No one prepared me for the hell that engulfed my life once I started tapering off the benzo I’d taken (for wayyyyyy too many years) as prescribed. My doctor told me I could cut out a quarter of the dose every week and be done with it. What did he know? Not much. Like most doctors, he was grossly uneducated about the dangers of benzodiazepines. I was uneducated myself. I would go on to learn the hard way, of course, but at that time, I followed his instructions.

The fist cut sent me reeling. My head felt as if it was made of cotton wool, and my legs were wobbly sticks of jello. The earth heaved up and down under my feet, knocking me off balance. Nothing felt real or familiar, not even my children. I was stuck wandering aimlessly in some strange house of horrors. The second cut plunged me into a place no person should ever have to visit. From there, my life unraveled until there was nothing left of me. I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I believed in. I felt eviscerated. When I thought it couldn’t get worse, I was cold turkeyed from .625 mgs of clonazepam. I truly don’t have words to describe what happened after that. There is a ten-month gap in my blogging that speaks volumes about that time in my recovery. I was in total survival mode; holding on one minute at a time.

Like so many others in benzo withdrawal, I googled everything about withdrawal symptoms. I posted frantically in benzo buddies, desperate for anyone to tell me that what I was experiencing wasn’t dangerous. That I wouldn’t be forever stuck in the shit show. But it was hard holding onto the hope that others tried to give me. No sooner would they reassure me, and I’d tell myself I was doomed for life, that there was no way anyone could come back from the amount of neurological damage the drug caused.

It took me a long time to see a glimmer of hope off in the distance. What helped me to see that faint glow were nine words: “I am safe. I am healing. I will recover.” Nine simple words reminded my disorganized nervous system that no matter what I was experiencing—burning skin, intrusive thoughts, dizziness, pain, weakness, fear, terror, panic, depersonalization, derealization,  I was safe. I was healing. I would recover. I wrote those words on note cards and taped them to as many vertical surfaces in my apartment as I could. I tucked them into my pockets and purse. I read the words over and over and over again. I forced their truth into my brain that wanted only to scream doom and gloom, defeat.

The truth is we do heal. Some of us sooner. Some of us later. But the outcome for benzo withdrawal is recovery. Our nervous system settles down; GABA receptors repair and repopulate. Eventually, we get on with our lives. In fact, we are so transformed from having had to suffer so inhumanly that we go on to create amazing lives, fearless, unabashedly authentic. We take nothing for granted. You’ll see.

Every day draws you closer to your recovery, so please, keep going. Keep doing all you can to hold on. Remember to tell yourself those nine words that can break through the darkness and illuminate your way: I am safe. I am healing. I will recover. Say those words over and over and over and over and over until one day, you see the glimmer on the horizon and know that they are true.