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.


A Quiet Celebration.

Yesterday I quietly celebrated four years of being alcohol free. But it’s more than abstaining. It’s about being sober. Being happy, joyous and free.
Once I stopped drinking four years ago, I looked at the little pill I swallowed every night (and had for 18 years) and thought. I don’t need this. Why do I take it? I started tapering off and the rest is history. Much of that history recorded on this blog.

I drank mostly at night. It started as a glass of wine with dinner. Over the years that became two. Then three. Some day’s I’d have a glass of wine with lunch, and drink the rest of the bottle at dinner, sipping almost until bedtime. My friends and family didn’t think of me as an alcoholic, but I sure knew I couldn’t get past five pm with out a glass of wine.  There were so many mornings I’d wake up fuzzy and think, “I am not drinking tonight.” But of course, that promise dissolved by the time happy hour rolled around. The fact that I could not stop drinking even though I wanted to, was a huge red flag.

I’m grateful for my sobriety. Even though I had to go through the utter nightmare of benzo withdrawal to get clean and sober, I am happy I am no longer dependant on a Merlot or a Malbec or a Klonopin to ease my anxieties. I face life on life’s terms. I am a much better person than I was years ago. Much, much, better. I am understanding the meaning of real joy. I am able to face my feelings and stay with them, without letting them knock me down. That wasn’t something I had the ability to do way back when they put me on a benzo. I was far too emotionally fragile. Not now. I’ve been forged in the fire baby!

If you are still in the thick of it all, please find ways to distract. Just get through today. It DOES get better. I am having much better days. That horrible wave that kicked up last summer is 90% gone. Life is sweet. I wake up excited to be working at rebuilding my career. The body symptoms can still be a nuisance but I’ve learned to accommodate them. I know one day, they too, will go away. There won’t be much left to remind me that I lived through this nightmare except for this blog. And the tinnitus. Hunch is it’s permanent.

Four years booze free! It’s a new life. It’s a brand new chance. I’m taking it! I’m gonna run as far as God will let me run with it.

Everyone keep healing. Keep holding on to hope.





If He Can Make It, We Can Make It.

I saw this video ages ago. Loved it.
Stumbled across it this evening and fell in love with it all over again.

If this young man can follow his dreams, ALL of us in benzo withdrawal can hold on, heal and get on with our lives.

Hope this gives you all a lift. Thinking of you all tonight as I head towards sleep. Another day under our belts. We are getting there!

The Fab Four Sum It Up…


It’s getting better all the time. A little better all the time. I have to admit…. its getting better….

It’s a joy to know that life can be good again. So glad to be out of the nightmare of the last wave. It was incredibly hard. It was good to know that others got hit that far out though and got better. That’s what I am experiencing too.

My body is still healing, and I have to take it easy, no trips to the gym yet, but overall, I am back to being Dr. Jenn, and loving every second of it. My new website is up and I have a free ebook giveaway that I am thrilled to put into people’s hands. I may have shared the story, The Invitation, here, ages ago. I wrote it in 2005, and knew that one day it would have a purpose. I included twenty questions to help people think about how they can change for the better. Of course, you can’t do that kind of work in withdrawal, you simply don’t have enough working GABA receptors to keep you on an even keel. So I’m encouraging you to NOT try to do any of the work if you download the story. Your job right now is to hold on and heal. Being grateful for your healing is enough emotional work for anyone recovering from the brain damage from benzos.

I’ll still be posting my progress here. But I am spending MOST of my time on my other website. I’m blogging and writing a new book. (My 6th!) I am sharing the gifts God gave to me in the garden. As much as I hated benzo withdrawal, I am deeply grateful for the gifts it gave me. All the crap I used to think was so important in life was stripped away, and I was left whole and polished. It was a painful process, but when is birth or growth ever not painful?

Even though I am busy again with my career, I make the time to read every email. If you are struggling and need to vent or need to receive some hope, drop me a line. my public email is jennifer at injennifersgarden dot com.

If you are struggling with the mental symptoms… you know, the anxiety, confusion, intrusive thoughts, looping thoughts, depression…or that horrible feeling that you are losing your mind and going crazy, remember that it is caused by the changes in your brain from the medication. Your brain is working hard to restore itself. Give it time. Some of us take longer than others, but we all arrive at the finish line.

I know it’s an up, down, sideways journey (look at my healing…. all over the map!) so don’t let it get your down. Reach out to someone who understands the healing process and get reassurance.

Blessings to you all from my garden.



