Please Share Your Tolerance WIthdrawal Experiences

It is turning into a blue sky morning as the sun chases away the soft grey clouds that left a thin layer of snow over everything last night. The air feels sharp and clean in my lungs as I walk Shakespeare. The sound of crunching snow under my boot delights me.

I’m still in Tennessee, resting at a benzo buddies summer house, nestled here in the Smoky Mountains. I’m taking advantage of the downtime to rest ( a sudden flare of body pain and muscle tension has reared its ugly head) and to write. I’m working on The Benzo Withdrawal Survival Guide. I’m writing about tolerance withdrawal presently.

If you would like to add your thoughts or experiences to the book, please comment here or send me an email to drjenniferleigh@  gmail.com. I will use only first names and happy to change yours if you so desire.

My own medical issues with tolerance withdrawal were many and costly. What about you? I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Jennifer

It’s Raining Here In Tennessee, And Shakespeare Is…

curled up on his bed on the couch at my feet. The steady rhythm of the rain dancing on the roof sends shivers of joy down my spine. I watch through stained glass windows, the nude trees swaying their branches in the stormy wind. An electric candle glows and dims on the table beside me. I am utterly at peace.

As I’ve crossed this great nation to explore the concept of resilience and to talk to benzo withdrawal survivors, I’ve had the time and the courage to look back at my own healing. I wasn’t always willing or ready to look back, it was far too painful and frightening. I am proud I didn’t kill myself and I am proud I didn’t reinstate. Both options presented themselves to me many, many times in my healing process. I can’t believe the amount of suffering these drugs can cause. As one benzo survivor called it: “it’s primal suffering.” Indeed.

My dear friend Paul wrote to me this morning and asked what is the “grail” that I seek on this trip. He wanted to know if I was conscious of what I wanted to be open to and to learn. Yes, I am.  I want to learn to always be open to life. I want to deepen my faith in God. I want to marvel at the magic of life, even in the hard times, and there will always be hard times. I want to mature, to wisen. I want to go back to California with an idea of how I will earn a living in the next chapter of my life, as this benzo chapter slowly comes to a close.

My benzo healing journey was a long and painful one. The amount of terror I felt every day for years was unbearable. The body pain, and the electric buzzing, fatigue, confusion, emotional rollercoaster, etc. was beyond human limits to endure. Yet that is what we do in withdrawal. We endure. We hold on. We live on the thin hope that one day we will awaken and feel normal feelings, and be pain free in our bodies. I lived on that small hope for a very, very long time. And now, it is here!

I am not pain free, but I am mentally stable and better than my prior normal. I trust that my body will continue to slowly heal over time. I may not be rid of every symptom, but I know I can live a good life. I have the emotional, mental and spiritual capacity now to appreciate life’s smallest gifts. Like the soft sounds of the rain tapping on the roof.

I want everyone of you who is still suffering to know that one day, it will come to an end. You’ll wake to a new day, and your heart will know peace. Your soul will know joy. You’ll be whole again. You’ll be able to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and move on. You may be surprised by the direction your life takes after withdrawal. You may find yourself called to do different work, or to pursue different hobbies. I hope you can be open to whatever gifts will present themselves to you.

It’s raining here in Tennessee, and Shakespeare is curled up at my feet. Ahh!  Life is sweet. Thank you, God.

Across America. The Journey Thus Far.

The trip across the USA has been very heartwarming. I’ve made it to Monteagle, Tennessee. I’m staying in a benzo buddy’s beautiful old victorian summer home that is part of a Chataqua. (If you don’t know what that word means, google it. I had to!) I’ve met so many kind and generous benzo buddies along the way. I can’t thank you all enough for your hospitality and kindness. I appreciate it very much.

What I am learning as I meet more benzo survivors is that it takes a very long time for many of us to heal. Will we heal 100%? Remains to be seen. I do think that we will have a predisposition for our bodies to not handle stress as well as we did before benzos. I could be wrong, but that’s my hunch.

