While I was at my parents farm in Georgia, I posted about the ten things you can do to build your confidence as withdrawal is coming to an end and you are ready to go back out into the world.
Here are all ten in detail. (The first three were already published. Please skip if need be.)
1. Positive attitude
3. Listening skills
10. Financial plan
1. Positive attitude
Once your brain is more recovered from the chemical damage it incurred from the benzo (or “z” drug) that you took, you are ready to become involved in your normal life again. However, for many of us, the trauma and devastation brought on by benzo withdrawal makes us feel a bit overwhelmed and under prepared to dive back into life.
The first step is to make certain you have the correct attitude. Viewing the world and your place in the world in a positive light will help you.
I can’t tell you how much I suffered when I allowed myself to wallow in negative thoughts once I was on the road to healing. (In withdrawal, having control of your thoughts is very hard for most of us. It is normal to think negative thoughts while our brains are still damaged.) I always did better when I had an “I can do!” attitude.
One of the most powerful things we do every day is say, “I am….” Whatever you finish that statement with becomes your reality. I ask you to please be mindful to finish that statement with something positive.
Shakespeare said “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Create your reality as a positive one. See everything in a positive light. I know it seems like a simple, or even corny concept, but being positive is an amazingly strong and powerful force that makes life good.
When you view yourself and the world around you in a positive light, you’ll have more confidence to take risks, and to start the process of rebuilding your life. Accept any limitations that you may still have, view them as positive stepping-stones to your future, and start your journey. Any missteps that you make are okay. Keep going!
You’ve survived a very challenging illness. You have already proven you are strong, brave, patient, and have stamina and endurance. You have nothing you need to prove now. You have a life to step back into and enjoy as deeply and as fully as you can! Be positive with every step. Every decision.
If you feel inadequate at any time, simply say to yourself, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Know that God made you and I can assure you, He doesn’t make junk! You are amazing! You can do what you set your mind out to do!
Believe. Be positive.
My tapering process was, how shall I say it… hell. When I made the decision to cold turkey after the addiction “specialist” said it would be a “piece of cake,” I was so ready for something easier than being bedridden and in a state of fear around the clock. Well, we all know how that went, don’t we? If I thought my suffering while tapering was unbearable…
I remember telling friends once I was home from the hospital, that I would be well in 6 months. That was what my doctor told me and I wanted to believe him. At four months off, I decided to jump back into my old career. I opened an office, gave a free talk, hung out a coaching shingle and ….quickly deteriorated into the full depths of Dante’s inferno; cold turkey benzo withdrawal.
Looking back, I wish I had been able to practice patience in those early months off. I could have saved myself thousands of dollars and saved myself a lot of emotional turmoil and anxiety too. Truth be told, I’ve never been good at practicing patience in my own life. I’m as patient as they come with other people. But apply patience to myself? Hard to do. Or rather, it used to be. Now I’ve learned more skills and I can take things slow and easy. I encourage you to learn a few patience skills too, especially as you begin to rebuild your life.
Many of you know that I am in recovery from alcohol as well. I’ve learned in the rooms of recovery to “Take It Easy.” I’ve learned what it means to live “One Day At A Time.” I also know what it means to “Keep It Simple.” All of those slogans help me slow down, calm down, and do what needs to be done next, (The Next Right Step) and not get ahead of myself.
Patience is a virtue. I believe that! As you begin to rebuild your life, I hope that you can practice being patient with yourself. Set realistic expectations and goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your life won’t suddenly all come together at once. It takes small and steady moving forward to build a new life. Take it easy. Just as you had to trust the process of healing from benzo damage, trust that your life will rebuild, as you want it, in time.
One way to know if you are going too fast as you rebuild is to check your symptoms. Are you starting to have waves again? Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Is your sleep starting to decay? Check in with yourself and do an honest assessment. Scale back your activities if they are exacerbating any lingering benzo symptoms you have.
I’m not advocating that you simply sit and wait until every symptom is gone. It’s good to challenge ourselves a bit and to push. That’s what life does. It pushes itself out into the world. Watch any weed growing through asphalt! Please just take it easy as you push forward. You’ll get there. There is no need to hurry. All of the things that were in place to support you while you were in withdrawal are still there. You are okay and everything will be okay.
Keep it simple. Take it easy. Do the next right thing. One day at a time. Trust that you will regain your life and it will be wonderful. After withdrawal, life is sweet indeed.
3. Listening skills
Listening is a skill that helps us build our confidence because 1. we learn a great deal, 2. we create much better relationships, 3. we get out of our own head and preoccupation with self and 4. It grows our brains and our hearts.
