truly walked this journey and can help to validate both the small and big thoughts and feelings one goes through during withdrawal. Doctors can only guess at this experience, so it really is a whole different ballgame when someone can encourage you who is has personally known the emotional and physical symptoms. I would absolutely recommend Michael’s coaching to friends and family, and I already have!”
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I was looking for someone who went through what I’m going through and emerged stronger. Michael’s voice, whether it’s in his videos or through coaching, has always been a reasonable and reassuring one. He has tremendous insight about the inner workings of succeeding in this (not just about the mechanics of the process of withdrawal, which can be found in plenty of places online). Withdrawing from medication is one of the hardest things we can do, and mindset is the most important thing in this endeavor. Michael’s work provides valuable ideas about that side of the process, and I would recommend his coaching to others.” Salem, United Arab Emirates
"I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of counseling. The nonclinical environment is very relatable and not intimidating. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process." John, WA
“Michael is a very compassionate guy with a dedication to helping people get through seemingly impossible challenges. Knowing that there are people out there [like him—people] who are willing to at least listen to your problems and provide validation—is incredibly comforting, empowering, and I assume sometimes lifesaving. This kind of support I have yet to find from most doctors. Therapists have been helpful, but they have not gone through anything like [withdrawal], so they cannot empathize at all with your current plight.
"I enjoyed discussing my experiences with Michael because he had gone through something similar and found a way through the hopelessness and made it to the other side: knowing that is at least possible has given me the motivation not to give up. It helped to express my situation to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to others going through the withdrawal and healing process. I believe that anyone in this situation could benefit from his services and emotional support.” Chris, FL
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I was scared and nervous that I wasn’t healing; I wanted to talk with someone who could help me understand what was going on. My conversations with Michael allowed me to feel a little more comfortable that I would be okay. Michael is very professional and … knowledgeable about benzo withdrawal and how to heal and cope. I would recommend his coaching to others going through the withdrawal and healing process.” Josh, CA
“Talking with Michael gave me reassurance from someone who had already gone through the [challenges] I’m going through. I appreciated that he had withdrawn from both an SSRI and a benzo, like me, and his reassurance that I will eventually get better was very helpful to my outlook. Michael is very comforting and thoughtful, and I would recommend his coaching to others going through this process.” Peter, CA
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I felt very unsupported by the medical community, and sometimes my family, and I wanted perspective from someone who’d been through this. Because of our conversations I try to see this [withdrawal and healing] more as a process and less as a sentence. I try to celebrate the small healings and accomplishments rather than [becoming overwhelmed by] focusing on the end result. I feel that Michael is genuine in his concern for those of us going through withdrawal. He is sympathetic and encouraging, and he provides insight that helps keep people on track during difficult and painful times. I would absolutely recommend his coaching to anyone going through this process.” Christina L., Kentucky
“Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.” Yasmin, Cairo, Egypt
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I’d heard good responses from others whom he had coached. I enjoyed working with Michael because he knew exactly how I felt and was prompt with replies to my questions. I would absolutely recommend his coaching to others.” Irene, Washington
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because his story seemed similar to mine. I wanted to hear about [the progression of his healing journey] and his perspective on mine. Michael is professional and considerate, and I would recommend his coaching to others.”
“I decided to contact Michael because I was suffering horrible withdrawal symptoms, and after doing extensive online research that included watching his videos and reviewing the literature from his website, I believed he would be the most helpful with my medication tapering endeavor. It was important to work with someone who knew both the terrors [of withdrawal symptoms] and the hope needed for the tapering process. I had previously been terrified that I would remain in a very dark hole, but Michael normalized my experience and gave me a framework [for moving forward]. I would absolutely recommend his coaching services.”
Topics for Discussion Include
Addressing Troublesome Symptoms (Physical, Mental, & Emotional) and Finding Reassurance That These Symptoms Will Improve.
Restoring and Strengthening Physical Health (Diet & Exercise).