The traveling has tired me out. I am glad I can rest here at this lovely home nestled in the oaks in the Smoky Mountains. I took Shakespeare, my service dog, out for a long walk this morning through the meadows and by the babbling brooks. Very tranquil.

In a few days I’ll be 43 months off of the benzo I took. I am not healed, but I have much more of a life than I did even six months ago. I am grateful for any amount of healing. People ask me what symptoms I have left: tingling (although it is about 90% gone, thankfully), ringing in my ears (still very loud), bone pain, muscle pain, extreme fatigue, immune system problems, thyroid sluggish, woozy dizziness, broken sleep, head pressure that is at times unbearable, burning spine, burning skin, burning tongue (all of the burning is about 85% better), facial pain, eye pain, horrible memory, exercise intolerance, can’t regulate body temperature very well, and gut issues. Everything is far more manageable, than it used to be. I’m grateful for that.

A year ago I could have not imagined taking this trip. I am so grateful I am healing enough now to give it a go.

I thank you all for your support. I thank Lisa for the use of her beautiful home. Even though our journey has been hard, it has created some strong friendships that will last all of time. We’ve survived something unimaginable.  That makes us family in the deepest sense of the word.

Thank you all for the help and support over the years.

Jennifer

Headed to Boulder Co. Then To Tennessee. Hello Anyone?

I’m already planning my next move: onto Boulder and some surrounding towns to visit some benzo buddies, then headed to Monteagle Tennessee. A benzo buddy has graciously offered me and Shakespeare the use of her summer cabin. (Thank you!)

Anyone along that travel path who would like to say hello?

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I’m enjoying talking to people, and learning what they have to say about resilience. Over and over again the key factor that keeps popping up in interviews is hope. Seems it is a universal factor that we need in order to transform ourselves from the current adversity we face.

A personal lesson I am learning over and over on this trip is that I need/want to hone my skills in letting go. I drove to my old house here in Basalt, Co. this morning. I parked the van and snapped a picture. I was flooded by both good and sad/bad feelings, some very intense. I took Shakespeare out for a long walk to cope with my feelings. What I have concluded is I need to let go of that chapter in my life. It is over. (It’s been over for a long time, actually.) I have wonderful memories, but I need to move on emotionally. There will be other homes I will live in. There will one day be grandchildren to love and nurture. There will be meaningful work again, too. The coolest thing about the future is that I am sober and benzo free! 

I’m doing my best to attend a screening of a movie tonight in Aspen. It is a short film about a 92 year old war veteran who turned to fishing, nature, family and friends to be resilient in the face of his war wounds (PTSD). In his interview he suggested that people facing adversity face outwards, instead of inwards. Be of service to someone or something other than youserlf. I agree. My garden was a huge help to me as I coped with healing.

So there you have it for today: hope, letting go, and turning outwards… all a part of being resilient in the face of any challenging time.

Blessings to you all from the road,

Jennifer

I’m here. It’s better than I imagined.

A few months after my cold turkey in June 2011 I told my Benzo buddy Mary,  “When we get well let’s you and I meet at the Grand Canyon to celebrate.” I  thought for sure Mary and I would be standing at the rim, gazing at God’s grandeur the following spring. Surely a year was ample time for our brain damage to repair.

The next spring came and went with another vow that we’d both be recovered by the following spring. That spring came and went. As did the following one. And the one after that, too. I began to lose hope I would heal or that I would ever travel to celebrate at the Grand Canyon,one of my favorite places.

So the recent autum morning I woke up with God whispering to my soul to travel the USA, I was surprised.   But there it was: I was healed enough to travel and healed enough to give hope to others who had lost theirs. I was finally well enough to visit the Grand Canyon.

I’m here. In Mather camp ground, under a billion stars that spill across a vast inky sky. I sat  by a campfire with strangers (Eli and Tun)who invited me to join them. We roasted marshmallows and shared stories about our lives. Turns out the young man grew up in my area and we know people on common. His sweet wife is from Thailand. They had a wonderful romantic story!

