I drafted a blog post about the path that led me to benzo withdrawal. I shared it with the secret Facebook group I created to help me write my newest book: The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Survival Guide, A Handbook For Doctors, Patients, And Caregivers. The post stirred up a lot of emotions and ideas. It started some interesting conversations. I decided not to post it today as it was written, but instead tell you why I think it’s important that we look back so that we can look forward.

While I was in the midst of benzo withdrawal and everything in my life was messed up, I kept looking back at what had happened in my life that sent me scurrying to a doctor for help and subsequently a benzo. I wondered if my symptoms were withdrawal driven or were they the old me come back to roost because I didn’t have a benzo on board? I thought of all of my past trauma and how it had shaped me into an anxious person. I was terrified of having an opinion, making others angry with me, or making a mistake. I’d get panic attacks out of the blue and would be rushed to the emergency room. In withdrawal, I felt like my pre-benzo self but magnified about a million times. I was sure that I would end up a total wreck, if and when, I recovered.

As my brain and body healed, I discovered more and more that my past emotional problems were no longer an issue. I had had to face such incredibly horrific anxiety, fear, terror, and panic in withdrawal, without a pill or a drink to numb me out,  that I had become immune to it. As I recovered more and more and transformed into a stronger, less anxious person, I sat down and spent time going over my past. I wanted to make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. It was important for me to look backward so I could then go forward.

I discovered that one of the things that led me to take a benzo was my lack of confidence and faith in myself. I looked to doctor and therapist to tell me how to live my life. If I was going to have any chance at a decent future without a benzo, I would have to change. I’d have to trust my inner wisdom, my voice, and my opinions. It was also very important that I realize that my blind trust in a doctor was what got me on a benzo, and I shouldn’t make the same mistake twice and blindly trust a doctor to give me any pills to help me get out of benzo withdrawal. I had to dig deep and find my own strength to gut out withdrawal.

I also needed to look back and ponder my attitudes and beliefs. I used to blame others for my hard times in life. They were the cause of my poor choices, or so I thought. But of course, that’s not true. When I looked back at how often I thought of myself as a victim in life, I knew I couldn’t take that stance with me into the future. Nor did I want to take my hate and anger at the people in my past who had hurt me or let me down. I didn’t want my future to be tarnished with that. I would have to forgive if I was going to live my life without a pill or a drink to cope with my anger or resentments.

I looked at my past and made a compassionate list of the things I wanted to change within myself so that I could live a much better life in the future. I wanted real healing in my life; not just to be numb. I know that one ingredient foods, good friends, caring family, companionship, trust, love, vulnerability, gentle exercise, rest, compassion, kindness, listening, sharing, giving, acceptance, forgiving, patience, humility, faith in God as I understand God, and creativity are some of the things that create health and well-being. I made sure I chose them every day.

The journey through benzo withdrawal gave me the opportunity to learn how to be compassionate and kind with myself. It gave me the courage to love myself. I learned the enormous power of forgiveness, not only for the people who have wronged me but for myself as well. Most of all, benzo withdrawal taught me that allowing myself to feel like a victim is one of the biggest threats to my well-being. I now know that I am at choice every moment of every day. I get to choose how I want to see myself and the world around me. More and more, I choose to see good. I choose to see love. I choose to see God in everyone, and everything. I am no longer a victim. I am victorious! I am whole, living a life of well-being. I am free. I know you can be free, too!