Working Within Your Temporary Limitations (e.g., Exercising During Fatigue or Agoraphobia, Staying Employed During Times of Anxiety & Depression, etc.)
Stress Reduction in Your Life (Stress is the Enemy During the Healing Process)
Overcoming Withdrawal’s Negativity
Learning How to Pass Down Healing’s Timeline More Quickly & Productively
Finding Little Pieces of Daily Happiness, Even During Dark Times
Employing the Concept of “Window Journals” (i.e., Documenting Healing to Reduce Future Anxiety)
Note: This is only a sampling of potential topics, and sessions are flexible. You are always free to steer conversations toward issues of your choosing as well.
"When Michael and I spoke I was ready to reinstate with a new medication, but our session stopped me from going down that path. I still struggle, but I’m glad I didn’t take that pill. Michael was able to relate to my situation, and he helped me to normalize what I was experiencing in withdrawal. He gave me tremendous hope and motivation to keep on going, which is hard to come by in this experience. I would 1,000 percent recommend his coaching services to anyone going through the withdrawal process." Adam, CA
"I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very encouraging in his YouTube videos. He too went through an intense withdrawal with many symptoms, and during sessions he often talks about his experiences and the coping skills that helped him to survive and improve." Brooke, OH
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because I wanted to speak directly with someone who had been through the [withdrawal] process; I thought that would be more beneficial than just reading about others’ struggles and successes. Although other websites and videos didn’t have enough specific information about Paxil, Michael seemed in tune with the specific difficulties of Paxil withdrawal (which is the SSRI both he and I stopped taking).
“My Skype conversations with Michael make the recovery process more bearable, and his follow-up notes encourage me and help me to refocus when I’m having a challenging period. I would most definitely recommend his coaching services to others who are going through the withdrawal and healing process.” John, MA
"I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I needed to talk to someone who had experienced and could relate to what I was going through. In his videos, he seemed smart and logical, like someone who could help me. Because of our sessions, I am more optimistic. Michael is empathetic and understanding, and I always feel better after our talks; his follow-up notes are very useful, too. I would recommend his coaching to others who are going through this process." Jose, FL
"I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because he had managed to keep working during his taper and withdrawal experiences, and for me, it was essential to keep working during this process. Our coaching sessions felt like they allowed me to follow in the footsteps of someone who was further down this road, someone who had come through the things I’m facing.
I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process."
Emma, United Kingdom
“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.” Alex, California
“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continued to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.” Catherine, Virginia
“I felt that Michael really, actively listened and understood what I was saying during our time together. His responses helped me to see a potential bigger picture than what I could envision on my own. Michael’s expertise was very helpful, his calm demeanor made me feel hopeful, and I would recommend that others going through the withdrawal and healing situation contact him.”
