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Part 2: Mike T – How Overwhelming Work and Family Stress Caused Insomnia, Anxiety, and Addiction.

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Mike’s sleep story continued.

When did you realize you couldn’t sleep without a medication?

But my mind I was in this mode of… like a almost like a mental addiction. That’s probably what I would have called it. Where mentally I could not, it was like an alcoholic, who needs a drink, that’s how I felt. At the time you don’t you don’t see yourself that way. But as you slowly do better, you look at yourself and then you’re kind of like, why am I telling myself that I need this pill to go to sleep. Why am I? But there was a process that I learned here. The techniques that we did that I think really helped out with that. And I think from a mental standpoint when you see a little bit of improvement. You just, you’re, you’re going, you’re heading towards the finish line. And so it’s easier to get their when you see that, when you feel that improvement. So to just stop it and not take it, there’s no way. I would try. So what happened? You would try one night cutting it down or not taking it and what would happen? Well, a good example is, I may have told this before, but my wife and I, earlier this summer we went to, we went on vacation, we took a red eye flight out of Denver. So I was up all day. Got up for work. Went to work. Came home. Picked her up. Went to Denver. Flew out at midnight on the plane to head to Miami to go to the Dominican republic. Just the two of you. Just the two of us. No kids. I got nothing going on, stress wise. As far as business, everything’s fine. Everything’s good. So I get on the plane and immediately you start saying to yourself, you can’t take your medications so you can’t sleep. You know? So I was, I think, the only person on the plane up all night, from Denver to Miami. I didn’t, I couldn’t close my eyes. I got off the plane. Left there at 11:00 their time in the afternoon. So I’ve been up at that point well over 24 hours. Got in. So we landed in the Dominican Republic around three or four in the afternoon there. I went to go to bed at about 9:00 that night. And I said, I’m not going to take a pill, because I’ve been up forever. I think I’ll probably be able to sleep. And so I fell asleep. Like I was out. I hit the pillow. I was out. Woke up an hour later, wide awake. And so I got an hour of sleep after being up for probably 40 hours or something like that. So it was, you know? I had to take a pill. I had to take my trazodone in order to go back to sleep. And what does that mean for you, that experience? What were the thoughts that came up when you, you’ve been up for whatever it was 40 hours or so. And then you tried to sleep and all you could get out of that was an hour without a pill. You know, it told me, I think that was my, like when I looked in the mirror. I knew at that point that something’s not right. Because I’m on vacation. I’m relaxed. I’m not stressed. Yet I’m telling myself that I have to have this if I want to sleep. So that’s what I do. That when I got, when I got back from that trip, I went to see Dr. Ruff. And said, hey, I need to get off this stuff.

What happened when you came to The Insomnia Clinic and started reducing your sleep medication?

It’s a life changing event when you have to break up the pill and take three quarters of it. So, because you worry that, am I going to sleep tonight? As soon as you start to just shave a sliver off of that pill, all of a sudden, am I gonna sleep tonight? Right. Right. And so we walked this process, it’s a pretty standard process, where we have to reduce the medications a little bit at a time. We give you these tools to strengthen your natural sleep system. We give you some information that hopefully you can break down some of that mindset that’s causing you to stay dependent on them. And so we did. We started that process and what happened for you? You know, you gain confidence, I think. For me, I gained like this mental confidence. Where you go, it’s a cycle you go through initially. You go through this change of, we’re having to get up out of bed, you still wake up at two or three a.m. or whatever time. I’d lay back down after 30 minutes or whatever. Then if I’m still not asleep, I’d get up and to to another room
and so it’s just, it takes time to work through that process. And months. I mean a few months from from the beginning of the first take your, you know, dropping your dose all the way to the end there’s this process. But I think when I got down to a quarter milligram it was just this tiny, it wasn’t even, you could barely see it. That’s kind of from a mental standpoint. I think mentally I was able to really evaluate and tell myself, why am I? This is it. I mean I’m here, why am I taking this quarter milligram? Why am I doing this? I think I can do it. But I think the techniques have a lot to do with it. It really does. The fears that, like that part as far as it being partly a mental dependence or mental addiction, often times when we start to even talk about making changes in the medication, let alone actually doing it, there’s these fears that start to come up. Did any of those fears actually rear their ugly head as we went through the process for you? Did they come true? There were times when, like, so if I had a night where I just didn’t do well sleeping, the next night, you know, from a mental standpoint right at the beginning, it was easy to say to myself, I’ll just take a full milligram. Because I didn’t sleep the night before. So I better take a higher dose. Because now I need to do better or something like that and I never did. But your initial thought process is, well, I’ll just take a milligram. That temptation is there. The temptation is there. And so you just have to be able to

