People who are still tapering often ask me what they can expect once they step off their benzo. They ask me what my experience was like. Mine wasn’t typical because I jumped from .625 mgs of Clonazepam. Don’t cold turkey! Unless there is an urgent medical necessity to abruptly stop your benzo, always, always, taper. If you must stop quickly, do so only under medical supervision, as abrupt cessation or a very rapid taper can be dangerous.
If you’ve done a fairly slow taper and you’re finally at your end dose (congratulations!) here are 12 thoughts to keep in mind that may be of help:
- Make sure that you have food and water available in case you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Some people experience fatigue and aches and pains—benzo flu. Some may become nauseous and even vomit. Stay hydrated. It will pass. A whole-food, plant-based diet is the best diet. It allows the body to heal better. If you want proof, do a Google search. Dr. Micheal Greger, Dr. Micheal Klapper, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Milton Mills are all good resources for learning about optimal health through nutrition. Avoid any alcohol, unnecessary drugs or supplements, sugar, MSG, food additives, preservatives, etc.
- Let people know that you are going to be benzo free and there is a chance you may feel out of sorts for a few days or weeks. Ask them if they will agree to help you if you find that you need some assistance—grocery shopping, meal prep, or even a comforting hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on. A listening ear goes a long way to soothe. You may not need help, but knowing someone is there in case you do can help keep you calm.
- Most people don’t get extreme suicide ideation or impulses. However, if you are worried that you may become a danger to yourself or anyone else, give any weapons to a friend or family member for safekeeping. If you have medications that you could over-dose on, give those to someone who can dispense them to you. Again, most people who have tapered slowly do not experience extreme reactions but always err on the side of safety.
- Have easy to do distractions at the ready. Knitting, sketching, painting, word puzzles, etc. all can help pass the time and keep your mind off any benzo symptoms you may have. It is important to not let all of our time and attention become focused on benzo withdrawal.
- Mornings can be the roughest time of day for benzo withdrawal symptoms. If you find that your mornings are more difficult, know that they will get better in time. Find ways to distract as best as possible. Afternoons and evenings our symptoms usually settle down and we can feel a bit more joy and hope. Enjoy those moments.
- Will your symptoms get worse? I’m asked that question a lot. Some people will experience an increase in symptoms while others will not. A rare few will find that some of their symptoms get better with cessation. There is no way to predict which symptoms you will have once you step off. Usually though, if you’ve done a decent taper, you will not experience the more challenging symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, extreme depersonalization or derealization, severe terror, etc. These symptoms usually accompany a cold-turkey or a very rapid taper.
- Be positive. Do your best to simply neutrally observe any negative thoughts or feelings. Don’t believe the content of them. They are simply body functions and do not reflect the truth. Remind yourself that you are safe, you are healing, you will recover. Don’t create more anxiety by worrying. Practice acceptance.
- Stay off the benzo boards as much as possible. Reading about other’s misery only adds to your own. It turns on your threat detection circuitry, firing up your adrenals and flooding you with stress hormones. You don’t need that. In benzo withdrawal, there is already an increase in adrenal response due to the lack of functioning GABA receptors.
- Do your best to go about your daily life as much as possible, without overstressing or overextending yourself. If you need to cut back on your responsibilities, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, or not strong enough, etc. It only means that you are taking good care of yourself and allowing your nervous system to heal.
- Welcome all thoughts and feelings. Although some of our thoughts and feelings may be disturbing, allow them. They are only thoughts and feelings, after all. They are not dangerous in and of themselves. They are simply body functions, just as your farts, burps, and hiccups are. View them as such and you take the air out of their tires, so to speak. As long as you don’t act on any disturbing thought or feeling, no harm done. In time, your nervous system will settle down and stop generating them.
- Stay in the present moment. If you find your thoughts turning to the future, full of fear or dread, come back to now. The present moment is the only thing that is real. Your worries about the future are simply that: worries. They are not facts. Bring your attention back to the present moment and ground yourself.
- Practice patience. You’ve done a good taper. You’ve put in the time. Now, put in the time it takes for your GABA receptors to heal fully. Don’t create any expectations. Take each day as it comes and look for the good in each and every day. Practice gratitude. Be grateful that you are benzo free and healing. Look for all the many blessings you have in your life. Focus on these, and not on what you think you may lack.
It is normal to have some anxiety about stepping off your benzo. None of us like the idea of journeying into the unknown. And none of us know exactly what being benzo free will be like until we get there. Will we have more or more intense symptoms? If so, will we be able to cope? Will we be able to enjoy life? Will it be scary? That is the underlying question to most of the concerns about benzo withdrawal. Will there be fear, worry, anxiety, or terror? We are hardwired to want to avoid such things. When we understand that fear, as unpleasant as it is, isn’t dangerous in benzo withdrawal and that it eventually passes, we are more able to allow it to bubble up and ebb away on its own.
Congratulations on getting benzo free. A whole new amazing world awaits you. You now have the opportunity to create a full healthy life, without the straightjacket of a benzo keeping you from your true potential, your bright and beautiful, authentic self.
If you like to journal, here are two that may be helpful for you in benzo withdrawal. Both are on Amazon.com and the links are on the homepage of my website, benzowithdrawalhelp.com.