In a wave at 12, 24, or 36 months out?
One of the most interesting things I read about benzo withdrawal when I was tapering was the phenomenon of anniversary waves. Why in the world would the anniversary of our getting off of our benzo cause an uptick in symptoms? I’m not sure that there are any scientific answers, but there are a lot of anecdotal stories of its occurrence. I’ve had many clients booking coaching sessions with me lately concerned about the wave that has descended upon them after some time of feeling hopeful that they were healing. When I ask, how far out they are, almost everyone tells me they are near their anniversary date of stopping!
I had them too.
My 12, 24, and 36 months free produced more symptoms. My three year anniversary was more like a setback than a wave. And of course, my six-year anniversary was a very challenging setback! I’m grateful that this year, my 8th year free, didn’t produce a wave. Whew! Our nervous systems do grow strong again, and we become “out of the woods” for waves or setbacks to occur.
Like all benzo symptoms, it is best to cope with anniversary waves (or setbacks) by practicing clean eating habits (one ingredient foods), avoiding caffeine, sugar, preservatives, additives, colorings, MSG, alcohol, meds or vitamins known to rev us up in withdrawal and to get adequate rest. No extensive exercise. (Gentle walking and swimming are good.) We do well to remind ourselves that we are healing and that this wave will pass. A positive attitude is incredibly helpful. Remember, state drives story, so your internal narrative is most likely going to be negative. Simply observe your thoughts without believing them or allowing yourself to be hooked into them emotionally. Your thoughts are no more significant than your farts! Seriously. They are just a body function and in no way do they predict the future. Tell yourself affirmations that are present tense, positive and powerful. “I am safe.” “I am healing.” Etc.
Distraction, gratitude, acceptance, and service to others are all ways in which we can cope with a wave and help our nervous system calm down. Prayer, meditation, yoga, chanting, humming, singing, a creative outlet, etc., can also help our nervous system.
Don’t fear a wave.
You may not get an anniversary wave, so don’t fear that happening. Live in the present moment and know that everything is okay right here, right now. Time traveling to the future usually creates only fear, anxiety, dread, etc. When we worry about the future, we ruin the present moment. Most of our fears about the future never materialize, so we’ve wasted our present moment for nothing, and, we’ve jacked up our already fragile nervous system. Do your best to manage your adrenals.
Becoming an adrenal ninja.
When we learn to manage our threat detection circuitry (our adrenal glands) we allow our nervous system a better chance at healing, And, we improve our overall well-being. This is why I teach polyvagal theory in my Acceptance Workshop, and the Healing With Love workshop. Even in benzo withdrawal, we can learn to work with our nervous system, even if it isn’t working as well as we’d like. (It will heal, in time!) Learning to stay in the moment is a wonderful way to help our nervous system.
If you are in a wave.
Do your best to use all of our coping skills and hold in your heart the knowledge that this too, shall pass. Many of the veterans who are decades out claim that waves are the time when your nervous system is doing some deep healing. I like that notion. It helped me to hold on during some of my more horrendous days when things flared up. I’d curl up on my couch and watch Youtube videos of dogs being rescued, marriage proposals, pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, vets coming home, etc. and tell myself that my nervous system was hard at work doing all it could to repair itself. Know that your nervous system wants to return to homeostasis and is doing all it can to get there! Hold on. You’re going to recover.