The fire burned down to blushing embers. The Mercury dipped into the freezing zone so Shakespeare and I headed back to the van. We are curled up for the night under a down comforter, three blankets and a down sleeping bag. My teeth are still chattering!

I did celebrate today as I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon. I sobbed quietly for a few moments, enormously grateful that I’m healed enough to be on this journey. Grateful to once again stand before the grandeur of the canyon and feel small but significant. I’m a part of God’s amazing creation. He brought me through the valley of the shadow of death. He never left my side.

Mary, I’m sorry you were unable to join me. But I held you in my heart today. I celebrated for both of us. I celebrated FOR ALL OF US. Keep healing everyone. Life is sweet on the other side.

I’m gonna pull some blankets over my head and try to get some sleep. Just knowing that the Milkey Way is right over head will lull me into dreamland.

I still can’t believe I’m finally here. Amazing.

Jennifer

 

Across America: Travels With God And Shakespeare

I made it safely through California. I visited with five different benzo people. It felt good to talk to people who have mostly healed (and who helped me through that 3 year wave I hit) and to give hope to others still suffering.

I am now in Sedona, Arizona. The red rocks are breathtaking. I always said that when I healed I was going to visit the Grand Canyon. It’s about 2.5 hours away. I am debating about visiting soon, or on my way home. I am asking God where I should go every day. I’m sure he will give me direction.

I am learning how to do so many things on my own that I was unable to do in withdrawal. I am also learning to ask for help when I need it. For example, after days on the road living out of my van, I needed a shower. I asked a woman at an AA meeting if I could stop by her house and use her bathroom. She was kind enough to say yes. Let me tell you, a hot shower when you have developed a “funk” that keeps people at a distance is pure heaven! :)

I am happy. I am content. I am excited to wake up every day and start the adventure. Life is unbelievably sweet.

I don’t have much access to the internet, so please pardon the days in between posts. I will put up videos as soon as I am able. (I am at the Sedona public library posting this.)

If you are still suffering in withdrawal, please rest assured that it does come to an end. I know I felt that God had abandoned me in my suffering. I see now that wasn’t the case AT ALL. He was there all along, and the experience changed me in the most profound way. I am sure God is with you, and that when you are healed, you will be in an amazing place.

I’ll check in again soon. I’ll do my best to see as many of you as I can. I’ll be on the road at least another 11 weeks, unless something changes.

From the road…. with my love,

Jennifer

On my way to so cal. Holler at me if you want me to visit.

I left yesterday to start my journey to travel the USA. My first night was a bit chaotic. I parked in the lot at a state park only to be thrown out because it was against their rules to camp in the lot. So off I drove in the pitch black, slowly making my way along the dangerous cliffs of Highway One at Big Sur. I was able to sleep in my van in another state park. It took some nerves of steel to navigate to my new campsite but I did it. I went to sleep to the sound of Shakespeare, my service dog,snoring away and an owl hooting every few moments. Utter magic!

when I woke up I was able to see the splendor the dead of night had masked. I was in a redwood forest by a river! The crisp morning air was pristine. A neighbor camper fried bacon on a propane stove. It was heavenly. I never thought I would ever have good mornings again. I was wrong. It was a glorious morning.

I drove Highway One and pulled off ever few minutes to watch California grey whales migrating to Mexico. The air was filled with monarch butterflies. I felt humble and grateful for my life. Totally in awe of God’s great kingdom.

I made made it to Santa Maria, Ca. And stopped for the day. Attended an AA meeting and a kind person offered for me to follow them home and sleep in my van in front of their house. I’m typing this out curled up for the night, on my phone. Please excuse any typos

I am headed to southern ca tomorrow. Please reach out if you want me to visit. Drjenniferleigh @ gmail.com.

I’m taking it slow. Totally respecting my still fragile CNS.