A Shared Experience

By Don Killian

Tuesday morning. As I sit here in the quiet of the morning (which has been an unusual occurrence of late), I am reflecting on a few things. My Tree of Hope up on the mountain is beginning to change color. By week’s end, it should be a blazing red surrounded by various shades of yellow, brown, and less dazzling shades of red.

In a few days, I will be on my way to The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan with my friend Jayson to attend the Michigan/Penn State football game. In my last post, I mentioned that Jayson and I would be heading to Penn State later that morning to watch a football game.

On our way to that game, we stopped for breakfast at a restaurant where many people going to the game stop to eat. It’s a very ”happy” place. When we walked in the door, the receptionist recognized us immediately. “I know you two!” (I think she has a thing for Jayson.) We seem to be getting a reputation there – probably because we sit and enjoy each other’s company so much and the whole “experience of life.” We talk and laugh and have a great time. I have noticed people watching us and smiling. I am sure they wonder what two old guys like us can possibly find to be so wonderful about simply living and breathing. I suspect they would like to have some of “whatever we got.”

After breakfast, we resumed our trip and talked of many things – nothing too serious. We often speak of our withdrawal experiences which, at first blush, may sound depressing and maybe even make one think we have PTSD from those experiences… but we speak of those experiences with gratitude and usually with large doses of humor. We both have countless “small stories” of our escapades from years past when the drinking and drugging were going on. Even though our paths never crossed “back in the day,” we tell our little snippets of past history as though we were both there (and in a sense we were). For us, all the drinking and drugging (and especially the withdrawal from them) are shared experiences that give us an unrivaled camaraderie – a connection we have with very few others in our lives.

Other aspects of our lives would lead one to believe that we could not possibly be good friends. Jayson was academically challenged during his youth (although he is an expert on 70s bands and “good times” because he attended countless concerts – most of which he remembers). He had less than a burning desire to even attend classes. On the other hand, I was academically astute and meticulous in school. I rarely missed a day of school. I was the consummate nerd – one of those people Jayson would have joked about. We are the odd couple.

In adulthood, we have both been loners pretty much….until we met about seven years ago. He learned of my drinking and drug problem at that time, but our friendship did not flourish until I actually made it through withdrawal (a very long time during which he was there for me – even though he often laughed at my misery – because he was certain it would end). He is one of many people I owe my life to.

On our trip a few weeks ago, we did speak somewhat seriously about the fact that it is impossible to separate our withdrawal experiences from the rest of our lives. Those experiences have given us wisdom, peace, and a freedom to live life even on life’s terms with a joy that is indescribable really. Those experiences are woven into our lives in such a way that they need to be shared often with others – not as badges of glory but rather as beacons of hope – evidences that the indescribably brutal suffering does end and is replaced by something whose beauty is equally indescribable.

The most exquisite beauty lies in the sharing of our withdrawal battles (both failures and successes) with others who are currently waging the withdrawal war (or who have also returned from that war).

Jayson and I began planning the trip to Michigan last year. At that time, a visit to The Big House was first and foremost in our minds – sort of a “bucket list” thing. As time has passed, we have included meeting with two other people in benzo withdrawal and one who has also survived withdrawal while we are there and on the return trip.

The expectation of those meetings and the sharing of our stories and hearing their stories now transcend the anticipation of going to the game for me.
There is an “excitement” in sharing the intensity of the withdrawal experience with others who are familiar with it. There is an extremely strong “bond” unlike any other I have ever known, and that bond grows stronger the more we share our suffering and our hope.

Go Nitanny Lions!

In Jennifer’s Garden…

Now that life is getting back to more normal, I’m back at work doing the work I feel God wants me to do. I’m back coaching and writing and of course, painting what’s in my healing garden.

I’ve created a Facebook page to share some of the healing from the garden, as well as my own website, Injennifersgarden.com. Feel free to stop by and visit.  (Go see the video of this mornings activity here in the garden (my house!) with the jays and squirrels.)

My Etsy shop is open and ready for business. I’ve been painting the blossoms from the garden as well as images of Christ. Both have been instrumental in helping me navigate the nightmare of benzo withdrawal.

My newest book, Stop. Open. Turn. Three Simple Listening Skills To Nurture And Grow Love In Recovery is available as a txt. file download from my Etsy store. The paperback is being released this fall.

I’m still healing, but the days are getting much, much better. Even the mornings are not quite a grim as they used to be. I’m excited about life ahead, and eager to start hosting workshops and this spring I’m planning a women’s retreat here in the SF bay area.

Keep fighting the good fight. And if you get hit by a wicked wave late in the game as I did, know that it will pass… just give it time. Mine took 5 months to reside, but it did. Your’s will too. Trust the healing process, even if you have to kick and scream along the way. Just. Hold. On.

