Maverick Time!

Just over the hill from where I live is a surfing area called  Mavericks. When the weather/wave gods decide to favor the area with some badass waves, surfers from all around the world converge on the coast to show off their skills in a contest known simply as Mavericks.

Tuesday I ate BBQ pork sliders, outside at a restaurant where I could see the surfing area. The waves were so gentle that afternoon it was hard to imagine the 70 foot swells that area can churn up.

That’s what it’s like these days for me. I’ve had some amazing days where I feel that withdrawal is finally on its last legs. I feel so close to shore and the nasty chaos behind me. Then, a wave comes and I am reminded that my GABA receptors aren’t completely recovered. Sometimes, the wave builds and I feel like I’m riding a chicane that could qualify for Mavericks. Like the wave I’m riding now.

I attended a workshop Wednesday morning. It was stressful getting to it, and I hadn’t slept the best the night before. But, I wasn’t in the hurt locker. I was having a great time until 11 A.M. when the benzo symptoms started roll call. Tingles? Here. Bone pain? Here. You get the picture. I fell into bed when I finally got home. And its been this way since then. A lot of couch time as it’s uncomfortable to walk. I’m woozy and weak, the head pressure too overwhelming. Bone pain comes and goes. The tingles are back with a vengeance. I’ve muttered “Fuck!” under my breath a few times, but for the most part, I’m doing what I’ve learned to do: roll with the punches and know that I’ll bounce back one of these days.

I refuse to let this illness define me or my life. So I keep moving forward. I feel like crap in my body, but my heart and soul are good. I’ve been getting caught up reading Humans Of New York on Facebook. (How did I miss this for four years? I just discovered it!) I am working too, putting together the slides for my resilience training courses and of course, I’m writing.

Thanks to everyone who emails and asks how I am doing. I appreciate your care and concern. I’m healing, just like everyone else. Riding waves, enjoying windows and feeling confident that one day, I can retire this wetsuit for good.

Be well. Hold on.

 

 

Wetsuit? Yes, Please.

By now all of us in benzo withdrawal know that (for most of us) it comes in windows and waves. I’ve been enjoying a fairly good window, meaning my symptoms are manageable. I’m taking it easy, avoiding both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). I am eating well and going to bed at a regular time. I’m even taking my dog to the beach a few times a week and walking/lounging. I’m working at building my new coaching career, and looking forward to the future. I am keenly aware that a wave could swell up at any time and close my window.

And it did.

I went to the movies with a friend last night. (We saw the documentary on Ed Snowden. Frightening to watch the heads of the NSA denying their unlawful tactics.)During the movie my skin began burning and my old constant friend, full body tingles, came back to say hello. By the time we left I had head pressure, weakness, dizziness and bone pain. I went to sleep early in hope that it would vanish during the night. No such luck. After three hours of sleep, I was wide awake, looking for my wetsuit.

I’ve been here so many times that I know the drill. Waves means serious self-care. Lots and lots of positive self-talk and NO VICTIM mentality. I wasn’t able to stay out of the victim thoughts when my brain was less healed, but now I can. I am very good at reminding myself that I will be 1000% healed one day and that these waves always come and go. They never stick around.

I am on the couch with my new dog Shakespeare. He’s precious. He was a stray who was literally on the table to be put to sleep. A vet tech saved him after hunting for a microchip a second time. His owners were long gone, but at least they knew he as a pet, not a feral stray. He was so frightened at the shelter, he wasn’t acting like he had been around people. I can totally understand how fearful he was. It wasn’t too long ago that the damage to my brain from the medication that I took as prescribed caused me to have intense fear. I’m glad my brain is healed enough that I don’t have that anymore. Maybe later I might head to the beach with Shakes, or head over to the bay and walk. I’m sure at some point I will water the garden and do some weeding. Whatever we end up doing today, I’ll be mindful that life is good, and that I’m healing.

The trick to getting to the finish line of healing is to not get too attached to expectations. Sure, set your sights on positive healing, but don’t get your panties in a bunch when you have set backs. They are going to happen. It’s the nature of the benzo beast. It’s helpful to distract from the symptoms as much as possible and to keep telling yourself that you are healing. I used to roll my eyes at some of the affirmations that Bliss shared, but guess what? THEY WORK!. I’m a big believer in them now.

