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.




A Garden Day. A Good Day.

Woke to the usual suspects… tingles, burning, pain, head pressure, weakness… yada, yada, yada…

I also woke to an extreme desire to garden. I had gone to Annies Annuals (anniesannuals.com) in Richmond yesterday and bought new plants to replace the spent spring/summer blooms. It was the big fall party at the nursery. All plants 25% off. Can’t pass up a sale!

After breakfast with one of my BFF (she lives next door) I rolled up my sleeves and tugged on my garden gloves. My neighbor who lives on the other side of the duplex helped me. I was in the garden most of the day. It was a lot of work. I decided to push through the benzo symptoms and focus on what needed to be done next. We pulled out a lot of old annuals, turned the soil, added compost, and I deadheaded flowers and cut back an unruly passion vine. It was heaven. The weather was fairly mild which helped. I had some moments of intense head pressure/dizzy, but didn’t give in to it. Just kept working.

It feels good to have the garden cleaned up and ready for fall. I planted quite a few perennials that will be gorgeous next spring. I usually only plant annuals, but it costs so much money. A few anchor perennials  will save money. My neighbor loaned me three darling garden fairies made out of railroad steel. Or something like that. It is rusty and pretty. I am delighted to have garden fairies among the flowers!

The garden attracted strangers today as always. People stop and want to know the story of the garden. Or they ask about the prayer tree. Or they simply stop and read the chalkboard daily message. The garden is a magical place. Long after the sun went down two of my friends and I sat at the garden table and ate grapes and sipped coffee. An odd pairing, but it was delicious. We were embraced by the soft glow of the little lights hidden among the leaves of the passion vine. The waterfall gurgled peacefully and crickets serenaded us. The crickets are new. In the four years I’ve lived here, I’ve never heard one here. I am delighted that they have decided to set up housekeeping in the garden! I’m curled up on my couch now, with the window open for the cool night breeze and the sound of their chirping warms my heart.

I started the garden a few months after coming home from my cold turkey in the hospital. It has saved my life. Literally. I am so grateful I can live here and garden. I live only a few steps away from a main street in my town. There is everything I need, including a mom and pop produce store. It’s been a good place for me while healing from benzo withdrawal syndrome.

I’m still battling the body stuff. the mental is much improved, even better than it was before this wave hit. I know I am healing, it is just painfully slow.

This was probably my best day so far in withdrawal. It gives me hope that more will come and that one day. I will wake and not have my usual symptoms.

God only knows what tomorrow brings (literally) but I am hoping I have another tolerable day and can cope well with the symptoms.
I’ll be sitting out in the garden tomorrow, talking to the new plants in the ground.  Welcoming them to my garden. Encouraging them to grow.

I’m encouraging you to hang on another day. The finish line is down the road. I’ll walk with you to it.


It’s EVERYWHERE now. Boo Hoo.

Dreams. They were the ONE place I could get away from benzo withdrawal syndrome. I was me…unfettered. Happy. Traveling to the places I so dearly love and miss. I could mingle with people, toss back my head and laugh. I could dance in hot, overcrowded clubs, house music blaring through my bones. I could fall in love, embrace, kiss… I could sit and watch a snowstorm and feel the crisp line of cold hit my face.

In dreams, I had my life back. As much as I often dread the night as it means I have to soon wake up and do groundhog day over again, I relished the nights I could cobble enough hours of sleep together for me to dream. But benzo withdrawal invaded my dreams. Now, there is no area of my life for me to escape. Benzo withdrawal gravity pulls me in and has no desire to let me go. Not yet, at least.

I dreamed that I had tingles and burning. I wasn’t the “real” Jennifer, I was benzo sick Jennifer. I woke up so sad.

It’s another couch day for me. I walked to Starbucks for my morning decaf latte and it was a challenge. The head pressure is intense, as is the body pain and wooziness. I am going to do some gardening when I feel better after lunch, and I’ll do my daily drawing or painting. I am determined to learn to draw. I think it helps my brain too.

Another day of walking in faith that I one day wake up well. And that I can go to bed and dream dreams without benzo withdrawal in them.

