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!
Dear Jennifer, another wonderful post. I think you are at an incredible place in your life considering everything you have overcome.,..all the trama you have endured in your life and subsequent feelings of being a victim. You seem to have overcome and grown so much more than most could have endured. The saying what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger certainly applies to you….sadly for many people it just makes them bitter and stuck in their feelings of being a victim….so glad for you and your new life!! As for me, luckily this is something I have not had to deal with in my life. I had the most incredible parents and loving childhood free of trama that it set such a good foundation for my ability to deal with future traumas in my life that I probably would not have weathered so well had I not had that wonderful foundation. My life is far from ideal but I will always be eternally grateful to God for the foundation He gave me in my earlier life. When I see all the injustice, suffering and misery in life, it it so refreshing to witness someone enjoying the growth and recovery as you are…..that is my prayer for everyone….to have the strides in recovery that you have had!!!
Hey,I appreciate you Jennifer.I appreciate your words and that i can so connect with you.I am so grateful that i was stripped down raw,to my core,to see the things in myself i was hiding from.Its a gift to be able to to see what needs a little work,and not to be afraid and clear about how we can finally help ourselves.I believe that it got me closer to what i believe and to shed the haunting feelings that needed to be acknowledged and then let go.still in the midst of symptoms but only for awhile or until the healing is done,in the meantime I am so grateful!!
We are so blessed by your insights and inspirations Jennifer. Your title on this post immediately caught my attention… Several months ago I entered into my journal ” go back to move forward “. This I did while asking myself IS THIS WHAT I AM ? Still in this process. It is helping me become aware and move forward to the beauty of all that is. No sorrow,regrets,anger,hate,fear. In the BW haze I see the light, feel its warmth and bask in the radiance of Gods LOVE ! I find it helpful during this journey to ask WHAT WOULD LOVE DO ?
Jennifer you have been a guiding source along the way and again I Thank you !
With Gratitude, Jerry
Thank you, Jenn. During withdrawal, so many past memories of traumatizing experiences, emotional and medical neglect (some life-threatening) bounce around in my head. Some in the intrusive thought variety and some new born. Having had therapy for many years to address these issues, it is disconcerting to have them revisit during such a vulnerable time. I thought I had come to terms with all of it, forgiving and accepting of it. But, I am feeling victimized all over again. I must have more work to do, as it is still festering.
Thought provoking post!
Jennifer, this is such a powerful post, for anyone really – not just those going through withdrawal. It is so hard to be compassionate sometimes, to forgive, to release the past, and not see yourself as a victim to circumstance. But there is power to what you say. I haven’t done it fully, but I’m moving in the right direction. I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe in ourselves…maybe it’s the human condition. I seem to know either two types of people: those who believe in themselves to such a degree they are misguided; or those who struggle with their self-esteem. I never want to rely on a pill again, either. Though withdrawal has been hell, I’ve never felt such…life again. Emotions. Joy. (Along with terror.) But as the anxiety recedes, the joy remains. I’m understanding how you are more at peace than ever. I’m looking forward to that. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can’t wait to feel the sunlight!