Other things to do while you are riding your wave to the shore is to surround yourself with as many compassionate, caring people as you can. Love heals. Enough said. Keep your hands and mind as busy as you can. Do things that bring you joy. If you can’t feel joy just yet, do things that used to bring you joy. You body and brain will remember on a cellular level, even if you don’t register the feelings.

I know its hard to be patient. This is such a nasty illness. But we have it, and we must ride it out. One day, it will be gone forever. Do your best to maintain a positive attitude.

I’m grateful I’ve had a good stretch of time with limited symptoms. I’ll zip up my wetsuit, paddle out to the crest of the wave, stand up, and ride this baby to shore. I’ll enjoy the view, the sun on my face, the spray of salt water on my skin, and I’ll be thankful I am still alive to ride the waves, if waves are what I have on my plate.

Life is good. It really is. It is such a divine gift. I want to open mine up, and enjoy it, and share it.

Keep fighting the good fight. Ride the waves. Know they will one day the tide will go out and all you will experience is a glorious window of light, love and wellbeing.

 

WIN A MONTH OF COACHING! (and pick my brain on how to bounce back!)

My dear benzo buddies,

You are the only ones who know how hard I have fought to get back up after being totally trampled by the brain damage from the benzo I took. No one, not even my parents or my children, know what I have gone through. Only you.

You’ve watched me kick, scream, cry, curse, cry… .and you’ve seen me hold on no matter how hard life got.  And man, did it get HARD!

You know that I am finally back on my feet and moving forward, full steam ahead (taking care to not get too stressed!).

I have put together my new coaching company. I am so excited! My new book is coming out, and I am putting together some great online courses too. Everything is really, really good!  Everything, that is, except my company name and url.

I so love the idea of the garden (injennifersgarden.com) as being the showcase of resilience, but people don’t make the connection when they see the URL and I can’t blame them. They don’t know me or the garden. So, dear friends, I need a new company name and url!

I am hosting a contest. NAME MY COMPANY!  The winner will receive a month of personal coaching from me. That is four full hours of my time, PLUS daily email contact. The winner will be able to pick my brain about how to bounce back after life kicks you down. And…. how to leverage that slam down to make you BETTER THAN EVER.

I know that many of you are not in the right head space to make use of coaching, but if you enter and win, I’ll wait until you are ready. Promise.

Please feel free to share this link with your social media networks. The more people who enter, the better the chances I’ll get a great name!

Here is the link you’ll need to access the contest and to share…

http://tinyurl.com/pduvd28

Just tweet that or post it on your fb accounts.

Thank you all so much for all the support. You are all so dear to my heart. You went with me on the HARDEST journey of my life. WIth my whole and humble heart, I thank you.

Blessings.

Jennifer

Life Is Looking Normal Again, Whatever That Is!

I can’t say I am totally healed. I still have bone pain, muscle pain, head pressure, ringing ears, dizzy spells, weakness and fatigue, to name a few of the remaining symptoms. However, life is looking pretty normal these days. I have normal fears/worries/concerns like “normal” people have. I am no longer consumed by withdrawal and the mental anguish that is the hallmark of the healing syndrome.

I still limit my exposure to stress. I don’t allow myself to get too happy or too sad. Any strong emotion can kick off an avalanche of symptoms, one of which is the internal feeling that I am going to fast. Very hard to describe this one, but it is very unpleasant.

I still am hopeful that one day I will wake up with ZERO withdrawal symptoms (excluding the ringing in my ears. I think its permanent).

I am working at re-establishing a career and being of service to others. Sometimes I even daydream about finding the right man to settle down with and to go through the golden years with, but that is not a pressing need/want. What is most pressing is getting back to work and having a purpose.

My dream is to coach again and to buy a little piece of land near the coast so I can create a bigger garden than I have now so that people with brain injuries, PTSD, or are healing from a serious illness, loss, trauma etc. can come and work alongside one another. I want to scale the garden I have now to a much bigger platform so it can serve more people.

I am still grateful for the adventure I have been on. It has been utterly brutal, but it gave me the chance to become a much better person. I have SO much more love and compassion for myself and others. My ego is less fragile too. I don’t need to be submissive and below people, feeling less than, nor do I need to be superior and feel better than.  I just need to be me, on equal footing with all of God’s children.