What helped you be successful here at The Insomnia Clinic?

What are the main things that you think made you successful? Because you’ve now been off of your completely free of these medications for a month, a little more than a month? And what do you think helped you to go from not sleeping that great and dependent on these medications, to now really sleeping what’s essentially normally without medication? So how did that happen? So, a few things. There’s a few things I think involved with that. One is the techniques that I’ve learned here, making sure, that, I don’t go to bed at 8:00 at night. And that I’ve learned from from a mental and physical standpoint, that I go to bed when my body is ready to go to sleep. And not just when my wife went to bed at nine, so I need to go to be with her. You know, the whole house is asleep, so I should be sleeping too. And so so now I go to bed when my body is tired, when I feel tired. And I try to prevent myself from doing activities, from a mental standpoint or physical, either way, because I just know who I am. I try to prevent myself from doing some type of stressful type stuff, whether it’s working on a computer at home. You know, those types of things. And so if I do those things, I would do it in the early afternoon, but from when dinner hits, through, its more, I’m in a different zone. I just I don’t go back into the office and sit down and do stuff. I stay out of the office at that point. I sit down and watch TV with the kids or whatever. That’s kind of my routine. Is this something that you feel like you could have done on your own? Gotten off of these things and been able to…. No. Why not? There’s no way. You know, because I was in this, I was in this different mindset. I was in this, you know when you’re in this mindset of years and years of work and anxiety and not sleeping, everything is about you. The whole world, everybody is working around you. You’re the one that, you’re the problem, you’re the only one who can fix it. So I was not ready from a mental standpoint, even when I left my first therapist. Even when I left him, even he said, Mike, your anxiety seems to be under control. It was still there. Anxiety was still, it was still there. It’s just how you deal with it, and how you see it, how you approach it. And so, there’s no way. I needed some professionals to be able to look at me and say, you know, this is normal. We see 100 milligram dose. You know this is the reason why and this is what we need to do. We understand this and we know how to walk you out of it. I needed somebody to point me in the right direction and say Mike, this is what you need to do to get off these medications. To start sleeping better.

Was the process what you expected? Do you feel like this process of you learning to manage your own sleep and be able to walk down off of the medications, is it about what you expected? Was it different than what you expected to happen?