Hope everyone is holding on. Feel free to write a comment and let us know how you are doing.

Sending you all my love.


Much Needed Rain

California is experiencing a drought of epic proportions, or so they say. It has hardly rained in the past few years. That makes it hard for me. I’m a southern girl, raised in Florida where we enjoyed a robust thunderstorm on a fairly regular basis. In fact, I don’t believe my sister ever got to experience a birthday party without rain. July, her birth month, was jammed packed with storms that blew in off the ocean (we lived 15 miles inland) in the afternoons. They dropped their rain and evaporated as fast as they rolled in.

Even the hardest rain here in the Bay Area, doesn’t come close to the torrential downpours I was used to. Over the years, I grew accustomed to the weather here, but that’s not to say I am a fan. We get our rain in the winter months and the summer is bone dry. Most people would be excited to wake up to glorious blue skies every day in the summer, but I find it boring. Exceptionally so. The past few years of the drought have only emphasised that emotion. Add benzo withdrawal groundhog day syndrome to the mix, and you can see why I am excited over rain. It’s something new. (It’s needed too, don’t get me wrong. I am aware of the many catastrophes our drought is creating.)

Most of the rain fell during the night. Which of course, is maddening, as I want the whole day to be dark and blustery. I want to hear the scuttle of dry leaves turning clumsy somersaults down the sidewalk. I want to hear the wind chimes hanging in the cyprus ring out that the wind is rushing around. I did get to see some of the rain as I was up early (my new normal). Blue skies are filling in, taking over the gray clouds as the storm passes by. I am curled up on my couch with my door open so I can feel the breeze and watch the clouds dance by.

A black squirrel I feed came up and peered into the house. She comes every day and begs for peanuts. I got up and threw a handful to her. She buries them for the winter months ahead. Life goes on here in the garden. I watch another season slip away, and a new one begin to take hold. This is my fifth autumn in withdrawal. I can’t begin to tell you how deep the pain goes to write those words. I can’t allow myself to think about the medical profession and the FDA that allows this illness to happen. I have to redirect my thoughts, otherwise I make myself even more sick.

I am not sure how much standing up I can do today. The weakness is intense, along with the head pressure, and the burning, tingles etc. It may be a day to work on my website and paint. I’m going to sell some of my paintings on Etsy. That will be fun.

Another day here in benzo land. But at least the weather changed. I am grateful for that. Now, if only my health would change and I could pry myself off of this couch and out into the hustle and bustle of the world. I want to go back to Aspen and I want to visit Paris with my friend Lily. Hard to do when I can barely walk a half a block to Starbucks.

Oh well. Whatcha gonna do? This is my life, such as it is.

I Sure Wish I knew

what caused the sensations I can only describe as “the episodes” or “the spells.”  They happen throughout the day and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. They are not caused by thoughts, eating, emotions, heat.. or at least I haven’t been able to pinpoint one (or more) triggers.

I’ll do my best to describe what it feels like in my body when they occur. (Like most benzo symptoms, words fall short.) It starts with a sense of internal pressure, sorta, but not really. See, its hard to give words to the feeling. My head fills with pressure, my hip sockets ache, and my tongue tingles/burns. The bottom of my feet ramp up with burning/tingles and my jaw will often ache. My skin feels like it is suddenly too small. I feel as if I am being crushed, but bot from the outside in, rather from the inside being pulled into the deep center of my body.

When this happens, I feel rather woozy. Not short of breath, or dizzy, but rather a bit disoriented with a touch of derealization thrown in for fun. Sometimes the episodes are mild and other times they are quite debilitating as the pain that accompanies them can be intense. They can create a sense of anxiety, but lately I have been able to “not go there.”  The back of head pressure kicks in or gets worse, and often I have ear pressure too when it happens.

I am battling wicked fatigue, joint pain, deep muscle aches, and an overall shitty feeling most of every waking hour. When these “spells” come over me, I can feel rather despondent. I so want to lead a normal life. I can’t imagine traveling until these symptoms get better.

