Like An Onion

Guilt in benzo withdrawal is oftentimes like an onion—so many layers and each one can make us weep! Our hearts are heavy with the burden of regrets, wishing we could undo what we did or didn’t do. If you are feeling guilt, know that it is a very common emotion in benzo withdrawal. Know too, that it eventually fades away, just as the other benzo withdrawal symptoms will fade away.

These are some of the things that people tell me they feel guilty about. I thought I’d share them with you so you don’t feel so alone in the emotional quagmire of withdrawal.

We Swallowed The Pill

This is one of the more common causes for guilt. We wish with all of our might that we had turned down our doctor’s prescription. We feel guilty for believing our doctors and having such blind faith in the medical community. How we wish we could turn back the hands of time and never, ever swallow that first pill! But we can’t go back. We must accept that we are where we are and trust that we will recover. We need to have compassion for ourselves. We made the best decision at the time.

Too Slow. Too Fast. Cold Turkey

Guilt over how we managed our tapers, perhaps too slow or too fast, or how we plowed through with a cold turkey, plagues many people. Their minds won’t stop torturing them with thoughts that if they had only done things differently, they wouldn’t be suffering. There is no way to know what our symptoms would be had we done anything differently. We did the best we could to get free. It doesn’t help to look back, but our minds insist at times.

Family and Friends

We feel guilty that our family and friends are suffering with us. We feel guilty that we can’t be the mother, father, wife, or husband that we want to be. Feeling that we’ve let down our family (due to our withdrawal symptoms, inability to work, etc.) can be overwhelming for some, causing a deepening of the depression that often goes hand in hand with benzo withdrawal. It’s good to remind ourselves that we won’t be sick forever and that our family (and friendships) will one day go back to normal as we resume normal life activities again.

Original Diagnosis

Some people confess that they feel guilt over having had anxiety, or panic, or whatever their original diagnosis was that led them to see a doctor. They feel that they were “less than” in some way for having had a psychological or medical problem.

Past Mistakes

Guilt over past mistakes or “missteps” haunt many people in withdrawal. This dark view of our past and of ourselves seems to go hand-in-hand with the doom and gloom that is so common in benzo withdrawal. Some people become fixated on their past, reliving it over and over, like a horrible dream. If we seek medical help, we may be told that we’ve acquired OCD or some other psychological ailment. However, this isn’t likely, as this preoccupation with our “skeletons in the closet” is just another benzo withdrawal symptom. It goes away just as the other benzo withdrawal symptoms go away.

How To Cope

What can we do if we find ourselves stuck in one (or more) layers of benzo withdrawal guilt? We can gently observe the emotions without getting hooked into believing their dire messages. We can remind ourselves through positive self-talk, that guilt is a common benzo withdrawal symptom and will go away as our receptors heal and our nervous systems settle down. Extending compassion to ourselves goes a long way in helping us avoid the doom and gloom that benzo withdrawal wants us to believe.

Practicing love for ourselves helps us bypass the darkness of guilt. It can be helpful to write down positive statements about ourselves and post them where we can see them daily. Daily affirmations of positive encouragement also help. Distraction is also helpful. We can find things to do that take our minds off of the preoccupation of guilt. The mind often follows the hands, so it is good to engage in something that requires the use of our hands. Gardening, painting, knitting, etc. can give us some relief from the guilt, even if for only a little while.

Remember that guilt is another benzo withdrawal symptom. it does fade away in time. You won’t be stuck in that dark place forever. Of course, if you are struggling with guilt to the point that you can’t cope, please seek help. Talk to someone who can listen and love you. Surround yourself with a caring community. Perhaps work with a benzo-wise therapist or counselor. Spiritual Direction is also helpful, as is gentle massage from a trained bodyworker. Some people find that acupuncture can be helpful  (others feel revved up by it). Gentle Yoga, breathwork, prayer, meditation, and other contemplative or energy practices can give some relief. You’ll need to find what works best for you.

What has your experience with guilt been like in benzo withdrawal? Feel free to leave a comment and share with us.