One of the hardest aspects of healing from the damage and devastation that benzodiazepines cause is the inability to do much of anything. Many of us are bedridden or couch bound in benzo withdrawal. Those who are lucky enough to be ambulatory are often plagued with fatigue from the slightest exertion. And then there is the inability to do much of anything that requires logical, rational thinking. It can be hard to read, and watching television or movies can be incredibly overstimulating. So what do we do when our bodies and minds are so out of whack that we can’t do anything? We practice acceptance of where our lives are at the present moment and we think outside the box for activities that bring us even a sliver of purpose or fulfillment. We look for things to pass the time as our brains cobble themselves back together.
Finding simple things to do to keep our creativity alive can help fill in the long hours in a day (and night). You can watch videos on Youtube that teach how to draw, knit, crochet, paint. etc. (For many, reading a how-to book is too challenging due to the cognitive deficits in benzo withdrawal so videos are better.) You can play a musical instrument, research recipes (for when you are able to cook and eat more).You can research places you’d like to visit when you feel better. You can explore your genealogy, play online games, write a blog, write a book (I wrote three in withdrawal) do puzzles, or spend an afternoon binge watching videos that don’t rev you up. You can also write letters, or make a scrapbook. If you have enough energy and bandwidth to tackle some organizational tasks, you can declutter drawers and closets. The trick is to find something to do every day that occupies your time and distracts you from your symptoms. Google is your friend in withdrawal if you use it to find healthy distractions instead of using it to self-diagnosis your symptoms or to overwhelm yourself with horror stories about benzo withdrawal.
You can find new hobbies that keep your hands, and your mind occupied. I became an avid gardener in the first few years off of my benzo. Once I overcame being bedridden, I used to push myself out of the door—my heart rate through the roof, my legs rubbery as limp noodles, my head full of pressure and woozy, my hands shaky—and plant flowers. I went from earning thousands of dollars a day as a highly sought after expert in my field to basically being only being able to dig holes in my yard. My life got very small in withdrawal.
Your life may have gotten smaller in benzo withdrawal too. But In the smallness of our lives, there can be profound learning and transformation. For many of us, benzo withdrawal became the birthing ground for enormous positive change. We learned how to practice acceptance and gratitude. We learned who are real friends are. We learned to not sweat the small stuff. We also learned that we are stronger and more resilient than we could ever have imagined.
What can you do when you can’t do anything? You hold on. You accept your life just as it is. You press to your heart the knowledge that you are healing, in every way a person can heal. You let that be enough, and then you get your hands and mind as busy as you comfortably can, doing whatever you can. You accept that your life is different now, but you hold on to the knowledge that benzo withdrawal is not forever. One day you will be able to do all that you did before. For some of us, we are able to do even more!
There is one more thing you can do when you can’t do anything in benzo withdrawal. You can surrender your life to God as you understand God. For those of us who have faith in a Creator, we let go and trust that we are in God’s care. It’s often hard to maintain a relationship with our understanding of God when we are battling withdrawal, but even a small sliver of faith can help us get through our days.
What can you do today, to keep your hands and mind busy? Share your ideas with us.