This morning I went to a local cafe to have breakfast and to do my morning drawing. ( I have challenged myself to learn to draw. I do a drawing a day, or a painting. It’s good meditation.) I sat and drew and felt so awful. I mean, really, really, awful. Any normal human being feeling what I felt in my body would have gone to the ER, or at the least, to see their doctor. My head had so much pressure it was hard to sit up. My chest hurt, as if someone was inside squeezing my heart. Every joint hurt. I felt so weak. But this is my new normal. As much as I hate it, it seems I am stuck with it for now.

I so want off this roller coaster. I want a day of normal. I want to be able to sleep. To sleep in and wake up with a body that doesn’t feel like it has a foot in the grave. I want to wake up excited to start my day, not dread it.

I sure wish I knew what causes these crazy benzo withdrawal symptoms.

Hope everyone is holding on out there. We have another day of healing under our belts.



39 Months

I used to say I was “celebrating” the time away from my last benzo dose. I’m happy to be benzo free, but I am not celebrating. I seem to be stuck in trough of symptoms that refuse to budge. I do all I can to keep my head above water emotionally, but some days it takes every ounce of strength and surrender to do so.

THE LIST (in no apparent order):

Ears ringing
Burning skin
Body tingles mostly 24/7 and painful at times
Feeling like I’m being crushed
Head pressure
Ear pressure
Feeling boaty
Feeling pulled down
Severe muscle pain that travels all over body
Bone pain that travels
Joint that pain travels
Woozy/dizzy sensations
Food sensitivities
Exercise intolerance
Obsessive thoughts/looping thoughts
Intrusive thoughts
Extreme fatigue
Cog Fog
Mood swings
Nerve pain
Electric zaps
Chest pain
Back of head pain
Inflamed breast bone
Intense itching, often occurs in the middle of the night
Benzo belly
Painful hands/stiff/dropping things
Hot flashes
Crappy sleep/wake tired (not getting more than 2 hours back to back. about 5-6 hours total)
Fear/startle response
Burning spine
Lower back ache
Tension and pain in buttocks/hips
Low motivation
Can’t handle good or bad stress very well

I have improved quite a bit since my first year off, and for that I am grateful. However, the days are still hard to navigate sometimes. I still spend most of my days on my couch or in the garden as I can’t walk or drive very far.

Some afternoons I get a bit of a window and think that I am on the last leg of this healing journey. But then I go to bed and wake back up in the thick of it. It is very hard to face this day after day after day.

I am eating healthy, resting, not stressing too much, walking, gardening, hanging out with people I love, and getting as much sleep as my brain will allow. I am taking good care of myself.

With my whole heart I want to wake up one day and not have ANY of these symptoms. Or, at least wake up and 99% of them be gone. I realize I may always have tinnitus. The damage to the tiny nerves that cause it may not heal. That’s ok. I’ll live with it. But I sure hope the body stuff goes away. I have NO evidence to support thinking that it will, so I go on faith, the belief in things unseen.

That’s where it stands at 39 months out. I am a bit overwhelmed with how long it can take to recover from the damage done. When I started this journey in October 2010, I thought I would taper offer off and life would be better. I can honestly say that life isn’t better (not yet). I am still not as functional as I was even in tolerance. But the hope is that I recover and life does get better.

The best benzo advice I can give to anyone is: NEVER take one!

That’s all I have for today. Wish I could say I am healed. I am not. Still a long ways to go. or so it seems.

My Tree of Hope (excerpted from Home and Dry)

By Don Killian

Saturday morning once again. Cup of coffee. Blinds open. Slight haze on the mountain. Peaceful.

While I sit here with my feet up on the coffee table anticipating the yet-to-be happenings of this new day, I am looking up at the mountain barely able to discern my Tree of Hope. I have probably stared at it with great satisfaction thousands of times in the past two years.

I had written about it this summer in my yet-to-be-published and hopefully soon-to-be-completely-edited book.

In a short while, I will be heading to State College, PA to watch a football game with my friend Jayson (who has played a prominent role in my recovery and in the book). Jayson had suffered through many months of post-acute withdrawal from booze and street drugs several years ago. We both have known and survived the agony of withdrawal, and that fills our trips to Happy Valley with an ecstasy that is hard to describe – “pure carefree joy“ maybe.

