Yes there is somebody out here!
I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea in April this year and since June I have had a CPAP machine. (see my post on the CPAP machine section).
I have spent years feeling tired and doctors putting it down to having low iron. I had a hysterectomy in October 2002 to help cure the problem but I still felt very sleepy. At the end of November last year I was so run down, fed up, moody and forgetful that I was getting told off at work nearly every day! I couldn't stand it any longer and went to see my GP. I told him that my rhinitus was worse and that my snoring was so bad my husband slept in the spare room. However, it wasn't until I told him my husband was concerned because I occasionally stopped breathing that he decided to send me to the hospital.
My first visit was to the ENT consultant and rather than treat the rhinitus he sent me to another hospital to see the sleep specialists. He said he felt I was overweight (tell me something I didn't know!) and that my condition would improve if I lost the weight. However, when I finally got to go to the sleep unit and they tested me over a weekend (at home not in hospital) they said that weight was not always the factor as they have quite a few slim people as patients and although losing weight generally would be good for it would not necessarily cure my problem.
When they checked my readings from the monitor they were shocked to find that each hour - once every 30 seconds my airways closed to almost nothing and then once every 30 seconds my airways closed altogether. This resulted in me stopping breathing for up to 59secs at a time! My heart rate went up and my oxygen saturation went down from 95% to 70% and all night it went up and down like a yoyo.
Since having the machine the episodes of not breathing have lessened and one benefit that I am very happy about is that I now don't get up to the loo twice or more every night. The sleep guy said that it was because when my brain kicked in to start me breathing again all my internal organs raced to start working again and so my kidneys and bladder went into overdrive and I needed the loo. It's really strange what happens with this condition.
My boss has not been all that sympathetic and it has made for difficult times at work - forgetting to order lunch is such a crime!
Anyway, you are not alone and although you have been on the machine for 18 years it obviously helps and as you say it it better to have the machine than to go back to what you were like before.
I'm happy to chat more about this if you like.