I will keep you posted. I’ll be posting videos soon. I’m still settling in to my routine of taking care of myself and my dog in cramped quarters. So far, so good. I’m very happy and excited to be doing this work. Hope to put Benzo withdrawal on the map. We need our stories told and heard.

Love you all. Jennifer

OMG! Can It Get Any Better?

The van is packed. I’m ready to pull away from the curb tomorrow or Monday, depending on last-minute odds and ends. My heart is full of hope, curiosity, gratitude, and a knowing of who I am and what I am supposed to be doing with my life. My cat and my dog are curled up beside me. I’m downloading music to my itunes library so I have some good traveling music. I mean, does it get any better than this? I am deeply content.

You’ll get here. You’ll get to this place of joy. Your brain will heal and your mind and body will cease to torture you. Please wait for it. Don’t quit before your miracle.

I am so damn grateful I never gave up.

I am so grateful I get to meet so many of you over the next three months.

Thank you. Thank you for being here for me and for each other as we battled withdrawal.

See you soon!
Love, Love. Love.

Jennifer

Southern California Benzo Buddies, I’m On My Way Soon!

Dear Southern California Benzo Buddies,

I am scheduled to leave the San Fran bay area this Saturday. I’ll stop overnight before I make it to the Los Angeles area. If you would like for me to stop and visit with you, please let me know. I have my van equipped so that I don’t have to spend the night in your home, but a hot shower would be lovely if possible.

If I can be of any help to talk to your friends or family about benzo withdrawal, I’d be happy to do so.

Let me know how I can best be of service to you. I hope that my travels give you hope that we do recover our lives eventually.

I am excited and scared all at once about this trip…. normal emotions I assume. But the biggest emotion is the deep desire to meet you all, and to be of service in whatever way God has planned for me. I will row the boat, I’ll let him steer.

Please email me if you want me to stop by.

Blessings,

Jennifer

drjenniferleigh @ gmail. com

 

 

My Fifth Benzo Withdrawal Syndrome Christmas. It’s a good one.

October 2010 I began tapering off of my nightly dose of clonazepam. I’ve been in benzo withdrawal ever since. Every Christmas I said to myself, “Next year, I’ll be healed.”  I won’t say that this year, because it really doesn’t matter anymore. I have a life again. A very, very good life. I know how to manage my symptoms, but moreover, I know how to manage my reaction to them and to life in general. I am no longer the victim in any circumstance. In fact, benzo withdrawal has given me a fortitude that no pill could ever have given me. It’s not that I feel invincible, I don’t. I am keenly aware that one day I will pass on, like everything else. I feel strong in who I am, what I believe in/stand for, and what I really want.

Benzo Withdrawal syndrome profoundly changed my life. It was a gift, albeit a hard one to embrace. I know if you are still suffering, it may be hard to think that what you are going through has any redeeming quality. I assure you, in the end, it does. Be patient.

I am spending Christmas with my children at my sisters house. She is my only sibling, and we have never been very close. But withdrawal changed me and allowed me to see my role in our distance, and to amend it. Having my sister in my life is a gift that surviving withdrawal gave me. It also gave me the courage and the desire to pack up and travel the USA to meet many of you who read my blog because you are suffering as I was. I am looking forward to hearing all of your stories. It will be an honor, really.

I’m also celebrating a great delight this Christmas. My eldest son got engaged last night. It is a deep, deep, happiness to know that he is happy and building a solid life for himself. A life that includes love. His girlfriend is an amazing young woman who will be a good life partner. I couldn’t be more pleased.

I hope you all have a merry Christmas as much as you are able. I hope you can distract from your symptoms and hold a bit of hope in your heart. Hope that one day, you will not only feel like yourself again, but that you will feel like a stronger and wiser you. If you allow this suffering to open your heart instead of shutting it down, I promise you, life will become incredibly good.

With my full and cracked open heart, I wish you peace, health, and a deep sense of purpose. I know those are gifts that are waiting for you to unwrap, in time.

I love you all.
Jennifer