Combat Insomnia Sleeping Pill Addiction Recovery
Why Can’t I Sleep?
This is tough.
Because the one thing you thought was helping you finally get the sleep you needed so bad is now the one thing that is destroying your life.
I get it.
I used to have issues sleeping.
But really what I needed was to stop drinking. At the time I didn’t see it that way.
Then I couldn’t sleep at all. Not just for a few days, but for a few weeks.
Finally, I would get so exhausted I would have to take a day off work just to sleep.
This went on for a while.
The advice you get from a doctor are things like going to bed at the same time every night.
If you cannot sleep you are lucky if you go to bed at all, much less at the same time every night.
Exercising is another tip to try.
Often, I am so tired during the day that I can barely function let alone find the motivation to go work out.
I am always really tired when I get home, so I just lay around.
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Going Down the Rabbit hole
It’s was so difficult to control my thinking when I was tired.
I began to worry.
You begin to spiral around and around.
I would try all kinds of tactics to all asleep.
Counting sheep, focusing on my breath.
But nothing would work.
The more I thought about ways to try and fall asleep the more difficult it was to fall asleep.
Even if you try and count or focus on your breath after a few moments it seems like your mind has a mind of its own because you are back worrying.
Worrying about things that most likely you cannot do anything about at 11 PM in the evening.
Or 3 AM in the morning.
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Prescription Sleeping Pills Lead to Addiction
Finally, after a while I started taking melatonin. It worked a little at first. A friend of mine offered to give me some of her sleeping pills after I told her about my insomnia. I tried them. I fell asleep right away and nothing could wake me until I heard my alarm in the morning. I was told by roommates that they had to listen to my alarm going off for 45 minutes or longer every day before I would wake up.
But I could sleep. I was still tired during the day, but I was able to function more. Until I wasn’t. I needed more and more just hit baseline. I would wake up and feel anxious so I would take a sleeping pill to even it out again. Thus, the pattern began, I was taking 6-8 sleeping pills a day. Things came to head when I was admitted into the hospital for a panic attack.
According to the NIH, a study reported a tripling in sleep aid prescriptions from 1998 to 2006 for young adults aged 18–24. I ended up in rehab for sleeping pills. I couldn’t ignore the issues I was having anymore. The toughest part was the fact I had to relearn how to sleep again. It had become my enemy and now I needed to make it my friend. Addiction had rewired my brain to make sleep and functioning impossible.
The best advice I can offer during rehab is even if it’s tough, do everything you can do to get on a normal sleep schedule. This might mean you have to endure a few nights tossing and turning. You may have to endure days where you feel really tired. This is what rehab is for: to recover and come back to your baseline; to address whatever underlying issues drove you to sleeping pills in the first place. It will be worth it because eventually you will fall asleep. Here are the tactics I used in rehab to combat my addiction while relearning how to sleep.
Go to Bed at the Same Time
This is the most important thing you can do for yourself in rehab. It will teach your body a routine. It might be hard at first. You need to do this to recover. Rehab is the perfect place to overcome negative patterns. According the NIH, motivation is a key factor in recovery and rehab will help you get motivation to create a healthy routine.
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When you have expended enough energy, your brain won’t have as much fuel to keep you up at night. Learning a good exercise routine is a sure-fire way to get back on your sleep schedule during recovery. Remember that you begin to exercise you can do a little at a time. Maybe you do the treadmill for five minutes. It’s important to do something you enjoy so if you like walking outside, or hiking, then do that.
All those thoughts racing through your head need to go somewhere. Get a journal to put beside your bed. Before you fall asleep write every single thing that is worrying you. Realize that most of those worries are not imminent. Some are probably made up. It will help to look at them on paper. Mostly to realize that there is nothing you can do about these worries right now. What you can do is focus on making a plan to address them tomorrow, after a good night’s rest. You may feel overwhelmed and anxious in recovery. Journaling is one way to channel that anxiety.
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All of this might seem a lot at first but what you are really trying to do in recovery is to make yourself a routine.
That way when you get out you won’t feel overwhelmed.
You will have a set schedule that you follow.
And in that set schedule life will give you challenges.
But you will continue to stick to that schedule because it is what holds everything together.
It gives you grounding.
You know what comes next even when the unexpected happens.
What comes next is because you already did the work