You know, I didn’t know what to expect. My first initial reaction was, we’re changing medications again. Great. There’s another three months of not sleeping. I’ll either be way knocked out or not sleep all, but there’s no in-between. So that was my first initial reaction is, oh we’re changing medication again. This again, you know. So for me, I really didn’t know what to expect. And then, and then my first initial fear was, okay Mike, here’s your sleep schedule. So now I want you to stay up until 11. And be out of bed by 6-6:30, out of bed. Up and out. Then my my first initial reaction was fear because I was like, oh, great. Now I’m gonna go from 11 to 2. Less time in bed means I’m going to sleep even less. I’ll only get three hours of 11 to 2 instead of… Is that what happened? I mean initially, but then it didn’t take long for your body. You start adjusting and getting used to it. But yeah, first, that was my initial expectation was well, I guess I’ll only get 2 or 3 hours of sleep. So, you know, but it’s been great. There were several points in this process that you could have just abandoned ship and stopped seeking help. You went from your doctor, and then to a therapist, and then to a sleep specialist, and then over here. I think your success and where you’re at now, where your anxiety is under control and maybe even hardly even existent now. You’re sleeping normally. You’re off these medications. I think that’s just a sign of your persistence. And I think, there was a point where your mindset changed about your work and your family, where you say, wait a minute here. My life is not going to be consumed by my work anymore. Right. A lot of that came down to, I learned a lot with my therapist, the cognitive behavioral type stuff. But my brother passed away and things like that. I just I, business is business, and so I, it’s a mindset and it’s not every day is not that way. I mean, there are days when stress overwhelms you, But that’s normal. That’s life. That’s life, that’s normal. But when you’re in the root of being that stressed, you don’t know any different. You just think, well this is just life and it’s always gonna be this way. And the reality is is that it’s not. It doesn’t have to be that way. You’re going to, you’re gonna have days, where you’re going to be stressed. But you know what, if I have more days throughout the week that are better than a stressful day, then I’m doing really good. That’s how I, that’s my mindset. Everything is temporary. And it gets easier. So that’s where I’m at. Well, that’s awesome. I’m just happy to happy to see where you’re at. Having gone through this process and having broken that, like you said that mental addiction. And I mean, in reality for probably 90% of the people that I work with, that’s the harder part to break. The physical part of depending on these medications is short term. It only lasts a few days or a week or something like that. It’s this, it’s the way that this gets into your head that’s hard to change. And so, you’ve really just attacked that head on and I think that’s partially why you’ve been so successful, is really taking that mindset piece seriously. I think you’re scheduled to join the mindfulness and stress training. Maybe only 10 days away or something and I think that’s gonna be the next thing that just takes you that next level in terms of really having choice about what’s going on in your mind and how you relate to the good, the bad and the ugly. I met a a friend of ours a few years ago a couple years ago. And I was telling her what medications I was on. She said, Mike, you need to do mindfulness. You need to read this book on mindfulness. But I was not in a in any position in the world. To be able to even sit down and read a book, let alone… One that said be calm, be still, stop. So ridiculous! That was not going to happen! So it was not going to happen. It took two years man but now I’m there. It took two years. Before I had a conversation with him. It’s not infrequently that I’ll sit down and I’ll start talking with someone and they’ll say, well my doctor said for me to come and see you two years ago, three years ago. And I just wasn’t ready. And then… but there comes a point where you are ready and you’re tired of suffering and struggling and those kinds of things and then it’s the right time. Thank you. You’re very welcome. You changed my life man. I appreciate it. You’re very welcome.

What would you say to others with insomnia who want get off of sleep medication?

If you if you were able to say one thing to someone that was in your situation where you used to be, what would you say to them? I would say get help. Get help. I mean, the reality is we like to think that we can do this stuff ourselves. And you fight it and fight it and fight it for years and years. And half the time, you don’t even know that you probably don’t even know that you have a problem. You just don’t. I mean for years and years I never realized that I had a problem. But when I was, when I went to the hospital and had that panic attack and everything else, there kind of was a but part of me that said, you know, I mean, I need some help. This isn’t getting any better, and I don’t have the tools necessary to do it.

What’s your sleep like now that you’re free of sleep medications?

I go to sleep when I’m tired and you know, there are nights when I’ll sleep all night and there are nights when I still wake up but I’m able to fall right back asleep. And then I’ll have the occasional where you wake up at three and I might fall asleep at four. But it’s not six a.m. When the kids are getting up and I’m ready to go back to sleep. So it’s sporadic now and I’m okay with that. I mean you know. Do you, do your wife or your kids, do they notice? What’s different about the way you are with your family now that you’re off of these medications and you’re able to sleep, you know, normally? You know, my… my wife still doesn’t know. She still does not know that I’ve even lowered dosages. Let alone that you’re totally free of them. So it’s been months ever since I came here from the beginning when we started lowering doses and stuff. She’s still just…she just doesn’t know. And, I don’t know, I’m just kind of, it’s not, my mind isn’t hesitant. So I’m not in that mindset, like I don’t wanna tell my wife because next week I might be back on it. That’s not how I feel. It’s just I haven’t really said anything because I hardly think about it anymore. When I go up the stairs and go to bed, I don’t think about taking pills anymore from a mental standpoint. So I just kind of approach it like it’s not really much of a conversation.

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