Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy celebrating Christmas and my birthday. But there is one day of the year far more special than the two of them combined: June 23. That was the day I was benzo-free after 18 years on Clonazepam. I swallowed my last dose on June 22, 2011. Today I celebrate TEN YEARS BENZO FREE!

It’s been a wild but (ultimately) wonderful ride. After my cold turkey (please taper, don’t jump off!), my symptoms were unbearable. If you look at the timeline of my blog posts, you’ll see there was a ten-month gap when I didn’t post anything. I was in survival mode. I didn’t know if I’d make it or not. I spent time in and out of the hospital, barraged by doctors with bad advice about my condition. So few are educated about the benzodiazepine injury syndrome. Somehow, I held on, and the days and months, and years passed by. Slowly, I healed. And then, at three years off, I had my first setback. Again, I slowly recovered. Another setback at six years out almost destroyed me emotionally. I mean, how much suffering can a person endure? But endure I did. And the healing continued, slowly but surely.

At eight years off, I was given the gift of the secret to health and wellness, the key to unlocking the mystery of healing. At the time, I didn’t realize the power of it, the enormity of this gift, but I do now. I’ll share it (the four cornerstones) here with you as part of the top three things I’ve learned on my healing journey of being benzo-free. I hope it helps you to unlock your powerhouse of healing.

Strong!  I’ve learned that I am so much stronger than I ever thought. I was put on a benzo for (severe) anxiety and panic attacks, but now that I’ve healed from the damage the benzo caused, I’m not anxious or panicky. I’ve weathered one of the most horrific medical crises, benzo withdrawal. I got through it, one day at a time. Now, I don’t need a benzodiazepine or any other drug to help me manage my emotions. I discovered I’m far more resilient than I knew. 

The Four Cornerstones. The first cornerstone is “Eat Right.” June 3, 2019, I woke up and immediately heard the words in my heart and soul, “You’re done eating animals.” Fear coursed through me. What did that mean for my life?” I took pride in my roast chicken and beef stews. People loved my home-cooked meals! Was I to become one of those crazy vegans? Well, yes and no. So here’s the thing. Whatever that voice was (I call it God), it gave me one of the greatest secrets to healing. Within two weeks of going plant-based, my lingering nerve pain, dizziness, and tingles stopped. My chronic life-long digestive problem mysteriously vanished. (That was *amazing!*) I did become vegan but discovered that vegans aren’t crazy after all. They understand a great truth that the rest of the world is slowly waking up to: plants heal. (There’s more to the vegan story, but for our intent and purpose of recovering from benzo withdrawal, that’s enough to focus on.) 

The second cornerstone is move enough. We need to move our bodies. Not too much, as that can ramp up our withdrawal symptoms, but enough to help metabolize stress hormones and keep us limber and maintain some muscle tone.

The third cornerstone is stress less. For me, the polyvagal theory is the star of stressing less! I teach polyvagal theory to my clients and my support group because it helps us understand our nervous system’s hierarchy, dorsal vagal, sympathetic, and ventral vagal responses. Along with creating a calm environment, avoiding toxic people and relationships, the knowledge of polyvagal theory helps us navigate our lives more healthily.

The fourth cornerstone is love well. When we practice compassion, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, gratitude, and perform service to others, we create more neuronal networks to a part of our brain (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) that allows us to think, feel, and behave in the healthiest ways. 

The three G’s. These little gems are the jewels that shine in my happiness crown: gratitude, give, and gentle. Every day, I look for things for which I am grateful. It helps crowd out the negative voices in my head that like to remind me of disturbing things. Gratitude continues to grow my heart and soul. When I give to others, I give myself a boost of healing energy. It feels so good! When I am gentle with myself and the world around me, peace curls up in my heart and rests there, warm and cozy. 

Ive learned I’m strong. I’ve learned to live the four cornerstones for health and happiness. And I’ve learned the light and love of the three G’s. I am by far, the best version of myself I’ve ever been! Looking back over this last decade, I feel proud and humble. I survived an iatrogenic nightmare injury. I survived and went on to thrive! You will, too.

Consider embracing the four cornerstones: eat right, move enough, stress less, and love well. They are the secret keys to health and happiness. Do your best to be grateful, to give to others and yourself, and to be gentle with others and yourself. And never, ever, forget, that you are strong beyond measure. 

From my heart to yours,
Dr. Jenn