"I started working with Michael during my taper because I was having difficulty coping with my withdrawal symptoms and functioning the way I wanted. After a few sessions with Michael, I have a much healthier attitude toward my symptoms. . . . This has given me more comfort and peace during a difficult time. I would recommend Michael for anyone in a similar position." Steven, New York
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because I liked how he approached the subject [of withdrawal and healing], not focusing on the negative stuff but rather focusing on the positive improvements. Michael is a good listener, he has a calm demeanor, and I would recommend his coaching sessions to anyone struggling with withdrawal.” Ryan, Arizona
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because I was struggling and needed to know that I could feel better if I “stuck it out.” The knowledge that I can heal has kept me from going back on meds. Michael’s tips have helped me, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through this process.” Linda, MD
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching services because I wanted insight and coping skills from someone who had experienced withdrawal. I enjoy Michael’s calm manner and direct approach, and his follow-up notes are great. I would recommend his coaching services to others going through this process.” Tim, MD
"Because of my conversations with Michael I’ve felt further encouraged and supported; it’s nice to not feel so alone. Michael is patient and a good listener. I like his calm, empathetic approach, and I would recommend his coaching to others going through the withdrawal and healing process.” Danielle, MD
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because he was so positive in his videos, and because he believed in a [holistic] approach to healing, not just time. When Michael and I talk he gives me a lot of hope. He has many great ideas to help healing along, and when he sends his [follow-up] notes that is always something positive I can refer back to. He is encouraging and intelligent, and I would 100 percent recommend his services to others going through the withdrawal process. I already do!” Elyssa, FL
“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.” Leanne – Ontario, Canada
“I’d watched many of Michael’s YouTube videos while I was in the dark night of withdrawal, and I was drawn in by his positive approach and by the fact that he wasn’t afraid to call himself a Christian. His references to God and spirituality told me that he was authentic and brave. His coaching gave me hope that healing happens, but it also taught me to pace myself wisely and not to always expect changes overnight. Michael’s empathy is real, his real-life experience is comforting and useful, and I would definitely recommend his coaching sessions to others.” Cate - Toronto, Canada
“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.” Kim, California
“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.” Erikka, South Dakota
Hello there, thanks so much for checking out my site. My name is Michael Priebe, and I am a writer, the creator of the Lovely Grind YouTube videos and newsletters, and someone who survived the great “mystery illness” of the twenty-first century—prescription drug withdrawal. This is my story.
About twenty years ago, when I was approaching my final year of journalism school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I began experiencing debilitating panic attacks. I was dutifully sitting in summer classes trying to graduate on time and near the top of my class, when suddenly I was overtaken by a storm of strange symptoms. My heart was pounding, and I felt dizzy. I was immobilized, sweating, and red-faced, and I felt certain that everyone else was staring at me and commenting on how strange I looked.
I’d experienced some social anxiety before, but this was different.
Shortly after experiencing the first of those in-school panic attacks, I began worrying about them constantly and obsessing about them beforehand. Despite my true love of academic life, I found myself on the verge of dropping out of college and throwing away everything I’d worked so hard for over the course of the previous several years.
But instead of leaving the university, I visited a family doctor. And that’s when I was prescribed this new "wonder drug"—the SSRI Paxil—along with a monthly bottle of the tranquilizer Xanax.
Although I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of relying on prescription pills to function, I began taking the medications, and soon enough they became a part of my daily routine. I graduated college with honors, got married, got a job, and for the most part stopped my internal debate about what place the medications ought to have in my life: I simply continued to take the pills, and I did so for about fourteen years.
The medications seemed to help with my anxiety, but eventually it became obvious that something was “off” in my life. I’d become overweight, listless, fatigued, compulsive, professionally unsatisfied, spiritually and emotionally off-kilter, and oftentimes scared, depressed, and hopeless.
I decided it was time to stop the medications (something I’d actually fantasized about for years), and I looked forward to the better life that I was certain awaited me once they were no longer a part of it.
But then something unexpected happened when I took that last dose of the Paxil: Withdrawal hit me. At the time I didn’t really know what the name of that monster was, I just knew that it was ferocious and wouldn’t leave me alone.
I became deathly ill after stopping the SSRI medication. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom normally. I had horrendous nightmares and night sweats. My life was suddenly defined by pain, anxiety, and terrible depression, and unfortunately each new day simply brought more of the same. Each weekday I drove an hour and fifteen minutes to my longtime job at a large technical college, and simply surviving a “normal” workday was a small miracle in and of itself. It was difficult to simply get out of bed each day much less interact with people and deal with work stress, but I prayed and leaned on the support of my wife and my God. And each day, God granted me enough mental and emotional strength to move forward.
So move forward I did. I was confused and weak and terrified—and I’m sure that I looked like hell to the outside world—but I kept moving ahead with my plans to get the Xanax out of my life, too. I had a huge mountain to climb (over the years my Xanax prescription had ballooned to 4 mg a day), but I made one cut and then the next, and again I was hit by a massive withdrawal the likes of which I didn’t see coming.
