The benzo community has seen many trends in the last  twelve years.  A decade ago, the focus was on the MTHFR gene mutation. Was it the driver of our symptoms? No. It wasn’t. But that didn’t stop people from gobbling down methyl folate, hoping it would cure them. (I tried Deplin, the FDA-approved ‘foodceutical’ with disastrous results.) The GAPS diet was promoted for a while, promising that bone broth would heal our gut, even though there are no scientific studies to back up the claim; however, there are studies that show that bone broth can contain high levels of lead, including bones from organic farms. Next, DNRS training swept through the community. It wasn’t the cure, either. Nor was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, vagal tone exercises, NAD infusions, or any other treatment the medical community or alternative health community suggested. There are no known cures for benzo withdrawal/BIND. But that doesn’t stop people from promoting various supplements or programs, claiming that without their special pill, potion, or program, benzo injured people won’t heal. And that’s just not true!

Benzodiazepines have been on the market since the 1960s. People have been healing for decades without any special interventions. Of course, there are things we can do to stack the cards in our favor to heal as quickly as possible and to live the rest of our lives healthier and happier. I’ve been an advocate for those things for years.

The four cornerstones of well-being for all humans are: eat right (whole-food, plant-based), move enough, stress less, and love well. All four cornerstones work synergistically to heal the gut microbiome (our health rests on the health of our gut), strengthen the immune system and the gut-brain axis, reduce inflammation, promote vagal tone, and increase our overall health and happiness. The first three cornerstones are self-explanatory. The fourth cornerstone, love well, is the one most likely to be misunderstood. But it is a powerful way to break the chain of negativity that fuels chronic hyper-arousal of the nervous system, resulting in stress-related illnesses like mitochondrial dysfunction and symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, etc. Is it a cure for benzo withdrawal? No. But it does improve our overall health and well-being.

The fourth cornerstone, love well, is made up of beliefs and actions that are accessed when we are in the ‘connect’ state, a parasympathetic ventral vagal response. The connect state is our default state, where we are the healthiest and happiest. (It is an outward focus, opposite of the ‘protect ‘state, which is an inward focus.) Caring, compassion, kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, service to others, awe, wonder, generosity, curiosity, and grace are a few of the ways in which we practice the fourth cornerstone. These ways of being in the world rewire our brain and nervous system, helping us to heal in so many ways. There are programs you can buy that teach you to retrain your thoughts or to visualize to help you rewire your brain, and these are good tools, but in my humble opinion, they only scratch the surface. It is the deep dedication and practice of being love in the world, that truly changes us for the better. This is why I share so much about the fourth cornerstone in my coaching and in my support group.

One of the ways in which ‘loving-well’ helps us is it creates more neural real estate in the uncinate fasciculus (meaning hooked-shape nerve bundle). The uncinate fasciculus serves as a neural highway in the human brain, linking key areas of the limbic system (threat detection) to areas of the prefrontal cortex (executive functioning). This white matter tract facilitates communication between these different brain regions. The uncinate fasciculus helps us recover quickly from emotional reactivity and helps us turn towards our challenges instead of running away from them. Why are these things important? Because they can help us break the chain of negativity that fuels chronic hyper-arousal of the nervous system, resulting in stress-related illnesses.

One of the trends currently in the benzo community is a focus on rewiring the brain. It’s a good focus, but again, it’s not the cure. Please be wary of any promises made that a special program will heal you. Or that you must overcome trauma with a special program in order to heal. I’ve seen many disappointed people; some pushed to the brink of despair when the program they used didn’t magically erase their benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms. Remember, people have been healing for sixty years without fancy brain-training courses.

The four cornerstones aren’t a cure, but they do help us to heal. They work on our body, mind, and spirit— not just on rewiring our brain or retraining our thoughts. They are a holistic approach. They helped me become the best version of myself: sober and healed from my past traumas, anxiety, and panic, and I am so grateful!

I hesitate to mention this, but I feel I need to clarify a few things. I hear the gossip in the benzo community, and some of the things that are being shared about my coaching are disappointing and incorrect.  I’ve NEVER said that someone will not heal if they don’t eat a whole-food, plant-based diet. Nor have I said that I will only work with people who go plant-based, or embrace the four cornerstones. I work with anyone who is suffering from benzo damage. The bottom line is, I’m passionate about helping reduce suffering in the world. Teaching people about embracing the four cornerstones is a powerful way to do that. What my clients decide to do with the information is up to them.

We will unpack the practice and power of gratitude on Friday, September 1, in my support group at 9 a.m. Pacific. Gratitude is one of the heavy hitters of the fourth cornerstone, helping us prune neural connections to the reactive region of the brain and add more networks to the executive functioning region of the brain. In other words, break the negative feedback stress cycle that rusts us from the inside out. Gratitude can help reduce the stress that causes gut dysbiosis, improve sleep and moods, and boost immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and lower our risk of disease. Gratitude has been shown to increase activity in the uncinate fasciculus— benefiting it possibly due to the fact that gratitude helps improve emotional regulation, focuses on the positive, and creates healthy connections with others.

If you’d like an invitation to be a one-day guest for the gratitude discussion, please contact me with the form below. Keep healing!