In 2013, years after being diagnosed with a handful of mental health disorders including PTSD and depression, I finally decided to find a doctor with the hopes of alleviating the state of my mental health condition and get my life back on track. I went on a quest for healing, where I longed for salvation and clarity in life. I wanted peace. I wanted freedom from my own paralyzing thoughts. So, I went doctor shopping.


It didn’t take long to find a psychiatrist who I knew I could easily manipulate into giving me what I wanted, and after a few google searches I knew I found my guy. After two scheduled visits, a few exaggerated truths, and obsessing over his office coworker Zoe-his all white rescue German Shepard, the doctor prescribed me 1mg of Clozapine (benzodiazepines-“downer”) and 30mg of Adderall (amphetamine-“upper”). The Clozapine was for my debilitating anxiety and the Adderall, well I never needed Adderall, I just heard great things about that particular medicine as far as its cocaine-like side-effects, and since my old cocaine dealer moved out of town, I needed a new source of pleasure.

Even though I was seeking help, my underlying and always omnipresent addiction wanted to have a good time instead. What followed next would be a long and trying battle between substance abuse and my willpower to get help. I was digging myself a hole inside my doctor’s prescription pad and I wouldn’t be coming out anytime soon.


I didn’t waste any time getting my new prescriptions filled, and as I sat in my car in the supermarket parking lot, I took my very first Clozapine. It kicked in what felt like three and a half minutes; and there were instant feelings of euphoria and complete mental freedom from being trapped inside my head for years. It was like I had discovered magic; magic that was compressed into a tiny, round yellow pill that made all of my irrational fears disappear. I was also finally able get a good night sleep, as well as function in social settings without the crippling mental and physical pain that came along with my anxiety; but it wouldn’t take long for my system to build up a tolerance to the magical yellow pill. It is also my nature as an addict to take advantage of whatever good I can get my hands on, so it only took a tiny bit of self-persuasion for me to go from the recommended 1mg pill-3 times a day-7 days a week, to crushing up 5 pills at a time and mixing them with a spoonful of applesauce just so I could get it into my blood faster.

I never realized how severe prescription pills could be until I started abusing them and even more so when I started running out of them.  I would go on benders for days at a time, just eating dangerous amounts of the benzodiazepines until I would run out, wait for my script to get filled, not take any for months, and then have 180 pills to play around with for the next month. It was ugly. I was turning into an empty shell of a human, and I was losing control. Plus my wife was starting to notice that something about me was changing.

First, I started slurring my words, and whatever words I could muster up, I carelessly threw them into nonsensical sentences. Soon after that, I was nodding off while driving into work and I lost count of how many times I cut my fingers on the job due to falling asleep while standing and chopping. One year on my wife’s birthday, in a complete benzo cloud, I passed out at the dining room table as we celebrated over dinner. I would wake up hours later with my head lying next to my cold dinner plate.

If abusing benzodiazepines wasn’t bad enough, it didn’t help that I was adding alcohol and amphetamines to the mix every day.


Wake up, use bathroom and brew coffee. Next, I grab the bottle of whiskey that I hid underneath the kitchen sink nestled between a decomposed mouse corpse and a bottle of bleach-based cleaner. I would drink a tall glass of the warm whiskey while I crushed up the Adderall beads that were inside its orange capsule. As my second helping of coffee was cooling off, I divided the amphetamine powder between my two nostrils. Finally, just to balance everything out to ensure that I wouldn’t be bouncing off the walls from an Adderall and coffee binge, I would ingest two Clozapine. I would swallow one and chew the other. The Adderall kept me up and the Clozapine kept me steady; after all, this was usually happening while I was getting ready for my drive into work for an 8:30am shift.

Early one morning at work, I disappointingly stared into the employee toilet where my vomit settled on the top of the water like an oil spill. With great shame I thought to myself, “What a good waste of pills.”

Benzodiazepine dependency is a horrifying rabbit hole to jump into and it’s even scarier when you’re addicted to something that was designed to help you. Now granted, I was an addict before I started with the benzodiazepines, but the strength and side-effects of benzos didn’t make the situation any easier. And my anxiety is so strong, that even when I was taking Clozapine the correct way, I was finding myself becoming more and more dependent on it.

After multiple attempts to get sober and a few trial runs with new therapists, I would find a medication that would work for me that didn’t come with a dependency side-effect.

Today I’m sober from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines. Not including my daily vitamins, I take Lexapro for my anxiety/depression and so far so good. I honestly believe that there is wonderful medication out there for people with mental health disorders. So the problem isn’t always the medicine, sometimes it’s the person steering the ship.


You would be amazed at what kind of mental clarity you could achieve with just a little bit of exercise, meditation, and a good therapist.

My name is Richard De Fino. I’m a 33-year-old writer and columnist living in Buffalo, NY. I was born and raised in the Bronx NY and had my fair share of unfortunate events throughout my childhood. My goal here is to use my written words as my own personal therapy and through that, I hope that my past and current struggles will resonate with my readers and make them feel less alone. When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Andrea, our dog Zeke, and cat BeBe.
I am a writer and columnist for Feminine Collective. I’ve also been published in Chickpea Magazine,, Two Cities Review, Purple Pig Lit and forthcoming in Nameless Digest in the fall of 2018.