Most people like to think that they are good listeners when in fact, they aren’t They interrupt, they steal the conversation, they steal the spotlight, they put others on the defensive, they are quick to anger, they are judgemental… the list goes on and on.
Real listening means you listen for content and meaning and emotion, not just words. You empty yourself of your agenda and you truly take in what the other person wants you to know. You respect the speaker. You create emotional and physical safety for the speaker. Most of us don’t even consider emotional safety for others. We are quick to judge, make wrong or verbally attack others.
True listening is an art. It is a spiritual practice that we need to work on daily. Especially when we are in the last healing stages of benzo withdrawal. We’ve been so preoccupied with our own thoughts, feelings and suffering that we need to learn to take the focus off of ourselves and put it onto others. We need to learn to stop talking so much about ourselves and to be open to others.
The type of listening I am referring to and encouraging is deep listening. Once you learn how to practice it, you find yourself feeling calmer and more patient. You feel more love in your heart and more compassion for others. Deep listening changes us for the better. It takes time and effort and a lot of practice, but it is worth it.
The first book I ever wrote (co-authored with Dr. Mark Brady) was A Little Book Of Listening Skills. It had 52 listening skills in it. I’ve taken them and condensed them down into three, in Stop Open Turn. Three Simple Listening Skill To Nurture And Grow Love In Recovery.
If you are interested in learning more about the practice of deep listening, drop me a line. I’m happy to go into more detail with you on how to practice and what the benefits are to your brain, heart and soul.
Play grows the brain in a very good way. It allows us to make new connections and grow new neurons. Watch baby animals and you will see that they play. A lot! It is how they learn and grow. Watch older animals and you’ll find that many have not lost their desire (or need!) to play. We humans would do well to follow suit.
What is play exactly? Every expert in the field of play has their own definition. I define play as being in the process for the sake of the process. Meaning: I am not focused on or concerned with an outcome. I’m enjoying the unfolding of what I am doing. For instance, when I paint, I rarely have a picture in mind. I play with color and placement, and I am curious about what happens next. Curiosity is part of play.
Play also is a place where you can be totally silly! You can be uber creative too. There are no rules to follow, just what feels good in your heart and soul.
People ask me, I play video games, does that count? If you are trying to win the game, or attain a goal, it is not the type of play I am talking about. Neither is organized sports. That is more exercise than play. You’ll know when you are involved in play. You’ll become lost in time, (what is referred to as “flow.”) and you’ll be smiling or laughing, or humming or singing… you’ll feel content.
Some of the ways I played while I was deep in recovery from Klonopin was to garden. I also painted. I created some interactive things for people in my garden, such as a prayer tree and a chalkboard. They all had elements of play in them.
Scott Peck wrote, “Life is hard.” Yes, it is. But life can be less overwhelming, scary, or frustrating if we play. Don’t take things so seriously! For me, knowing that God is in control, allows me to go deep into play and to become curious and full of wonder, looking at the world through the eyes of a child.
I give you permission to play! It will help boost your confidence as you go back out into the world.
Now that the worst is behind you and you are picking up the pieces, it’s a good time to get really clear on your purpose. What did God make you for?
After surviving a horrific withdrawal and recovery, many of us feel so profoundly changed by the experience that we long to live a more productive and purposeful life. Things that we used to worry about, or things we thought we needed or wanted before withdrawal suddenly are very insignificant. We want to be true to ourselves, not a slave to the things we were before.
I can confess that before withdrawal, I was very preoccupied with my looks. As an aging woman, I was worried I’d not be taken seriously, or I’d not be able to continue to be on television, be invited to lead big workshops, or that I wouldn’t ever find a partner if I let my face show my age. I always kept money aside for Botox. (I know, very shallow and vain. I cringe to type the words!) Now, I can honestly say that my wrinkles don’t bother me AT ALL. In fact, I gained 17 pounds during my three-month road trip. I’m eating healthy to get back to my normal weight, but I am not at all worried about if my weight gain matters to others.
The thing I am focused on is my purpose. With that focus, I am happy and feel very confident. I know that God made me to creativity reveal and communicate truth to bring healing to others. What is your purpose? Why did God make you? Sit down with a friend who knows you well and list 12 -24 things that best describe you. Then hone in on the top three or four best descriptors and go from there. Keep it simple, and play with it! You’ll intuitively know when you have hit the mark.
Focus every day on your purpose. Use it to help you discern what is important in your life and what you can ignore or let go of totally. I’d be delighted to read your purpose statements if you care to share them with me!
Ahhh, faith. I don’t know how anyone goes back out into the world after withdrawal without faith in God. Without faith, the world seems far too hard and cruel. Faith allows us to move forward in life, even when we feel uncertain or afraid. And we all feel uncertain and afraid at times, not just when we are in withdrawal.
