I am glad you are here.
I’m Jennifer. I cold turkeyed from clonazepam on June 23, 2011, after taking it as prescribed for close to 18 years. I had tapered for 8 months but was bedridden and deathly ill so I “jumped”. (This is not recommended!) My blog posts are an honest, raw account of my experience. Feel free to search through the old posts. (I’m six years free and have my life back. You will, too!)
I’ve been helping people in benzodiazepine withdrawal (BWD) for years. I’ve blogged, created a private support group, taught classes, coached individuals, and I’ve educated local doctors about BWD. I’ve also been an online contributor for AddictionBlog and I’ve given interviews for the media. (The Huffington Post ran an article.)
Most doctors are terribly uneducated about the dangers of these drugs, or the recovery process. They often prescribe medications that we in the BWD community feel hamper our healing, or they cause their own damage. Detox, rehabs, and inpatient mental health facilities have been known to cause harm. Doctors who are “addiction specialists” have harmed us. Even the staff at some of the most prestigious hospitals (Mayo Clinic, for example) have been known to be uneducated about benzos. I urge you to educate yourself about the damage these drugs can cause, and the safest ways to recover. Your safety and wellbeing are the most important things in the world!
If you have found this website because you are helping a friend or a loved one navigate BWD, please take good care of yourself. The demands of caretaking are enormous, and you are very much needed. (You may want to read this post.)
The best and only “cure” for benzodiazepine withdrawal is time. Lots and lots of it. You will recover. You will have normal thoughts, feelings, and the ability to go back out in the world once again. What you experience now in benzo withdrawal is not the old you. It is not the new you. It is just you in benzo withdrawal, recovering from the damage the drug has caused.
Please be kind and gentle with yourself. Hold on. You will recover!
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Dear Friends, I will be taking time off from coaching
June 25th through July 1
to enjoy my daughter’s wedding.
COMING IN JULY!
The Healing With Love
private spiritual membership GROUP and FORUM
Learn to manage your fears, worries, and symptoms in benzo withdrawal with
love, acceptance, and patience and your faith in God as you understand God.
Learn how to use this time of healing to fully love yourself.
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One of the questions I am often asked by people seeking information about benzo withdrawal is, “How do the thoughts about the things we fear go away?” I used to wonder that myself. I had obsessive thoughts about death and dying in benzo withdrawal that lasted from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. Even then, I had nightmares about dying. My thoughts sent ice-cold terror through me. Sometimes, I’d shake for hours I was so frightened. I couldn’t understand how thoughts that powerful were going to fizzle out and not have any emotional impact. But that’s exactly what happened. And that is what happens for the vast majority of us who recover from benzo withdrawal. The crazy, intrusive, fearful thoughts, fade away. We get control of our thoughts and our emotions. If by chance a strange or fearful thought does manage to creep into our consciousness, we simply brush it away.
Today I explained the process to a friend of mine. “Think of GABA receptors as controlling the drawbridge to your fear region of your brain. With enough working GABA receptors, the drawbridge is up. No crazy, scary, oddball thoughts are going to cross and enter the kingdom. But in benzo withdrawal, with so many GABA receptors damaged, the drawbridge is down. Every thug of a thought crosses over and plunders the kingdom. And there isn’t much you can do about it except watch and accept. But, as your receptors heal, your drawbridge slowly goes back up. Only a handful of the hardiest fearful thoughts can jump up high enough to swing themselves onto the rising bridge and get across and into the kingdom. But eventually, the bridge is up all the way, the kingdom is secure even from those thoughts.
Sure, once in a while, after you feel healed, a rogue thought will bravely swim the moat and make it into the kingdom. But by that time, you’ll be so thrilled to be back in charge and leading a normal life, that you’ll pay it no attention. It won’t disturb you in the slightest little bit. (You’ve survived benzo withdrawal! Not much will bother you.)
If you are plagued with intrusive, scary, crazy, horrible thoughts, know that they won’t last forever. Your drawbridge is down right now, that’s all. But as your brain recovers, it will rise back up. You’ll be in charge of the type of thoughts you want to entertain and no longer will fear be attached to your thoughts. You won’t be tortured by intrusive thoughts forever, just like you won’t suffer from all the other benzo withdrawal symptoms forever, either. We do recover. In time.