I wanted to share an excerpt about my Tree of Hope here. I often wonder if I had ever seen this tree during my years of withdrawal but never recognized it until I was well. It had been there all the time. I just didn’t know it. Here is the excerpt:

His vision dropped to another area of the mountain in search of something he had discovered in the autumn of 2012 when the leaves of the trees on the mountain were turning color. At the time, he regarded it as something that was unusual but had given it little more thought. The following year he noticed it again and tried to “mark” its location so that he could identify where it would reappear in 2014 – this year. He marked its location from his chair. It was located at a spot that seemed to “touch” the left side of the cowl on the chimney of the house behind Pastor Dave’s house. Of course, it was actually located a half mile or more from the chimney cowl, but it gave the perception that it was in physical contact with the cowl.

This “something” was a very small tree, or at least it appeared to be very small compared to the other trees on the mountain. In the fall, it was the first tree that could be seen from Lee’s vantage point in the living room that changed color. That in itself was not very remarkable. The extraordinary aspect was the color of the leaves. They were a vibrant, brilliant red unlike the color of any of the other trees on the mountain. Lee thought the tree resembled the burning bush at the side of his house, but, to be visible so far away, it was surely much larger than a shrub.

Even though he had marked its location last fall, the tree had disappeared into the various shades of brown-grey over the winter because its leaves had dropped. All winter Lee tried to imagine where it would be if he could see it. He wanted to be able to “predict” where it would pop up this autumn. One morning last month, to his surprise, he rediscovered it. It was a significantly lighter shade of green compared to the other larger trees surrounding and behind it. Even though it was small, its shape was unmistakable. This was the tree.

It was obviously a special tree in Lee’s mind. The first time he had spied it in 2012, he had just passed his two-year anniversary of being free of benzodiazepines. At the same time, the last of all the mental and emotional symptoms of his withdrawal had finally faded along with that relentless dizzy, disconnected feeling he had had for years. That was a symptom he had expected to haunt him the rest of his life. Even though he had always hoped it would leave, he really did not believe it would.

For that reason, Lee had claimed this particular tree as his own personal tree. It would forever remind him that miracles happen. In the last four and a half years, he had been the recipient of many miracles. He never wanted to forget it, and this tree would help him to always remember the gifts he had been given. He called it the Tree of Hope.

In many ways, this tree was very much like the hope that had helped him survive withdrawal. For many consecutive months, the hope within him was nearly imperceptible. It felt small and insignificant compared to all the other overpowering feelings of fear, despair, guilt, shame, paranoia, weakness, anger, defeat, and even hopelessness. He kept a tiny ember of hope alive every day by reading success stories of others who had survived withdrawal and who promised that there was a rainbow of wellness at the end – a wellness with a greater intensity of satisfaction, happiness, and peace compared to the intensity of the unending fear, dark depression, and total despair of withdrawal. He had hoped that those stories were true, and his hope had paid off. Those success stories were truer than he could have imagined. Even though the hope had seemed small, it was enough.

Lee could not see the Tree of Hope during the winter months, but he knew it was there among the rest of the trees. It was simply camouflaged from his sight. It was much like the many times in withdrawal when his brain lied to him that he would never be well, that he was mentally ill, and that he would always be sick – that he should just give up. At those times, his brain would not allow him to ”feel” any vestige of hope, and he felt no hope. But there had always been a tiny spark of hope inside his very being that refused to cower to the lies of his ailing brain. He didn’t know it was there mentally (because his brain would not allow it), but he knew it was there within his spirit against which his brain could mount no attack.

At some point in Lee’s withdrawal, he did start to feel a glimmer of wellness in the form of lifting depression and fear. This fanned the flames of his hope until it burned brightly – just as his Tree of Hope seemed to burn brilliantly in the autumn. As time went on and Lee’s recovery accelerated, he began to share that hope with others so that their hope would not be extinguished by withdrawal and would eventually grow and be spread to others as they healed.