Faith inspires us to lead better lives. With faith, we have an internal governor that keeps us from doing too much harm to others or ourselves. When we are focused on God, we don’t have time to focus on the things that can bring us down. If we are focused on God, we understand that love is the default position in ALL OF LIFE. That means we practice kindness, compassion and understanding. (See # 3. Listening.) With faith, all things are possible. Without it, we remain shackled to our preoccupation with ourselves. Our egos run (and ruin!) our lives.
Faith takes some practice. You must wake up every day and renew your vow to let God be in charge. And you must let go and let God, over and over in a day.
As you move back into life, I hope with my whole heart that you will let God lead you. I hope you will have faith that God is here with you, and He has your life in His hands. Always. (For inspiration please visit soulreminders.com )
As we move back into life, we do well to forgive the people who 1. stressed us so that we were put on a benzo, 2. the doctor(s) who put us on a benzo, 3. the doctor(s) who told us withdrawal didn’t do to us what we were experiencing, 4. friends and family who ignored us, didn’t believe us, etc. 5. anyone who we think harmed us at any point in our lives.
Why is forgiveness necessary to build our confidence? When we harbor resentments, they literally change our brains, and not for the better. It is hard to be positive and constructive as we move forward if we hold grudges or hate in our heart. It is a waste of precious energy that could be used for something good.
As you move forward, it is nice to have a clean slate. Start with a full, fresh, open heart. Remember that the people who wronged you were doing there best, just like you are, right now. None of us are perfect. We have all hurt others. So forgive.
It is important to forgive yourself too! I used to get so angry with myself for taking a benzo as many years as I did. But that anger didn’t help me heal or move forward. It wasn’t until I forgave myself for what I thought of as my weakness or character defects that I began to grow in confidence. Now, I am kind and gentle with myself and of course, others.
I could write a book on this topic! But I’ll keep it simple here. Gratitude helps grow our confidence because we are focused on the good things. We understand that life isn’t fair, it is hard, and that we are going to encounter some challenging times. But when we are grateful, none of that matters! Seriously. You can learn to be thankful for everything. At some point, you will even be grateful that you went through withdrawal because it polished you into a new, strong, wonderful human being.
No matter how awful your circumstances appear, you can find something to be grateful for, even if it is for the very breath in your lungs right now that you are exhaling, or this beat of your amazing heart. Gratitude grows your brain and heart and soul in a very good way. So, give thanks! Be grateful. Look for things to say “thank you!” for, instead of looking at what you don’t have, or what you think is “bad” in your life.
Grow a grateful attitude in everything. You’ll be amazed at what happens.
Nothing helps grow confidence like service to others. Service takes us out of ourselves and puts the focus onto others. We find we suffer far less when we aren’t so preoccupied with ourselves. As we strive everyday to be of service, we discover that we truly are cobbling a life together again. It is a life based on a sound foundation. The 12th step of A.A. suggests that we be of service to others. Bill Wilson, the man who founded A.A., knew that service was vital to mental and emotional health.
I try to be in service everyday, whether through my work or in my personal life. Service gives me peace and serenity. I’m confident I am leading a good life when I put others before myself, and I deflate my ego. I’d be curious to hear what your service looks like on a daily basis.
10. Financial plan
So many of us lost all, or much of, our money in withdrawal. We were unable to work, and the medical bills piled up. Savings were depleted. To gain confidence as you go back out into the world, having a realistic financial plan is helpful. You can hire an expert, or sit down with someone you trust and figure out a financial strategy for the future. Be creative in ways that you now earn an income, or ways to save. Knowing that you have a plan to regain your financial footing will boost your confidence. You may find that after withdrawal, you don’t need to spend as much money on things as you used to. So many of us are so happy with who we are, that we no longer need to practice “retail therapy,” or spend money on things to make us appear “better” or “acceptable” in our communities. We are at peace with who we are, and why we are here on the planet. We don’t need to buy shiny, fancy things to hide our disillusions or our fears.
Create a financial plan that is realistic and that you can live with. Know that eventually you will get back on your feet. You are already headed in the right direction!
I hope that these ten things give you some encouragement and ideas for leaving withdrawal behind and embracing life again. If there are other topics I haven’t included that you want to share with us, feel free to leave a comment.
I promise you that withdrawal comes to an end, eventually. We recover, we regroup and we go on and lead good and fulfilling lives. In fact, many feel that their lives post withdrawal is better than ever! I am certainly one of those people. I love my sobriety and I love being benzo free! Life is sweet!