Sometimes, when the night falls after a quiet day and I’m cozy on my couch, I allow myself to journey back in time. Back to when I was in benzo withdrawal. I suffered. I suffered horribly. Pain, burning, twitching, dizziness, and fatigue coursed through my body. Wild, scary thoughts burst into my brain at random, convincing me I’d gone mad. God’s honest truth, I’d never been so sick and so sacred as I was in Benz withdrawal. It eviscerated all that made me, me. I was an empty shell, fragile and hollow, walking around in an unrecognizable world.
Distraction wasn’t a magical switch that turned off my symptoms, but it dulled their impact. There were three main types of distraction I relied on: pleasure, learning, and service to others. For pleasurable ways to distract, gardening was by far my favorite go-to. Engaging in activities that are normally pleasurable is helpful and healing, even if one can’t feel happiness. I certainly couldn’t always tap into happiness when I gardened, but I knew it was a good for me. Too weak at times to stand, I’d forgo the shovel and sit on the soft earth and dig holes with a hand trowel. Some days, all I could muster was to sit at the garden table and watch the bees buzzing from blossom and blossom. But on those days when I could better function, I threw myself into it sweating in the summer heat, or shivering in the winter’s cold. Being outdoors was good for my recovery. (Neuroscientists have confirmed being in nature helps settle the nervous system.) What pleasurable activity can you do to distract yourself from your benzo withdrawal symptoms? You may not feel the joy you’d normally feel, but that’s okay. Do it anyway.
During my darkest days, I challenged myself to learn to draw— my scribbled stick figures had always been a source of embarrassment. I watched short YouTube videos on how to draw, forcing myself to pick up a pencil every day until I felt I had become at least somewhat proficient. Learning makes the brain to create new neuronal pathways, which allows the spotlight to move away from highlighting benzo withdrawal symptoms. Learning something new is an excellent way to distract during benzo withdrawal. I will never be an amazing artist— that’s not my talent— but I can now draw a picture that doesn’t look like pre-schooler art. What might you learn during benzo withdrawal in an effort to take the spotlight off of your benzo withdrawal symptoms and your suffering?
Standing over a hot stove wasn’t always easy in benzo withdrawal, but on the days I could muster it without too much trouble, I cooked for my friends. Being of service to others is an excellent way to distract durning benzo withdrawal. When we focus on others instead of ourselves, the volume of our suffering turns down a notch or two. On the days I was too sick to stand, I found other ways to be of service. I wrote letters to family members. I made bookmarks and mailed them to friends. Even bedridden, we can find a way to be helpful to others, putting our attention onto them and away from ourselves. What can you do to be of service to others?
Distraction is an excellent way to cope with benzo withdrawal symptoms. How will you distract today? Will you find something pleasurable to do? Will you learn something new? Will you find ways to be of service to others? Share with us what works best for you.
The video for this blog post can be found here: