The number one thing that helps us heal is time. That’s both the good news and the bad news. Good, in that EVENTUALLY you will put withdrawal behind you and go live your life, bad in that for some of us, it takes an awfully long time, What do you do to hold on when the suffering is so great?

Like ships tossed about on stormy seas, you need an anchor that moors you to safety. My anchor was my garden. On days I was too weak, dizzy or in too much pain to actually garden, I simply sat and watched the birds, bees, butterflies and talked to anyone who walked by. (My garden is in my front yard.) I remember one day when the suicide ideation was incredibly bad I sat and literally held onto the chair arms. I knew that my hands were in a place that couldn’t inflict harm on myself. And I never, ever, ever, really wanted to die. I just wanted the suffering to end. I know if you are in withdrawal you can totally relate.

Having an anchor, a go-to resource, takes the guess-work out of coping. You don’t have to think of something to do on the fly. You KNOW you have something that can help you distract. For Don, our wonderful MadeInPa friend and writer, it was doing hook rugs.

My anchor not only helped me distract from the symptoms, it helped me literally heal some of my core wounds in ways I would have never thought possible. I met hundreds of people, sat and listened to their stories, learned more compassion, and gained a great deal of confidence in myself by living my life out loud, in my front yard. Gardening helps cure depression and anxiety, and working the soil exposes you to a vital bacteria that we need to boost our serotonin levels in our guts and brains.  You don’t have to become a gardener, though I highly recommend you consider giving it a try, but you do need something to do with your hands and mind that distracts. Something you enjoy.

I know how debilitating withdrawal is. I cut my hair to one inch long because I was unable to shower for days and days on end. I was too weak to tend to the most basic of survival needs. But even so, I drug myself out to my garden. It gave me a purpose to my days, instead of just suffering. I loved waiting to see the plants grow and bloom. I marked the passing of time with their blooming and fading. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I would witness so many seasons come and go in the garden while in withdrawal, but that was the path of my healing.

I am still healing. But I am able to live a relatively normal life these days. When I feel crappy, I know to get outside to the garden and find something to do.  I am lucky in that I live in northern California where we can be outside year round. I think of my two dear Montana friends and I know they can’t garden now even if they wanted to. But they can this spring, and so can you, if you want to give it a try. Or maybe you want to do hook rugs, like Don, or maybe you want to sew, sculpt, paint, do word puzzles….whatever floats your boat. Put your whole heart into whatever you chose to do, and get involved as deeply as you can.

The other anchors I used for comfort were my couch and bed. I made sure both were super comfortable. I bought French linens for my bed, a huge expense, especially being so poor from being too sick to work, but worth every penny. My bed transformed from being the place I felt like I was suffering, to  a luxurious haven that cradled me. The couch was not as easy to transform, but I did add a lot of throw pillows and a kitten-soft throw blanket I could wrap myself up in. I used to tell friend I was going to burn the couch when I got well, as I had spent far too many months tethered to it, too weak to even push myself outside, but that desire has passed. BTW, the dark thoughts I had in withdrawal have passed as well. The dire predictions I made about the future were mostly just withdrawal induced.

You are going to heal one day. I can assure you that your receptors will cobble themselves back together. Just like if you fell and scraped your knee, it would heal without you doing anything. So too, with your brain. Give it time. It knows what to do. So while it is healing, you go do something with your hands and mind, that keep you busy. Not much turned off my looping, repetitive, obsessional, horrific thought about death, but it did help to focus my attention on DOING something, like dead heading (no pun intended) or weeding. Sometimes I just dug holes, filled them, and dug them again. I needed to be in motion with some small goal to accomplish. That’s really all you need. A small thing to accomplish.

What anchor will you use to keep you safe on the stormy seas of withdrawal?