I know better. I KNOW BETTER!
A few days ago I went to the Dollar Tree and bought Easter candy to fill plastic eggs. My four kids still love Easter egg hunts, even in their twenties. (I LOVE that about them!) My oldest son has 1/3 of an acre, perfect for hiding eggs. We are planning an Easter feast and dammit, I don’t want to be sidelined. Not like the last four holidays, anyway.
So you would think I would do ANYTHING to avoid a wave. (You already know what’s coming.) Yup. I ate Easter candy as I filled the eggs. At first it was just a few handfuls of Good N Plenty’s. But my sugar craving kicked into high gear. I fondled the bag of spice drops lovingly. Just one or two wouldn’t hurt, right? The jelly beans looked kinda sassy and scrumptous too. Yum. Yum. The only thing I didn’t eat was the chocolate. (Deathly allergic to it, of all things.)
Right about a few hours after my sugar binge, the tingles started. The tooth/jaw pain kicked in. Muscles began twitching. Electric zaps. Back of head pressure. Eye pain. Burning, burning, burning like a witch in Salem. Dizzy. Weak.
SIGH. I KNOW BETTER THAN TO EAT CRAP!
I am tugging on my wetsuit as I write these words, ready to ride this wave till it peters out. Crossing my fingers I haven’t set myself back too much, and that Sunday I can enjoy my children and their significant others and Sadie the lab puppy.
If anyone had tried to convince me, before withdrawal, that sugar (and food dyes) could do this to a body, I’d have laughed out loud in their face. It sounds so unbelievable. But what about withdrawal is believable? I’m a very imaginative person, (teaching a creativity class at Stanford next month!) and there is no way I could have ever dreamed this shit up about withdrawal.
Gotta scoot. Wetsuit on. Riding this wave like I own it till it decides to play itself out.
Making a note to self…no more sugar binges. EVER.
I know I keep writing about how sweet life is at this point in recovering from benzo withdrawal. I hope I don’t sound like a broken record. It’s just that life really is incredibly wonderful. Even with the remaining symptoms, life is really, really nice.
I am now able to hold ideas and thoughts together and make sense of paper work that until even recently, was total Greek to me. I have enough energy now to sustain projects to birth the non-profit I am creating. I am creative again. In fact, I feel even more creative than ever as I was in tolerance withdrawal from Klonopin for so many years that the clarity I have now is pretty amazing. It will keep getting better too, I know. Yippee!
I remember the last year before I began my taper I spent a large portion of it in bed in the mornings and afternoons. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I always blamed my fatigue and foggy thinking on stress. Or the red wine I drank every night to stave off, what I now know, was tolerance symptoms. I still fight fatigue, but it is a different fatigue than what I had years ago.
I read success stories on Recovery-road.org. One woman wrote that post recovery, life was great and “nothing sucked.” I feel that way too. Even with the stress of having to rebuild my career and finances, life doesn’t suck. It feels wide open with hope and possibility.
Being benzo free is worth the pain and suffering I experienced. And boy, did I suffer. The endless hours of sheer, awful, indescribable terror. The paranoia. The anxiety. Panic attacks that made my old panic’s seem like child’s play. The body symptoms were like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. The full body tingling like I had fallen into a beehive. The crushing sensations, burning, the pain that literally dropped me to the floor. The head pressure, dizziness…. you know that stuff I am talking about. It was agony to hold on most days. I often prayed for death. But I am so glad I didn’t die. Now that most of the symptoms are gone and my mind is clear, I look forward to the start of the day. I used to dread going to bed as I knew it meant I had to wake up and live another day.
I am writing this out in my garden. The breeze lifts my hair. The birds sing. A butterfly, the first one I have seen this season, just danced by. Bees are busy visiting flower after flower. All is right with the world. I used to think this moment would never come. Now it is here.
If you are in that place where you feel that withdrawal will never get better, I am here to tell you, it will. GIve it time. I will be 33 months off on the 23rd. I tapered for 8 months before my cold turkey jump. I have lost a lot of years to benzo sickness. Now I can embrace life again and start over with a clear mind.