I’d like to add to this post that I am creating a private group for anyone who wants to incorporate their spirituality in their healing. Healing With Love will be a members only group and will also include a forum where members can interact with each other. Healing With Love is a spiritual place, not a religious place. It is open to all who believe in God as they understand God, their Higher Power, etc. It is not the place to debate religion, but rather to strengthen your own faith in what you believe in order to help you heal. If you’d like more information, please feel free to contact me with any questions. I am hoping to start the group July 2 if there is enough of a demand. The cost will be 39$ a month. You’ll receive Monday through Friday videos, a weekly webinar/meet up, posts just for members, and the ability to share with others and myself in the forum.
It’s been a hard week. The news of Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths have triggered many in the benzo community. When we read accounts that both of these celebrities were possibly taking a benzodiazepine, our feelings range from fear and panic to anger and outrage. Fear that we may end up like them, and outrage that we are suffering from benzo withdrawal (and possibly Kate and Anthony were as well) at the hands of the medical community we trusted It’s a lot of emotions to cope with. Let’s all take a slow deep breath and a long exhale and create a more healthy narrative to tell ourselves so that we don’t stay in a heightened state of arousal. After all, with damaged GABA receptors, we need to avoid stress, and the news reports have been incredibly stress-provoking.
First, you are not either Kate or Anthony. Your recovery is your recovery. It will unfold as unique as you are. You are not doomed to have an unhappy ending to your healing journey. Quite the opposite. You are healing and headed toward a much healthier and happier life once your GABA receptors heal. No matter how many symptoms you have today, or how deep your suffering, you are going to get better. You are going to be able to rejoin life and do all the things you are missing out on today. You will go on to forget about this season of suffering in your life; you will be so thrilled to be out and enjoying your life again! If your benzo brain is trying to convince that you are not going to make it, just observe those thoughts, don’t’ get hooked by them. Don’t give them any energy. Rise above them. Know that they are just thoughts and they are not predictors of the future. They are simply thoughts. Tell yourself something positive and then get your hands busy with something. Our minds will often follow our hands and become engrossed in our activity. Remember, the thought that your recovery will never end, or end badly, is a lie. It is not the truth.
Second, it’s not clear if either Kate or Anthony were aware that their medications could have been making them feel worse. If they were taking a benzo as we presume (one article stated that Kate was on anti-anxiety medication and another reported that Anthony listed Valium as one of the things he wouldn’t travel without), we don’t know if they were educated about tolerance withdrawal. If they were in tolerance withdrawal and uneducated about benzos, they would most likely have presumed that their anxiety or depression (or worsening of such states) was organic, that this was just the way they were. You can imagine how distraught that would have made them feel. But you know better; you are aware that your uncomfortable emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms are caused by withdrawal from your benzodiazepine—whether that is tolerance withdrawal, inter-dose withdrawal, tapering withdrawal, or cessation withdrawal. You know that your GABA receptors have been down-regulated from the benzo. You know that the bizarre symptoms you are experiencing are not you, they are from the drug, and that they will go away, in time.
Third, your first and foremost job right now is to heal. That means that everything comes second to your recovery. Which means, among other things, that you avoid stress. It’s okay to take a break from the news on television, in the papers, or on social media. It’s okay to not post anything about benzos on your social media accounts in response to the news about Kate and Anthony. You don’t have to save anyone right now. There will be time, when you are more recovered, to post about withdrawal and to become an activist on some level if you so desire. But for now, remind yourself that you don’t have to read, watch, or post anything if it upsets you. There will be plenty of time to share your experience, strength, and hope with others down the road. So don’t feel guilty if you are avoiding news stories or avoiding sharing on social media. Your main job is to heal. Period.
It is sad that the world has lost these two incredibly talented souls, that’s true. But we can do our best to cope with our big emotions and to do our best to quiet our central nervous system. We can be mindful of the stories we tell ourselves, making sure that our internal dialogue is as positive as possible. And when it is not, we simply overlook the negative thoughts, distract, and do our best to replace the scary story with positive words and a positive plot. You are going to heal. Your nervous system is designed to recover. If you scraped your knee, you wouldn’t worry about it healing. Don’t worry about your nervous system healing. It knows what to do! We just need to get out of its way and to give it the time it needs.