Lee thought that one day he would like to physically touch his Tree of Hope, but he did not know of a way that could ever occur. It was far away, and the closer he might get to it, the more it would be lost from his view. He would not be able to find the tree for the forest. Maybe it was just as well. Hope cannot be touched, but it is still there. He would be satisfied to see it in full array in the autumn. It was enough just to know it was there and always would be as long as he was alive.

[It is now 17 hours later. I had some difficulty posting this to the blog this morning and had to wait till I returned from the ballgame. Awesome day.]

Damn You Good N Plenty!

I am deathly allergic to chocolate. Now, don’t get all sad-eyed on me and feel sorry for me. It’s probably a good thing. I can still shimmy into my size four jeans, even at a stones throw the distance from 60. I am sure chocolate would have ruined my (already) generous bottom. True, I’m not rocking a Niki Minaj booty, but let’s say its generous. 

If you do feel the need to throw pity my way, feel sorry that I am reduced to eating awful candy with stupid names, like Good N Plenty. Or try saying Necco Wafers with a straight face. You can’t do it, can you? Then of course there are delightful confections such as Warheads, or Boston Baked Beans, but I have stumbled off the path here, something I am prone to do with a half-assed brain.

Back to the topic. Yes, what was it? Oh, right. Those damn Good N Plentys.

I was painting yesterday in my garden and I was in the middle of an existential crisis, pondering my destiny, fate, call it what you like, and felt the need for something comforting. I soon found myself limping down Broadway in search of something to soothe my soul. (Years ago I would have simply reached into the cabinet and pulled out a fine bottle of Merlot or an Argentinian Malbec, but those days are long gone. Sigh.) I can’t, wont, eat gluten so a delicate pastry that melted in my mouth was out of the question. That left me walking into Walgreens to stand in front of the candy section.

I must have looked odd, an older woman in overalls, covered in paint, pondering every box and bag of candy. A handful of people came by, found the candy of their dreams, and walked away. Not me. I thought and thought and thought and finally decided that the glaring pink box of Good N Plenty was the one for me.

I paid and left the store, anxious to pop one of those sugar pills into my mouth. I was so looking forward to the sweetness.

I knew, deep down inside, that I would pay for my folly. Like great sex, there would be some price to pay, I was sure of it. And of course, there was.

A few minutes after indulging in a handful of pink and white confections, the tingling grew worse. The head pressure ramped up. And the tight muscles, bone pain, woozy, fatigue, etc..  kicked in. To add to my distress I decided to watch a movie after dinner. I chose (badly) to watch The Fault In Our Stars. (Don’t watch it if you are freaked out about death, or illness, or can’t handle big emotions.) I was okay watching it, or so I thought, but when I woke up this morning, man, back in the thick of it. I blame the candy the most, but I am sure my CNS didn’t need a tearjerker on top of the sugar, food colorings and god only knows what else I ingested in the guise of candy.

I spent three hours in bed this morning before I braved getting up. I’m writing and painting this morning, and doing my best to keep my sense of humor about this whole efffed up process of healing. My head pressure and woozyness (is that even a word?) is really, really, really, bad. I want to walk a half block to get a latte, but I am not sure I can make it. That’s how bad it is today. I’m forgoing my one delightful indulgence because I don’t want to be vertical any more than I have to be.

As I move closer to 39 months free on the 23rd, you find me with my jaw on the floor.How. In. The. World. Can. It. Go. On. This. Long.

Note to self, no more candy. Maybe I need to try great sex instead. Oh, wait a tic. That would mean a man in my life. Nope. Ain’t ready for that. Maybe next sugar craving I’ll try something with a more sensible name. Maybe Twizzlers? :)


Dear Santa, All I Want For Christmas…

is to be healed from benzo withdrawal syndrome. I don’t want a pony. A new doll. (I should want world peace, but I know that’s never going to happen so why waste my wish?) Nope, I just want good health.  Good health for my mind, body, and soul. I’ve asked God for good health Santa, but he must be busy trying to cope with the mess the world is in, or maybe he’s busying making a new universe, I don’t know. All I know is I am still sick. And it makes me very sad. It makes my family sad too. They really miss their old mom. She was fun, full of energy and full of life. She was always ready for an adventure. That’s not who I am anymore Santa. I spend most of my time on my couch, or out in the garden. Don’t get me wrong, I love my garden. But three years of sitting in it every day has gotten old. I can’t drive too far anymore Santa, so my world has gotten pretty small.