If you are still battling the symptoms of benzo withdrawal, hold on. Keep fighting the good fight. It will get better. I used to think I would never heal. I thought that everyone else would heal, but that my brain was far too damaged. That is not the case. It won’t be the case for you either. You ARE going to heal. Even if you don’t believe it. You can’t stop your brain from healing. It wants to return to its normal state, the state it was in before you swallowed your first benzo.

Thank you all for the love and support over these hard years. Let’s keep holding hands until we are ALL at the finish line. Let’s leave no benzo buddy behind.

Feel free to contact me if you want reassurance.

Snowstorms, Realizations, Jury Duty And Stevie Nicks

By Don Killian

The morning coffee has been drunk and the daily workout has been done. So, I sit here listening to Fleetwood Mac tunes and reflecting. (Gotta love Stevie Nicks.)

Today is the anniversary of the most special day in my healing from benzo withdrawal – the day I knew, beyond any doubt, I was going to be well and whole again. Actually, Wednesday was the anniversary. It was Saturday, October 29, 2011 – the day of the freak nor’easter here in Central Pennsylvania. I was attending the first birthday party of my grandson, Eli, at the church.

I had been reluctant to attend because I knew there would be many relatives from the “other side” of the family. I didn’t know them and was still deeply immersed in my two-year stay in the land of agoraphobia. Nevertheless, I made my way to Eli’s party. Eli and I had become “good buddies” during my withdrawal and would have been “best buddies” except that title will always be held by his uncle who also helped me greatly back when my journey through the land of psychotropic drugs began. I had no choice. I had to go to my good buddy’s celebration.

I felt a little strange when I got there, but, as I crawled around on the floor chasing Eli, things began to ”lift.” When others began arriving, I was unusually able to converse with them. I was a bit nervous, but I could feel the anxiety dwindling. Of course, I was taking mental notes about the fading of these feelings that had haunted me for two years. I was expecting them to return at any moment. I waited. They stayed away. I went into the kitchen and talked with my brother-in-law’s wife. I was calm. I could smell the aroma of coffee. It was very nice. In fact, it was so inviting that I poured myself the first cup of coffee I had had in more than two years. Then I poured a second one – all the while taking mental notes and expecting to be hammered with a panic attack at any moment. I waited. No panic attack – only a feeling of relief and a sense that the fighting was coming to an end. It was a turning point in the war – almost like an armistice.

So, today is a day of remembrance of how bad it was and how good it now is. My wife was talking to me earlier about a jury duty notice she received in the mail this week. She desperately does not want to have jury duty, but she has no choice. Of course, I thought back on the day I received a jury duty notice while I was in withdrawal. I was about eight months from my last dose of Klonopin and immediately panicked. There was just no way I could get into the city and sit with a roomful of strangers – or even friends. I shakily went online and completed the questions on the notice. The dizziness from the derealization was overwhelming. There was an “out” on the notice – mental illness – one of few reasons to be excused from jury duty. So, I played the “mental disorder card.” It worked. After I sent in a note from my doctor attesting to my mental unsoundness, I was excused from jury duty……for life. Far out, man!

The funny thing about this is that my wife has schizophrenia – for real. It is a valid diagnosis. She does take Zyprexa to keep the symptoms at bay. One would never know she has schizophrenia. She can’t use it as a reason to be excused from jury duty. I was never “mentally ill” (whatever that means) for even a moment in my life, yet I have a lifetime reprieve from jury duty. There is some kind of irony in there somewhere.

Time to get on with the day – vacuuming, doctor appointment to discuss an MRI of my neck which will probably require surgery, the best Margharita pizza I have ever eaten in my life at my father-in-law’s, and thoughts of attending one last Penn State football game tomorrow with my friend Jayson.

Of course, there are thoughts of Stevie Nicks and her haunting voice. Fleetwood Mac is scheduled to perform a concert nearby in January. I hope to make my way there and hear that voice live. It’s another one of those dreams.

Life is good…real good. Who would have thought?

Help Save Bentley.