If you are struggling with the news about Kate or Anthony or struggling with any aspect of benzo withdrawal, please reach out to someone who will listen, care, and support you. Don’t suffer in silence for that is a breeding ground for negativity that is very unhealthy. If you are experiencing suicide ideation (often a withdrawal symptom), please let someone know. Have a plan of action should you feel you will act on those thoughts. It may be embarrassing to tell someone just how bad you are feeling, but please speak up. This is not the time to be stoic. We all need support in benzo withdrawal. A lot of support. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need. If someone can’t give it to you, ask someone else.Keep asking until you get what you need.
I’m here if anyone needs to share their feelings, but please know that I am not trained in suicide prevention, so if you are suicidal, seek appropriate help. The national suicide hotline is:
Sending my love to each and every one of you.
Benzo withdrawal knows no boundaries; it affects people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe. In talking to people from around the world, I hear the list of common symptoms and the questions we all ask. The most common questions people ask me are:
Is this a benzo withdrawal symptom? Withdrawal symptoms can be so bizarre, that it is hard to explain how they feel, or what our experience of them is like. I remember trying to explain to my family how I felt and the best I could do, to sum up my day-to-day living was to say that I felt like I was having a stroke while on acid while standing in front of a firing squad. My body and mind did some wild and crazy things in withdrawal, all of them very unpleasant and frightening. It’s good to check in with others in withdrawal, or to do a google search, to find out if what you are experiencing is common in withdrawal. And it is always a good idea to see a doctor to rule out any other cause, or to set your mind at east. Most withdrawal symptoms aren’t dangerous, but they sure are scary at times, not to mention painful and annoying. If you aren’t sure that what you are experiencing is a benzo withdrawal symptom, by all means, ask!
When will it end? I wish I knew the answer. Everyone’s recovery is unique. So many variables go into the mix, it’s hard to predict when we will be healed. I’ve talked to people who suffered horribly their first year off and went on to heal in their second year. I’ve talked to people who weren’t that damaged after stepping off, but they took years to feel better. Our DNA makeup plays a role in our healing as does our psychological makeup. What we eat or drink and how much stress we have in our lives, etc., play a role as well. All we know for sure is that we do eventually heal. We do get out lives back. (During benzo withdrawal, we need frequent reassurance that we will get better. We may ask a loved one over and over in the course of a day to tell us that we will get well. This is quite normal. Once we start to feel better, our neediness fades away.)
What medication can I take to help? There aren’t many things that make benzo withdrawal better. Most of the medicines that doctors prescribe to help take the edge off of our symptoms can make us feel worse, or, they have their own withdrawal syndrome we will have to face down the road. However, some people have reported that they don’t think they would have survived withdrawal without the help of the medications that they took. Only you can weigh all the factors and decide if you want to try another drug to help. I tried a few antidepressants and even two antipsychotics. All of them made me worse. Nothing took the edge off of my suffering except the passing of time, eating well, resting, avoiding stress and doing my best to hold onto a positive mental attitude.
What should I avoid in benzo withdrawal? Anything that works on GABA (alcohol, kava kava, valerian, phenibut, kavinace, z drugs, etc.) should be avoided. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers have been known to make us worse as well. (Although some people say that they have helped take the edge off.) Sugar, caffeine, food additives, colorings, and preservatives, strenuous exercise, extreme heat, stressful situations, vibrations, and certain vitamins and supplements can make us feel worse. Avoid the things that rev up your symptoms. Make sure you get adequate rest. Eat healthily. (One ingredient, fresh, whole foods are best.) Avoid overstimulation from television, social media, movies, video games, and the like. Also, avoid drama and people that drain your energy. Put your health as the number one priority in your life.
How do I get my family and friends to understand what I am going through? You probably can’t. They will never know exactly what you’re going through. How could they? But they can understand that you are suffering, need support and that you will eventually get well. I stopped trying to make my loved ones understand my reality and instead focused on letting them know how they could help me. They were relieved when I explained to them in straightforward terms what would best help me. They wanted to help, and having guidelines and suggestions made it so much easier for everyone, including myself.
Will I ever feel like my old self again? Of course! You’ll get your old self back, plus, you’ll most likely feel like you are a new and improved version. Many of us think that the time we spent in withdrawal was a time of great purification and polishing. When I felt mostly recovered, I felt as if I had become the person I had always wanted to be. There is light at the end of the benzo withdrawal tunnel, and it is shining bright. You’ll get there. One day at a time.