Santa, this Christmas will be my 5th one spent being benzo sick. It breaks my heart to think of being unable to feel the joy I used to feel during the holidays. I loved the change of seasons. The crisp mornings that held such promise of a new, exciting day. I loved spending time shopping for my children. Now, I am on food stamps Santa. There is no money for the essentials, let alone for gifts to give. Benzo withdrawal took away so much from me Santa. Unable to work for years, I drained my savings. I don’t wish for more money, I just want to be healthy so I am able to earn money again. I want to be useful.

I woke up this morning to a burning/painful spine, bone pain, muscle pain and spasms, feeling like I am being crushed, tingles all over which hurt, head pressure, weakness, fatigue, woozy feeling, depression, and overall a sense of…. hopelessness that I’ll never wake up from this nightmare. It is hard to hold onto hope that things will get better when it is the same thing day after day after day after day, after year, after year, after year.

Dear Santa, I’ve got a lot of friends who are benzo sick too. If you could heal them too, that would be great. We would all appreciate it. The day i can sit here and write that I don’t have any symptoms and share that with them will be amazing. Can you help make that happen Santa?

BTW, In case you haven’t been watching me, I’ve been REALLY good. I practice gratitude, I am kind, forgiving, I am honest and I do good deeds when I can. I do swear sometimes Santa, but who wouldn’t when they are in so much pain, you know? I put out dog biscuits and water for the dogs being walked in the front yard and I feed the squirrels too. My house isn’t as clean as it could be, but I am doing my best with a painful body.

So whaddya say Santa? Will you bring me good health for Christmas? I’ll make sure I leave the front door unlocked so you can come in. I’ll leave you a glass of milk and some homemade cookies. Is chocolate chip ok with you? I can leave something for the reindeer too, just let me know what they would like. I’m not up on reindeer snacks.

Thanks a lot for considering.




The body symptoms are really getting me down. I tingle head to toe, but mostly from the hips down. It’s not that “cute” annoying tingle you get when a body part has gone to sleep and its waking up. No. That, I could cope with. This is intense, burning, tingles, bee sting, and a sense of muscles writhing around, and the sensation of being crushed, all at once. I can’t distract from it. Wish I could.

Today the burning/pain/throb in my upper spine is nasty. I have head pressure, jaw pain, tooth pain, ears ringing (always) chest pain, benzo belly, fatigue, intrusive thoughts/obsessional thoughts, tight band around head and chest, and more.

I am weary. God, I am SO weary.

I have stopped praying for healing as that was clearly a lost cause. Now I pray for the ability to hold on and cope. Some days I am pretty good at it. Today, I am not. I want so much to be/feel normal. I don’t want to think about death, benzo, withdrawal, anxiety, fear, sickness, existential thoughts… I just want to live in the moment, doing what needs to be done. Like my old life.

I want to be able to travel. Go places. Do things. Without fear. Without an effort to walk around.
I want SO much to get off this couch and out into the world.

I am feeling rather sorry for myself today. Sorry for all of us battling this syndrome that so few people understand.

I worry that these are my golden years. I hope I don’t spend many more of them sidelined. I don’t know how many more years I have, and to think they may be all spent on my couch, or in my garden makes me very sad.


Hope everyone else is feeling better. If you are not, know that you are not alone. I’m right there with you, feeling like shit and being very sad/angry/resentful about it. I know I have to practice acceptance, but c’mon. I’m human. I am allowing myself a few minutes of venting.

Does this shit ever really end? I wonder. I really do wonder. My body stuff is different and worse in some ways than it ever has been.

That’s all I’ve got today. Sorry it’s so downbeat. I’m worn out.