Someone asked me recently if I am angry I lost so much because a doctor put me on and kept me on a very dangerous drug without informing me about the dangers. Now that I am so much better, the answer is no. I am not angry. I don’t want to waste anymore of my precious life on negative emotions. Anger won’t give me back the years I spent recovering, unable to work, unable to think properly and suffering emotionally and spiritually, so why bother? What I like to do most is to practice gratitude. I am grateful for the things I have. I don’t focus too much on what I don’t have. I don’t worry about what I might lose, or what I might not get. I stay in the present moment, open, grateful, and happy to still be on the planet.
Keep fighting. One day, you will sit down and write an email to me and tell me that you are experiencing a day you thought would never come, a day where you feel vital, alive, happy, and whole. It’s coming. Hold on. It’s coming.
All the best on this magnificent day, March 15th. My very best friend ever was born on this day, 56 years ago. He died on March 30, 1991. I know his spirit is with me here in the garden. I can still feel the love we used to share. Be well in heaven Kenny. I am thinking of you today. I love you. Still. Very, very much.
Your brain detests ambiguity. It needs to know what is what so it can keep you alive. It makes meaning out of everything. Clouds gathering on the horizon? Your brain whispers to you a storm is brewing, better take cover for safety. Wake up anxious? Your brain whispers to you all sorts of reasons for the feeling, so you can take action and be safe. But here’s the thing. In benzo withdrawal much of our anxiety and fear is organic. We don’t have enough working GABA (and God only knows what else the benzo has damaged) so the world feels ominous. We then try our best to decide why.
My morning monkey mind goes like this: “I am anxious because I have always been anxious and without my klonopin I will be FOREVER.” “I must have cancer and I am going to die soon.” “Something horrible is going to happen to one of my children.” Until I can quiet my mental torture, my anxiety is truly awful. When I can muster my rational mind to reassure me this is a normal process of recovery from almost two decades of benzo use and nothing more, I am more able to tolerate the morning feelings. It is when I allow my brain to make an incorrect meaning of the morning feelings that I truly suffer.
This is not to say it is as easy as tying on my shoes to wander out into my garden. I wish it were. However, I am getting better at utilizing my rational mind, especially as more receptors heal. I have a ways to go, for sure, but I am making progress.
My garden is where I am healing. At three months off, when the nightly hallucinations had stopped and I was more able to stand up out of bed, I tore out most of my front and side yard and began planting. I built two raised beds, my heart racing with every hammer thud, my vision so blurry that finding the nail head was a challenge. I planted veggies and flowers. Every morning I hobbled out and weeded, dug more deep holes, planted, and waited. I think I was planting the seeds of healing. Literally. I watched seedlings reach for the sun, just as I have been stretching, hoping to feel the warmth of life again. I watched blossoms appear, the promise of breathtaking beauty. Just as I have been forming a promise of a new life, that is almost ready to burst forth in vivid wild color. I watched the blossoms sway in the wind, and invite the bees and butterflies to enjoy their beauty. Just as I now know I must surrender to the winds of life all the while offering my beauty to those who will find sustenance from it.
I am far from healed. But I am far from mangled anymore. I am on the right path, one stubborn foot in front of the other. And God, as I understand God, has me tight in her arms.
I am loved. Just as you are loved.
I pray for you all in benzo withdrawal. You are the budding blossoms, just about ready to burst forth with a new life, a new hope, a new promise.
We tolerate benzo withdrawals better when we let go and accept where we are. That does not mean we give up, or we stop hoping or thinking positively about our recovery. It means simply to stop fighting. Stop grieving over the days, months of years that you have given over to your withdrawal. You are still alive. That is something worth celebrating. Healing does happen. We are assured of that. It just takes time.
Let go. Be in the moment. Don’t think about the days ahead. Come back to this moment and give thanks you are alive and healing.
A quick video tip on how to cope with the less than great days.