Celebrating holiday’s in benzo withdrawal can be a challenge. We are tired of being sick and yearn for a “normal” day with friends and family. Maybe we’ve already celebrated a few holidays in withdrawal and we are depressed that yet another one will be spent feeling “benzo sick.” I remember counting the Christmases I spent in withdrawal. Each year I’d think to myself, next year I’ll be well. So when the next Christmas rolled around and I wasn’t 100% better, I was heartbroken. So, whether this is your first Fourth Of July in withdrawal, or your third (or more), let’s look at ways in which you can make the day more enjoyable and safe.

One of the things that helped me the most was to lower my expectations. I decided that I could be happy with a very small celebration. I didn’t have to go all out. That helped me cope with feelings of loss and self-pity. If I didn’t have a big day to live up to, I didn’t feel so cheated. Once I made up my mind to celebrate in a more minimalistic manner, I gave myself permission to not do anything I didn’t want to do or anything that I thought would rev up my symptoms. That allowed me to feel more in control, which helped me greatly.

I also avoided celebratory foods that might make me feel worse—things like sugar, gluten, storebought foods, processed foods, etc. I’ll be avoiding hotdogs, storebought potato salad and storebought pies this Fourth. (It goes without saying I’ll be avoiding any alcohol.)

When I was at my worst in withdrawal, I avoided going to see the fireworks on the Fourth. My central nervous system couldn’t handle the crowds or the loud explosions. So I took good care of myself and stayed home. (This year, if I want to make the effort to see the fireworks I’ll be fine.)

Pacing yourself through any holiday is important. You don’t have to keep up with everyone. You can take breaks. I used to go to the bedroom and lie down during holiday get-togethers. My nervous system was so jacked up that I could only handle short bursts of time with everyone. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I just went and did what I had to do to take care of myself. I’d rejoin the party when I felt better.

I never worried about what people thought about my recovery and my needs to take care of myself. I stopped trying to get people to understand how sick I was. I just did what I had to do to take care of myself. If someone didn’t understand, that was on them. Not on me. And I didn’t worry about what people thought of me. Frankly, what others think about us is none of our business.

I put my recovery first and foremost. I wasn’t going to let a holiday celebration increase my benzo withdrawal symptoms if I could at all help it. I hope that you’ll put your recovery first and take good care of yourself. Don’t eat things that you know will rev you up. Pace yourself around friends and family. Don’t push yourself. Take time out to regroup if you need to. And avoid things that are overly stimulating for where you are in your recovery. Above all else, remember that you won’t always be in withdrawal. There will be future holidays where you can do all that you want to do. Do your best to avoid feeling sorry for yourself and instead, out your energy toward having as much fun as you can with the limitations that you have right now.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom. You will be free of benzo withdrawal one day. So celebrate your healing process, for it is happening.