I remember turning the key in my front door when I came home from the hospital after my cold turkey from my prescribed use of Clonazepam. The door opened, just as it had a thousand times before, and I walked into my apartment. Everything was just as I had left it the week before, but everything felt eerily different. I walked over to my couch and laid down (a position that over the next few years I’d find myself in so often that I wore a divot into the cushions). “I’ll be fine in a few weeks,” I said out loud to reassure myself. I had already spent eight grueling months in a failed taper. I couldn’t imagine spending much more time in benzo withdrawal than I already had.

Ha. Little did I know.

My recovery would take years and test the limits of my patience, faith, and strength. And I’m not alone. There as many of us who blow past the six-eighteen months “average” for healing from the damages a benzodiazepine can cause. Frankly, I wish that the average would either be changed to reflect a possible longer recovery time; or better yet, do away with a timeline all together. Healing is going to take however long it takes. I don’t like the term “protracted.” It connotes that we “should” have healed but for whatever reason, we haven’t. (It’s hard enough battling benzo withdrawal; harder still to feel as if you’ve flunked it somehow by not healing in time.)

For those of us who have seen eighteen months off our benzo come and go, perhaps we aren’t taking longer than normal. This IS our normal. Perhaps there is something about our DNA, our makeup, our central nervous system that needs a lot of runway. A long withdrawal doesn’t mean a permanent withdrawal. We need to remember that. (Baylissa reminds me from time to time!)

I don’t like saying I’m in protracted benzo withdrawal. I like saying, “I’m healing,” I don’t like to look back (seven years off the drug next month) nor look ahead. I do my best to stay right here in today. And you know what? Today is pretty damn good because I am alive! So are you. No matter how symptomatic you are right now, no matter how long you’ve been in withdrawal, you are going to recover and get on with your life. You’ll even get past the vulnerability of having a setback. You’ll be so busy living your life in full bloom technicolor that you won’t have time to remember the suffering you experienced. Seriously. You won’t dwell on what you’ve lived through. You’ll be too busy living!

If you are still experiencing benzo withdrawal symptoms, know that one day they will fade away. No one stays “benzo sick” forever. You are healing.