Seven Years Off Medications (It Started with These Journal Entries)
I’ve known the pain of looking at my life and thinking: “This thing has gotten to be a jumbled mess. How will I ever begin to sort out the situation and move forward?”
Back in 2012 I was dealing with a lot of issues in my life. My finances weren’t very pretty to think about, my job was stressful and creatively unfulfilling for me, my physical health wasn’t where I wanted it to be (to put it mildly), and worst of all I just didn’t feel very good about myself. I was on five different prescription medications (Paxil, Xanax, and three different blood pressures medications), I was overweight, I was smoking cigarettes, and I was anxious too much of the time (both in an organic sense and about my future).
I wanted to move forward and find a new path in life so that I didn’t feel so trapped, but where could I begin?
That was the million dollar question.
Where can any of us begin when everything seems so complicated and messy in our lives?
Well, the answer is with goals. It all starts with goals.
Goals truly are that magic elixir that begins to transform our mental and emotional states.
Goals truly are that bridge that brings us from current difficulties to a brighter future.
The other day I found a journal of mine from early 2012. It was a Word document actually, and it began with just a short goal list and a few thoughts about where I was at in life and where I wanted to be.
In that journal entry I talked about how I wanted to start a website, how I wanted to begin writing more, how I wanted to lose weight and get in better physical condition, and how I wanted to get off of prescription medications.
Actually, I saw that last part—getting off of prescription medications—as the lynchpin in the whole “moving in a different direction” deal. The Paxil had made me bloated, depressed, and fatigued, and the Xanax had made me anxious, flaky, tentative, and unable to live up to my potential.
My journal entry, in part, from January 2012 reads as follows:
“Since I have absolutely nothing better to do with my time at work at present (it must have been a slow week), I have decided to keep a journal. At the very best it will spring to life new ideas that can be implemented in my personal life; at the very least, it may be an interesting read a few years down the road. Things on my mind …”
Then I went on to list some goals and thoughts. In additional to talking about how I wanted to lose weight so that I’d enjoy clothes shopping again and feel better about myself, I talked about how something deep inside of me needed to get off medications.
HERE’S THAT PART OF THE JOURNAL ENTRY:
“[I see] Getting off of medications as a way to increase chance to take risk for website(s) [i.e. it will give me the strength and courage to try new things]. I could get off of my blood pressure meds by eating better and exercising. I could get off of Paxil by doing the same and employing other confidence techniques. I have enough Xanax to get me through any really rough patches for months.”
Later that year, in December of 2012, I would indeed stop taking the SSRI Paxil that I’d been on since 1999, and at that same time I would begin in earnest a taper off the four-plus daily milligrams of Xanax I’d been dependent on for almost a decade and a half (a taper that finished in early 2014).
Little did I know about the difficult prescription drug withdrawal I’d have to suffer through on my way to feeling healthier, but maybe that was for the best. I was simply determined.
I was in pain, but I was determined, and I had goals.
I got off the Paxil and Xanax, quit smoking cigarettes, became a regular runner, weaned myself off of the blood pressure medications, and began a few websites, one of them being The Lovely Grind. I wrote devotions and blog posts that gave people inspiration and spiritual connection, and eventually I began coaching others about wellness, too—people from all over the world.
Before the changes, there were the goals. And before the actions, there was simply the hope those goals brought me.
In the midst of pain and confusion, the simple act of outlining a few goals began moving me in a new direction. And eventually those goals proved to be the bridge that led me to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilled place in my life.
What goals can you draw up for yourself this year? Just go ahead and write a few down, no matter how simple they might be, or on the other end of the spectrum how far-fetched they might seem.
Just the act of writing down your goals will give you a sense of hope and empowerment, and eventually who knows where the goal list you make (or revise/revisit) right now, in January of 2021, will lead you. A few years down the road maybe you’ll find your goal list in a file drawer or in a computer folder, and maybe you’ll take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come.
That’s kind of what I’m doing as I’m writing this—reflecting and feeling proud. Today marks seven years off those prescription medications for me, and while the journey has been perilous at times, it has been so very personally rewarding.
As we begin 2021, I’m here to encourage you as you contemplate your own goals and begin moving in their direction. In which directions do you want to move your life? You can do it, I know you can!
Every journey begins with just one step, and oftentimes our goals are the things that tell us in which direction to point our feet!
Until next time,
Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.
“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.”
“I contacted Michael for 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.”
Jon - British Columbia, Canada
“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.
"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
“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
“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.”
“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 continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”
“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
“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.”
“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
"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
"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."
“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 professional counseling. 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.”
“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
“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael 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.”
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CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING
If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.