Bentley is an amazing dog. He belongs to my daughter and her boyfriend. They are heartbroken over the diagnosis. I wish I could help them, but you all know my situation from not working the past few years as my brain recovered. If you can help that would be great! If you can’t help with money (I know we in benzo wd are usually hard pressed for $)  can you please share on your social media? I love this dog so much!

As for my own dog, I am adopting him (Shakespeare) and training him to do a few things for me to help me on this last leg of healing. He is a rescue dog who was LITERALLY on the euthanasia table, the lethal shot ready to end his life, when a tech asked that someone scan him for a microchip. They had scanned him when he came into the shelter as a stray, but none was found. They found his chip moments before he was to be killed! I am so grateful.

My dog Shakespeare was saved. Please help me help my daughter save her dog Bentley. Thank you. Feel free to leave her a comment as being a friend of mine who wanted to help. I know she will be so grateful.

 

https://www.gofundme.com/saveourdog

2457574_1414526363.9498

40 Months. A Whole New World.

Just when I thought it would never get better, it got better.

True, I still have symptoms, but I also have a life. I rarely think about withdrawal anymore. Can you believe it? It used to be what drove my every thought. I was obsessed with what was happening to my brain and body. Totally. Now I am obsessed about getting my life back in order, and figuring out the focus of my coaching practice. I am engaged in life and it’s great! I still tire easily, but who cares? I am so grateful to have a relatively normal life. I’m hopefully adopting a new dog (Emma was too leash aggressive and couldn’t pass the service dog requirements, sadly) to help me with the last few symptoms and to help me integrate back into the world in a bigger way. He’s an amazing being with so much soul. When I am out with him, I don’t think about my dizziness. I am too focused on him! I’m fostering him now to make sure he’s a good fit.

I can honestly say that life is good. I am glad to be alive. I feel joy. I feel happiness. I know the last few symptoms will get better in time. I don’t have any doubt anymore that I will heal. I am sure of it now.

I know that one day my stamina will return. The tingles will stop. The bone pain will cease. The woozy dizzy head pressure stuff will end too, one day. In the meantime, I engage with life as much as I can, without over doing it. I know it’s hard to believe, but I am grateful for the experience of wd. It made me a much better person. I am so grateful to be this strong, humble woman. A sober woman. A benzo free woman. A woman who truly wants to do God’s work. I wasn’t that before all of this. I was an ego driven drama queen with a fragile sense of self-esteem. I had a big career growing, sure, but underneath it all, I was afraid a lot of time. Not now. I know I can face whatever life dishes out. I’ve lived through hell. For a very long time. I held on. I got through it.

Life is an adventure. It’s up, down, sideways. I was down for so long that the only way to go is up. I’m climbing out of the benzo snake pit. It’s UP, UP, UP… from here on out. I don’t foresee another wave coming, but if one does, I know how to cope. I’m an expert at holding on and coping.

I hope you all will hold on and cope. It’s worth it. Life gets good again. Our brains recover. We get back on with our lives. I promise.

 

 

 

I Really Was In There The Whole Time

By Don Killian

This morning my wife and I took our grandson, Eli, to a plant nursery in the area that was decorated for Halloween and fall harvest. We took a hayride, played in a sandbox full of corn, slid down a hay slide (Well, Eli did. They wouldn’t let me – too old and too big.), walked through a spooky, dark haunted house maze, and took lots of pictures of bales of hay decorated as all manner of Halloween and harvest creatures and characters. It was a very leisurely, pleasant day.

It brought back lots of memories of my own childhood and the wonder of autumn and Halloween. In many ways, it seemed like I was reconnecting with the person I had been some fifty years ago before “life” happened to me. It felt like I was rejoining the path that I had been on at that time. Somewhere around age eleven or twelve, I got off that path and entered a nearly fifty-year detour – one that had no resemblance to the carefree days I had lived in my early years – one increasingly filled with addiction (some by my own doing and some unknowingly thrust upon me) and all its misery. Life would never be the same again until I reached the end of the detour and found the path I had wandered from long ago. I am on that path now.

Five years ago today began a journey that I would never have believed was possible to survive. If I had I known at the outset how long it would last and how gruesome it would be, I would have opted out and found an easier softer way – a way that would have eventually led to my death.

