For a long time, I didn’t have a forward gear. I was stuck living out the past, over and over, in my thoughts and feelings. I was hardly aware of the present moment because it was tinged with everything negative from my past. That’s how I ended up walking out of a doctor’s office with a prescription for a benzodiazepine. I didn’t know how to move past my past. I thought I was defined by everything that had happened to me over the course of my lifetime.

The benzo that I took, as prescribed, didn’t help me move forward. It just numbed the pain and fear I felt. It also numbed the joy and satisfaction one get’s from life. It altered my consciousness, removed my inhibitions, and turned me into someone I was never meant to be. But I didn’t know it at the time. I was unable to see the difference in my behavior. Now, almost six years off the drug, and I have a much better perspective on my life. I don’t need medication to help me cope with my feelings because I found my forward gear! I don’t live in the past. I’m grounded in the present moment, and I’m able to move into the next moment unencumbered.

Driving alone from San Francisco to our family farm in rural northern Georgia was a great metaphor for moving forward in life. There were many difficult and challenging moments: snowstorms, highway closures, car accidents I passed, severe thunderstorms with torrential rainfall and tornado watches. I got lost a few times, battled hunger and fatigue, and at times, the loneliness was overwhelming. But I kept my foot on the gas pedal and the miles melted away under my tires. Every night when I crawled into bed in a hotel room, I gave thanks for a safe day on the road and then decided to stop thinking about that day’s challenges or scary moments. That’s how we find our forward gear. We make the decision to let go of the past.

Even now, as I sit on the porch of my parent’s house, listening to the birds celebrating the start of a new day, I have let the last week of driving fade away. I’m here, now, breathing in the crisp promise of another day. It doesn’t matter, the past. It’s over. What matters is this beautiful moment I am in right now.  What will I decide to do with this day? Anything I want! That’s the beauty of finding your forward gear; you have more options in life when you aren’t stuck in the past.

You can find your forward gear by letting go of the past. When old familiar thoughts and feelings from the past arise, you can simply observe them, and then send them on their way. You remind yourself that the scary things from the past aren’t happening now. You lived through them, and they are over. You get up and move, if need be, to encourage the unwanted thoughts or feelings to move through you and out of you. You also make the decision to keep going forward, no matter what.

You make the decision to keep going forward, no matter what. When I was driving the last leg of my journey, a severe weather system moved in. I decided to keep driving, even if it meant going at a much slower pace. I kept my foot on the gas pedal. We can do that in life as well. We keep going. We may need to slow down. We may need to take another route. We may even need to rest once in awhile. But we keep going.

I’m so proud of each and every one of you for tapering off of your benzo or being off and holding on. I know how hard the journey is back to health. The long and winding road through benzo withdrawal is fraught with challenges. Keep moving forward. Let go of the past. Let go of the bad day you had yesterday. Let go of the bad hour you just had. Hold on to this present moment. This breath. This heartbeat. Keep moving forward. Up around the bend is your recovery. You’ll get there, just as I got to my own recovery and our farm in Georgia. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment at a time.