I thought it would be so easy.
Happy hour had become a habit over the years, in part fueled by interdose withdrawal from the clonazepam I took as prescribed. I didn’t correlate the buzzing and burning inside of my chest, or the increased pulse, or lightheadedness, with the medication. All I knew was that a glass of wine, or two, or three, took care of those sensations. Besides, I rather enjoyed the buzz and looked forward to it. Until, of course, I realized that I focused way too much attention on five o’clock rolling around. I stopped drinking and decided that it was time to stop that little pill I swallowed every night per my doctor’s instructions. I thought that getting off of my benzo would be easy. Why shouldn’t it be? There was no way my doctor would have kept me on a medication that would have been a nightmare to stop, right? (Ha Ha.) So, per my doctor’s instructions, I cut one-quarter of my dose and went about my business, happy to be getting med-free.
Doctor’s don’t understand benzos.
It only took a few days until I was hit with brutal benzo withdrawal symptoms. Still not benzo-wise, I kept cutting. In one month I reduced from 1 mg of Clonazepam to .5. I was terribly debilitated. I could hardly walk, the dizziness and the depersonalization were overwhelming. I experienced anxiety, panic, pain, insomnia, you know, the usual symptoms. My doctor didn’t know anything about benzo withdrawal, so, like most of us, I turned to the Internet for help. Surely someone knew something about these meds. I found a few websites and benzo buddies. Even with all that I learned about how brutal withdrawal could be, I was still (naively) hopeful that I’d get off without suffering any more than I already was. That changed as the months went on and on, and I became bedbound, unable to take care of the most basic necessities of life.
Sure I wouldn’t heal.
More than once, I hit a wall where I knew for certain that I would never heal. Whatever thin string of hope I had held onto, was seemingly gone. I’d pen rather long and rambling emails to my family informing them of my imagined permanent disability, or worse, my wishes for the songs to be played at my funeral. I mean, I’d hit rock bottom and there was nothing in this world that could lift my spirits. I finally got tired of being in that pit of despair. I knew I had to find a way out.
Job got quite an answer.
I figured the best way to cope with hopelessness was to study what other hopeless souls had done when they were at the end of their ropes. I read the story of Job over and over, hoping to find a secret key to climbing out of my despair. What I learned was life-changing. When Job had had his fill, and finally snapped, he asked God why He was suffering. God didn’t answer his question but instead asked His own. “Where were you when I laid the ground foundation for the universe?” I took this to mean, “Are you God?” With that in mind, I stopped asking “Why me?” That question only kept me stuck in the problem, focused on my misery. Instead, I began to do my best to trust God and to ask “What can I do to serve you? To serve others. To get through this day?” I asked, “How can I hold on?” What and how became my way out of my hopelessness. They were the steps I needed to take towards the best medicine in the world: acceptance, gratitude, patience, and the very best, in my opinion, service.
The radical new way.
Putting aside any religious implications of Jesus, let’s think for a moment what He taught. He turned taught that the way to the kingdom of heaven here on earth (to me that means peace and tranquility —love) is found through going downward, not upward. It means being last, being of service. It means dying to self, to stepping away from the ego. When I began to practice that, in baby steps, of course, hope returned. I no longer focused on my dire medical condition, my emptied bank account, my lost career, or the hundreds of other things that had weighed so heavily on me. I stepped out of my world of misery and entered into a new world of acceptance and peace.
I vowed I would be like Joseph.
Job’s story was motivating, but there as another story that helped me. I often thought of Joseph, the young man whom God promised a life of leadership and power. Yet he was sold into slavery and then thrown into jail for many years. What went through Joseph’s mind as he sat in his cell year after year? Did he curse God as I had done? I don’t think so. I think he held onto God’s promised and waited for God to deliver on that promise. I decided that I’d do the same. God had closed the door for me and had not yet opened a new one, so I praised Him in the hallway. I couldn’t see what was ahead, but I did my best to be grateful for exactly where I was and what was going on around me.
Hope is a learned response.
For me, hope was a learned response. It didn’t always come naturally or easily. I had to use my heart to find a way forward, for my mind —my thoughts— would tell me horrible things. But my heart held onto love, or at least onto the idea of love on the days I couldn’t feel love, and that kept me going. I knew, on a cellular level, that love was all around me, and that I was going to be okay—that I WAS okay—no matter what was happening. Just like Job and Joseph were okay through their ordeals.
It’s okay to have our moments.
When we lose hope, it’s okay to fall apart for a little bit (as long as you don’t hurt yourself or others!). Even Jesus had His moment in the garden when He felt overwhelmed. He was so distraught that God sent an angel to minister to Him. We are only human, and this long, frightening and exhausting journey of benzo withdrawal can be overwhelming. You can be a puddle on the floor so to speak, but then rise up, dust yourself off, and find a way to distract and to open your heart a bit more to let the love that is in the present moment fill you. And know that in the not too distant future, you’ll be graced with your own blessings, just as Job and Joseph were blessed. Learn from their practice of acceptance and humility. Learn from the great lesson that Jesus taught: letting go of the ego. Learn too, His one commandment to love! It is in love that we find our greatest peace and joy. It is in love where hope is reborn over and over and over again.
Mornings With Jenn.
It’s official! Mornings With Jenn will become an ongoing support group. We are having so much fun together! I even gave a benzo-wise, one skillet cooking demonstration one morning. If you’d like to join for the remaining of the month (2 weeks) for 35$ sign up (this link we will take you to my Soul Reminders site) here: MORNINGS WITH JENN Or, sign up for next month ($69 for a month) when I post the new payment portal in a few weeks.
Podcast with D. E. Foster.
D. E. Foster asked me to be interviewed for his podcast. It should go live on Wednesday, April 18. It was a genuinely good time spent with D, and I look forward to doing more podcasts with him in the future. He is truly dedicated to the benzo community. His professionalism and wisdom add much to our community. His website is benzofree.org. Check it out.