On October 20, 2009, I took my last drink of alcohol. The withdrawal was immediate, and over a couple weeks it morphed into post-acute withdrawal. The anxiety and depression were brutal and did not dissipate. I had also been taking Klonopin, and, even though I was in its clutches, I had no idea what benzo tolerance withdrawal was. Through trial and error, torture in a mental institution, near suicide, online help, and words from a friend, I finally realized I needed to discontinue the Klonopin if I ever hoped to be well again. It would be more than three years until I would declare myself well again.

I recall many things from those three-plus years – none of them good, but the most disturbing aspect of the journey was that, at every turn, I was told under no uncertain circumstances by every mental health care professional I met (more than a dozen), except one, that I was a hopelessly mentally ill addict who would need to be on psychotropic drugs for the rest of my life. It’s called dual diagnosis. It felt like a death sentence. It was terrifying. It was the best way I could ever think of to completely deflate another human being and suck every bit of hope from his or her mind and soul.

The only health professional who did not agree with this dismal diagnosis was a guy named Matthew who dispensed night meds in the mental health institution in which I was mentally and emotionally tortured. One evening he looked at me and said, ”Sir, you don’t belong here, and you don’t need these drugs.” I remember agreeing with him inside my head but, being so drugged and so frustrated trying to figure out what was wrong with me, I could not respond. He was a good man, and, in retrospect, I can say he was right.

In particular, I recall something my therapist said to me when I was tapering the Klonopin. I had been tapering at the rate of about 1/8th mg every two weeks. Throughout that tapering period she made fun of me for going so slowly. (Since then, I have learned that that is a fast taper.) The week before I jumped, I was extremely concerned about having no drug whatsoever in me. The thought of “0 mg” was very frightening. I had been torturing my brain with alcohol for most of my life, and I had taken Klonopin for thirteen years. This would be the first time in well over forty years that I could say there were no psychoactive substances (anthropogenic or otherwise) in my body. My therapist calmly told me I was married to my drugs. She assumed I was a craving addict. She missed the cause of my fear completely.

I had no idea who I would be once I had no more drugs in me. I started drinking at around age twelve or thirteen. Booze had become my crutch from childhood. Would I be a twelve-year-old emotionally when I jumped from the Klonopin? Would I still be mentally ill as they insisted I would be without drugs? Who would I be?

Today I thought about the answer to these questions. The withdrawal from the Klonopin was brutal, as it is for so many. Once it was over, I began to see the person who had been hidden by the decades of booze and years of benzos – the real Don. Today it became crystal clear as I played with Eli and enjoyed the whole experience. I am not mentally ill and have never had a mental disorder for even one day of my life. They were obviously wrong on that count.

The person I am today “feels” in many ways like the twelve-year-old who somehow got detoured on his journey through life and is now picking up where he left off so many years ago. He is a person who looks at so many things in life with a wonder and clarity he possessed long ago. That wonder was shrouded in a fog of booze and benzos for decades. It has reemerged stronger and brighter than it has ever been.

This person is alive – more alive than ever. He was somewhere inside me for a very long time and could not be seen or felt…but he was there.

Eli and he are good buddies…maybe because, in some strange way, they are much the same age.

A Profound Truth

By Don Killian

I should probably be doing some editing, but I feel compelled to write this in the quiet solitude of this morning while my brain is not cluttered. Perhaps, I need to read this more than anyone else.

When I began to emerge from the agony of my withdrawal at the end of 2011, I would experience periods of enormous emotion. It was not just happiness, or joy, or relief. It was something else. As time went on, these moments became more frequent and more defined with respect to their source and their purpose. They also became extreme in their intensity – so extreme that they were almost unbearable. The “bliss” (I like that word) had an endlessness to it – an eternal quality. There was a “perfection” about it that I could “feel” deep inside – in my soul or spirit (not sure of the difference between the two).

In time, I realized that this “bliss” was linked to something I was told while I was still suffering. More correctly, it was linked to the one who told me. Actually, both are true. In the tenth month after I swallowed that last bit of Klonopin, I heard a voice deep inside my being. It gave me six words – “So that you may know suffering.” It was the voice of my Creator. I began sobbing immediately. I wanted desperately to hear the words, “You are now going to be healed.” I already knew I was suffering. Duh! I wanted a better message, but then it quickly occurred to me that the Creator had not abandoned me. For so many months I felt like I was not only deserted but also being punished for past transgressions – of which there were many. TNTC – too numerous to count. The voice was an acknowledgment that the Creator was still checking in on me – even though I was still in anguish. Apparently, the plan was for the suffering to continue.