Why doesn’t the medical community understand the dangers of benzos? I wish with my whole heart that I knew the answer to that question. It is hard to fathom why the medical community doesn’t know more about benzos and the damage that they may cause. So much information about benzos is readily available on the Internet that we find it hard to believe that doctors haven’t been exposed to it. We all know the dangers of opiates. Perhaps, soon, word of the benzo crisis will make mainstream media and be taken seriously.
What questions do you have about withdrawal? Feel free to post them. Remember, benzo withdrawal is a temporary condition. We do recover, in time. It is normal to have fears and doubts about our recovery or to have times of despair. But don’t let the negative thoughts win out. Know that you are healing.
I’m sitting outside this morning under a cool gray sky. The birds are just now waking up, singing their celebration of a new day. I hold my coffee cup in my hands, appreciating the weight and warmth of it. As I sip my decaf, I count my blessings on this fine morning. There are many. There are the birds that flock to the feeders I keep filled with seeds and suet. There are the squirrels that scamper over to the nuts I put out for them. There’s the feral cat I feed. (I’ve named him Ghost.) There’s a red fox with a big black bushy tail. He likes to forage through the grass for fallen bird seed or to steal some of Ghost’s food. There’s the skunk who lives under my cottage and makes his appearance at dusk. There’s the wild turkey who comes to my back door hoping for a handout. And there are the deer that meander through my flowers when I’m fast asleep. I haven’t seen them, but I know they’ve been here; they’ve eaten the non-deer-resistant plants I foolishly tucked into the garden. ( I won’t do that again.) Soon, the pear trees in the orchard will be laden with fruit and the bears will come and bring their cubs to feast. It’s such a delight to live out in the country among the wildlife!
A soft, unexpected rain has broken free from the clouds and splashes down. I pick up my laptop and coffee and retreat inside to my chaise lounge to listen to it. Such a melody! Another blessing to count. Inside, my attention turns to my friends and family. I’m blessed to have so many loving people in my life. When I’m still and quiet in moments like this, I can better connect to the good, to the Divine. I’m grateful for that ability for there were dark days when I was unable to connect to anything that felt remotely good. But God was there all along, waiting patiently for my brain to settle down from benzo withdrawal so that I could see the miracle, the absolutely stunning glory, that life is.
You may not be able to connect with life’s goodness, life’s glory right now, I know. Benzo withdrawal blinds us to it. It’s hard to connect to love, to joy, to the amazing mystery of the Divine—God—call it what you want. It’s hard to believe that life will ever be worth living again. Withdrawal makes life feel like a torture instead of the gift that it is. But I’m here to tell you, to remind you, that life is worth living even in the broken state of benzo withdrawal—even having to endure the unendurable. Life is worth holding on to through the months or years that it takes to heal. It’s worth whatever we have to experience in our recovery to get to this place of wellness, of wholeness.
A gentle breeze now blows in through my window, bringing with it the smell of earth and blossoms from my flower garden. How can I be more blessed than this, I wonder? I’m alive. I made it through years of benzo withdrawal. I’m living in a place teeming with life and with love. And I know, just as sure as I know that the sun will make her appearance tomorrow, that you will arrive in such a sweet place as this. You’ll be surrounded by life again. You’ll be embraced by love. Your heart will be so full of joy and contentment that you’ll wonder how you’ll contain it all—but you will.
My heart is brimming with love. Joy. Gratitude. I savor this sweet morning, knowing that I’ve been blessed beyond measure. As I count my blessings this morning, I’ll count yours for you as well. I’ll start with one, you’re alive. Two, you are loved. Three, you are healing, Four… why don’t you take it from here.
I remember turning the key in my front door when I came home from the hospital after my cold turkey from my prescribed use of Clonazepam. The door opened, just as it had a thousand times before, and I walked into my apartment. Everything was just as I had left it the week before, but everything felt eerily different. I walked over to my couch and laid down (a position that over the next few years I’d find myself in so often that I wore a divot into the cushions). “I’ll be fine in a few weeks,” I said out loud to reassure myself. I had already spent eight grueling months in a failed taper. I couldn’t imagine spending much more time in benzo withdrawal than I already had.
Ha. Little did I know.
My recovery would take years and test the limits of my patience, faith, and strength. And I’m not alone. There as many of us who blow past the six-eighteen months “average” for healing from the damages a benzodiazepine can cause. Frankly, I wish that the average would either be changed to reflect a possible longer recovery time; or better yet, do away with a timeline all together. Healing is going to take however long it takes. I don’t like the term “protracted.” It connotes that we “should” have healed but for whatever reason, we haven’t. (It’s hard enough battling benzo withdrawal; harder still to feel as if you’ve flunked it somehow by not healing in time.)
