Recovering addict shares inspiring message in overcoming sleeping pill addiction

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CANTON (WJRT) (02/06/18) -- According to the American Sleep Association, around 30 percent of U.S. adults have some form of insomnia.

With busy lifestyles, including kids and other stressors, many struggle to get a good night's rest.

For some, that means turning to sleeping pills, which could take people down a very dangerous path. They did for single mother Tammy Fox of Canton outside Detroit.

On the outside, Fox was a typical woman in her 20s -- full of life, happy, joyous and free. On the inside, a different story.

After being in a car crash at 25, chronic pain began to take over her life, so much that it affected her sleep. She knew at the time, there's a pill for that.

"I was taking Ambien to help me sleep because I couldn't sleep, until I had a point where I had taken so many of them in one night without remembering that I thought literally I was having a stroke," Fox said.

She thought Ambien was her fix to get a good night sleep. Little did she know, the depths of full blown addiction were taking over with daily panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain and depression.

"I was on opiates, I was on benzodiazepines, I was on muscle relaxers, I was on antidepressants," Fox said.

Russian Roulette 24/7 became the norm.

Eventually, Fox hit rock bottom, a blessing in disguise that most addicts don't live to see.

"I fell asleep when I was driving and hit oncoming traffic and my daughter was in the car," she said.

That's when she realized her problem wasn't medications.

"Really the problem was me. The problem was not being able to cope with life," she said.

Dr. George Zureikat is the director of the Mid Michigan Sleep Center. He said medications are never a first line treatment when it comes to getting better sleep.

"What we would do for every patient is what we call cognitive behavioral therapy," Zureikat said.

That means things like examining your sleep hygiene, getting down to the root of the problem, including knowing how the body clock operates.

"If the clock for example is kicking in really late for you and you need to move it to an earlier time, then really the time of exposure to a bright light such as sunlight or artificial bright light may actually help move the clock back for the patient," he said.

As for medications, sedative hypnotics like Ambien are considered a Schedule 4 substance, meaning they have a lower potential for abuse and dependency.

"Ambien is not a medication without side effects. You have memory loss from it, you may have sleep walking at night time, which could include causing harm to yourself," he said.

To get better and healthier sleep, Zureikat said exercise at least two hours before bedtime, go easy on the caffeine and don't eat a heavy meal right before bed.

"Knowing your clock and knowing the things that may harm your sleep and what things may help you relax, I think, is a really good strategy to get you a good night sleep," he said.

After a host of legal issues and 69 days of treatment, Tammy is grateful to be in recovery.

"My life is great today. I have a beautiful daughter, I have a supportive family, I have wonderful friends," she said.

Through her pain and hard work, she knows it continues to pay off.

"I sleep like a baby. I can fall asleep probably within 10 minutes now," Fox said.

She does that without any medications. Fox has not picked up a drink or a drug in four years.

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