A few weeks later, the voice spoke again – three words – “to give hope.” That was a bit more palatable. It implied that the suffering would end. Those words were not a command. They were not my “orders.” Since I have healed, I have come to realize those words were a statement of fact. Their purpose was to let me in on the role I was going to play one day – when I was once again whole.

When I became well nearly three years ago, much of my life simply dovetailed into the fulfillment of that purpose. It was an unconscious sort of thing. I messaged, called and met people in withdrawal. It was the natural thing to do for me.

Over these three years, I have become keenly aware that the owner of the “bliss” and the owner of the “voice” are one in the same person – the Creator. I have learned this as I have attempted to “give hope.” I have realized that there is a profound pleasure in the act of “giving hope.” It feels like that “bliss.” It is that “bliss.” It is not merely in the act itself though. It is in the gift given by the Creator to perform such acts. That gift is compassion or love – but not an earthly love. It’s a pure love – a perfect love. It is not Don’s love. I didn’t conjure it up by exerting my will or trying harder. It has been given to me. It belongs to the Creator. The Creator has poured it over me (bliss) and is allowing it to flow through me (give hope). I don’t understand it, but it is as real as the white beard on my face.

At first blush, this sounds incredibly wonderful – almost perfect. What could be better than doing exactly what the Creator wants by simply saying, “Yes, I am willing to be a conduit of your love and compassion ”? It has not been that easy. It has required a willingness to be hurt – to suffer pain. This perfect love is a spiritual love – a love that is stronger than anything else in existence. It is profound in its effect on not only the giver but also the one to whom it is given. But it flows through imperfect beings who are subject to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I am one of them. It has become a battle of perfect spiritual love of the Creator versus imperfect earthly human love. There is much intense pain from injuries incurred in the battle, but there is also a lot of infinite pleasure.

Although there are many scenarios in which this is true, the most difficult for me has been in “being there” for members of the opposite gender. I was recently involved in such a situation. In showing the perfect compassion and love of the Creator, it is easy to begin to feel the imperfect human love toward the other person. In fact, it is almost impossible not to. Maybe it is impossible. In this particular situation, I had become so close to this person that I was having tremendous conflict sorting my feelings out. I was beginning to feel hurt in some way – very hurt. I decided to cut her off completely. It was simply “damage control” for me. In doing that, I created intense pain to her by withholding the love that we all need – the Creator’s love. She was hurt deeply and let me know. It was nearly devastating. The pain of knowing the depth of the hurt I caused was devastating to me. It was an infinite sort of pain that far overshadowed the original pain I had. We are human. I am human. There is no blame in such matters.

What I have learned is that the love of the Creator has a high premium if we are to let it pour out from us to others. More importantly, the premium of not allowing that love to pour out to others has an even higher premium – an infinitely awful price. I have experienced that. It is a hard truth.

If I am to share the Creator’s love and compassion with others, I have to expect to experience earthly human pain. It is a given. It is all the more true in benzo withdrawal. The need to hear those words of compassion from someone who has healed is great. The need for that hug, for the shoulder to cry on, for the hand to hold, and for the strength and hope to continue on the journey is enormous. I have known that desperation intimately. It would be heartless for me to ignore the need. Sometimes I do well at trying to help and sometimes not.

I need to be willing to experience some profound pain as I reach out my hand. (Sometimes I desperately want what is not meant for me. My humanness gets in the way.) If I withhold the Creator’s compassion and love (which was given to me), the pain is so much greater. It is devastating – especially when it deeply hurts another.

Life on life’s terms.

Some Good Distraction.

I’m surfing YouTube for videos to watch before bed. I’m tired, but I know if I go to sleep now, I’ll be awake way too early in the morning. I still can’t sleep more than six hours total. I still wake up every few hours and go back to sleep.

I stumbled across this video. I used to watch these on days when I needed to distract.

I really like the Ghost Buster video. Check out their other ones too if you need something lighthearted to make you forget your misery for a little while. Feel free to post in the comments and share with us videos that help you distract.

Enjoy!