Sending my love to you all.



Need (A Lot Of) Windex For The Windows.

I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying that I am having some wonderful windows. The mornings are far less brutal than even a week ago. The afternoons are tolerable and sometimes, downright enjoyable. The tingling is much better as is the burning and pain. Dizzy/woozy still lurks around, but even that is getting better.

Sleep is improving too. I am grateful. I am able to think creatively again. I’m not stuck in the looping thoughts and my obsessional thinking is far better as well. I can still get bouts of anxiety in my body, but it is not anything like it was in the past. I can overlook it with good distraction.

I was totally blindsided by the wave that swept me out to sea last June. It was worse than any other. It brought back outright fear and the horrible benzo thinking. I am so glad that one is over. It took a long time to get better. It was scary.

I feel I am about 85% healed now. Hopefully in the next year (two?) I will be able to say all symptoms are gone. (I think the tinnitus will be permanent however.)

I’m back to working with clients (not people in benzo withdrawal) and my new book is at the publishers. I am painting again and learning to draw. I am also writing my first novel. My mind is clear enough to write again.

I am hopeful I can slowly but steadily reclaim my life and get back on my feet financially. I know I am not the only person recovering from benzo withdrawal to lose everything from being so terribly disabled. We have all lost so much to this horrid drug. But when you are down, there is only one way to go… UP!

I am taking the days as they come and I am taking baby steps back out into the world. I decided not to go to Denver. As much as I want to go back to Colorado, I need to use what energy I do have into getting back on my feet with work. I can’t risk a setback to my central nervous system. I’ll wait until the spring to travel.

Easy Does It! I have to remember those three words. I still have healing to do, but I am grateful for the few hours I am getting every afternoon of normal. I know it may sound odd, but I am over the moon about reconnecting with my true self. I had forgotten who I was. I am remembering that I was okay. I was creative. Funny. Kind. Curious. Ambitious. It was all there, just waiting for me. Now with benzo wd under my belt, I can add humble and grateful. I am a better person these days, no doubt about it.

I”m tired so this post is pretty jumbled and jagged. Hope it makes some sense. I wanted to post it and let others know that my healing is taking a rapid turn for the better. Thank you, God!

If you are in a bad wave, don’t give up hope. If I can see the light at the end of the tunnel at some point, you will too. I was incredibly sick for a very long time. I’m getting worlds better. You will too. In time.

Thank you all for going on this journey with me. I appreciate you all so much. It’s been quite a strange trip, has it not? I don’t know what I would have done without you all for support and friendship.
I know I would have been lost without Don, our benzo healing posterboy. He’s a hero to so many of us.
When this last wave crashed in, I wrote to him every day for a long time, crying, whining and being an all-around pain in the ass. He was always there. (Thank you!) So many others.. Colleen, Pam, Matt, Jan, Julie, Linda, Karen, Carol, Ruth, Cindy, May, Rob, Sue, Bliss….. and so many others. Thank you.

I’ll update again in a bit and let you know if this high water mark is sticking around. I hope so! I like this new baseline. I like it a lot!

What To Do? What To Do? What To Do?

I knew this day would arrive sooner or later…

My daughter asked me to fly with her to Denver. She needs to go for work. It’s a short trip. We would stay in Denver then rent a car and toodle over to Aspen. If you’ve read any of my older posts, you may know that I miss Colorado so much it hurts. Literally. I have a chance to go visit. Best part is it doesn’t cost me anything.

What to do?

I still spend a large amount of my day on my couch. Dizzy, weak, tingling, burning, head pressure, blah, blah, blah….am I well enough to travel? Would all the stimulation set me back? I can’t bear the thought of another gruesome wave. The one that hit last June was horrific. I’m still on the fringes of it.

There is also the flight to consider. I was never a great flyer. I used to fly for business in 2008-2009. I flew quite a bit. But I also drank every flight to quell any jitters. It worked too. I flew through some gnarly snow storms without batting an eye. But the drinking days are behind me. One of the fear symptoms I had in early withdrawal was about planes. I live near SFO. Whenever I saw a plane in the sky, fear would wash through me. That’s now over, thank heavens. Just saying…. planes are not things I enjoy,

I will ponder this today. Journal. Pray.

I so want to support my daughter and accompany her so she doesn’t have to be alone. But I also don’t want to jeopardize my fragile improvement.  Man, I used to jump at the chance to get back to Colorado. Nothing could stop me. Now, fear has me by the short hairs.