For those of us who have seen eighteen months off our benzo come and go, perhaps we aren’t taking longer than normal. This IS our normal. Perhaps there is something about our DNA, our makeup, our central nervous system that needs a lot of runway. A long withdrawal doesn’t mean a permanent withdrawal. We need to remember that. (Baylissa reminds me from time to time!)
I don’t like saying I’m in protracted benzo withdrawal. I like saying, “I’m healing,” I don’t like to look back (seven years off the drug next month) nor look ahead. I do my best to stay right here in today. And you know what? Today is pretty damn good because I am alive! So are you. No matter how symptomatic you are right now, no matter how long you’ve been in withdrawal, you are going to recover and get on with your life. You’ll even get past the vulnerability of having a setback. You’ll be so busy living your life in full bloom technicolor that you won’t have time to remember the suffering you experienced. Seriously. You won’t dwell on what you’ve lived through. You’ll be too busy living!
If you are still experiencing benzo withdrawal symptoms, know that one day they will fade away. No one stays “benzo sick” forever. You are healing.
If you’ve read my posts about coping with benzo withdrawal symptoms you know I am a big proponent of distraction. It helps us take our minds off of our suffering, even if only for a few minutes. If you’ve read about my journey through withdrawal, you also know I am a big fan of gardening as a means to distract. Distraction can be so much more than just a place to focus one’s attention. It can be a way to gain purpose and perspective while healing from benzo withdrawal. It can be the secret passage to a more fulfilling life, even in the midst of our benzo withdrawal symptoms.
First, let me explain that one of the major tenants of Alcoholics Anonymous (and all other Twelve Step programs) is service to others. Why? Because focusing on others takes us away from our self—our self-pity, self-loathing, self-absorption and the like which are usually triggers to drink (or engage in other addictive behavior). When we aren’t focused on ourselves, we are more able to see the real beauty and meaning in life. Stepping outside of our self-centered egos gives us the opportunity to grow and mature. It’s the same in benzo withdrawal. When we distract with an activity that is in service to someone or something other than ourselves, we are more apt and able to see the beauty in life and to grow and heal. Of course, most of us experiencing benzo withdrawal are not addicts, but being of service to other living things helps us step outside of our suffering and embrace life a bit deeper, even in the depths of our benzo withdrawal despair. Sure, it’s good to distract with mindful things such as puzzles and coloring books—nothing wrong with those or similar things—but there is a “superpower” in doing things that ultimately help other living things.
Taking care of the flowers in my garden gave me a purpose to wake up each morning and face the ice-cold terror that coursed its way through my veins. It gave me a reason to breathe through my pain, double vision, burning skin, ear ringing, twitching, boaty feelings, tingling, dizziness, weakness, intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and all the other horrible symptoms that came with my cold-turkey from my prescribed use of clonazepam. My garden was more than just a distraction; it was the backbone of my healing. It taught me lessons about love, community, forgiveness, innovation, determination, and perseverance. I would have never learned those lessons had I only colored in my coloring books or solved my cryptogram word puzzles.
That’s the message of this post. I hope that those of you who are physically able will find ways to distract that are in service to other living things. Truly, there is something sacred in being of service to life. That is how you take distraction to a new, deeper level. And in my humble opinion, it is how you heal on a deeper level because we find purpose and fulfillment, which nourishes and grows our souls.
I’d love to hear from you as to what you do that takes distraction to a deeper level. Feel free to share your comments. For those of who are physically unable to engage in activities, please know that you won’t be bedbound or couchbound forever—your day of healing is coming. You will be able to get out and do things again. Benzo withdrawal is a temporary condition, I assure you.
Benzowithdrawalhelp.com website is in no way intended as either medical or legal advice. It is an educational and awareness site. I share my story, and the story of others, along with material from experts known to be of value to people in withdrawal.
The webmaster of this website is in no way engaged in any type of medical or legal advice, and/or any other kind of personal or professional services. All information contained in this website should in no way be substituted for medical or legal advice, and therefore, any information acquired through this website is utilized at your own risk.
No information contained in this website should be substituted for the advice of a lawyer, or physician, or therapist who is well-informed about benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Abrupt stopping of a benzodiazepine can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal. Always consult your prescriber if you are considering making any changes to your medication dose or schedule.
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