My every day was full of bizarre mental symptoms, terrible physical pains, and severe emotional anguish. I felt like I was losing my mind, and I felt like I’d already lost my personality and the best years of my life.
Perhaps worst of all, I often felt alone. My family was great, and they tried to be supportive, but they couldn’t truly understand the nature of what I was going through. And why would they have been able to? Even the doctors who prescribed antidepressant and benzo medications on a daily basis claimed to know next to nothing about my “strange” situation.
What exactly was this thing I was experiencing, and how long would it last?
When I attempted to find answers and encouragement from the medical community, they dismissed my claims as legend and told me that any so called “withdrawal” should be something relatively quick and minor. One doctor even suggested that my strange symptoms were the result of drinking beer, something that I had regrettably admitted to on my quick “intake” form. I’d just come crawling to this man practically crying, telling him that I’d recently quit Paxil after fourteen years of use and that I was also in the middle of an intensive Xanax taper, but somehow he couldn’t see the connection between those facts and the terrible body pains and emotional turmoil I was suffering!
Oh, but the doctors did offer me additional pharmaceutical remedies for my situation. Maybe a different antidepressant would be the answer, maybe something for the signs of hopelessness and Fibromyalgia I was showing. I actually did try two different medications, each for very short stints, but both made me sick and I quickly realized that my path forward no longer involved such chemical experiments.
After a couple years of withdrawal, I was at my wit’s end. I was no longer certain that my troubles even were the result of something called “withdrawal,” and instead I wondered if I was succumbing to some disease of unknown origins. I talked things over with my father, and we almost drove to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota to have every corner of my body and mind investigated by the experts, but I never made that drive.
Instead I went back to the family doctor one last time with a request that he conduct simple blood work to assuage my fears of dying, and then I continued to move down the timeline of my own healing, paying special attention to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And taking notes along the way.
Fast forward a few years and I’m on the beach in Miami. I’ve just finished running eight sandy miles with a legendary South Beach fitness guru called the Raven, and I’m about to take the free Miami Beach trolley to South Pointe Park so that my wife and I can attend his annual runner’s picnic. I still get a little nervous in such social situations, but I try not to obsess over such apprehensions or allow them to keep me from living my life. I have a great time at the picnic, and afterwards my wife and I sit on a park bench watching the moon shimmer off the waters of Government Cut. I feel peaceful and inspired during such times, amazed at God's grace and the healing it brings.
Just a few years back—when I was in the fiercest grips of withdrawal and certain that my days were numbered—I couldn’t have imagined that such wonderful times would again be a part of my life, but they are.
In the time that has passed since quitting the Paxil and Xanax, I’ve regained control of my health in multiple ways. I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes (a nearly twenty-year habit), I’ve become an avid runner (twenty-thirty miles a week), and I’ve weaned myself off the three blood pressure medications that my Xanax-prescribing doctor once suggested I’d be on for life (high blood pressure was genetic and for me unavoidable, or so went the line from such people who didn’t truly care about my best health). I’ve reclaimed my personality, my creativity, my emotions, and my sense of balance, and I’ve redoubled my efforts to make my life mean something. Life is never 100 percent perfect—it isn’t for anyone, pills or no pills, withdrawal or no withdrawal—but it can be pretty damn good a lot of the time if we approach it the right way.
There is hope and healing for those who are trying to feel their way through the dark basement of prescription drug withdrawal, this I know for sure. Whether people were put on these medications for anxiety or depression or obsessive thinking or what have you, there is life after these pills, and there is a good and healthy life that exists after withdrawal.
We just need to place our faith in God, find the proper support, implement innovative coping tools and growth strategies, and keep moving forward until our wildest dreams of healing become a reality.
That is my withdrawal story (or at least an abbreviated version of it), what is yours?
Please message me if you’d like to talk further, and please remember to take care of yourself and your dreams.