Three years into my recovery from benzo withdrawal (June 2014), I experienced a setback brought on by plowing back into life too quickly. I had taken on the responsibility of teaching a class at Stanford University on the neuroscience of creativity; it was too much stress on my nervous system. My symptoms were horrible, in fact, so horrific that I spent a week in the hospital. A few months later, I began to feel a bit better. Not healed, but better. As symptoms lifted, I decided to rent a camper and drive across the USA to give hope to others in benzo withdrawal. I began that journey in early January 2015. I made my way across the southern states and eventually stopped at our farm in northeastern Georiga to visit my parents. The three of us drove to Ponte Vedra Beach to hunt for fossils that wash up on the shore, a rather esoteric family tradition that has been ongoing since I was a child.
I was happy to be there, but walking on the beach made my head symptoms increase; tingles, pressure, and disequilibrium. I tired quickly; my legs felt like wet noodles. But I managed to enjoy my time with my parents.
Fast forward to May 2017, and I was once again at Ponte Vedra Beach with my parents to hunt for fossils. That time, walking the beach was easier. I’d get a sense of disequilibrium from bending down so often to pick up a fossil, but it wasn’t anything that genuinely bothered me. Sometimes I’d get tingles, but again, nothing that was disturbing. I thought I was pretty much healed.
October 1, 2021, back again at Ponte Vedra Beach with my parents. My sister flew in from California to join us. There weren’t many fossils on the beach this visit, but we didn’t care. Being together as a family was what mattered. I walked the beach for long periods, listening to the gentle waves. On this trip, there were no benzo symptoms, and my stamina had greatly improved. My parents even commented about how strong and healthy I was compared to the last times I’d been with them.
The seven-hour drive back to our farm in Georgia gave me time to reflect. I pressed the memories of the week to my heart, cherishing the time with my ninety-one-year-old parents, knowing that this could have been our last beach trip together.
I’m writing this post a few days before I fly back to San Francisco. I’ve been here at our farm for almost three weeks, helping my parents. I am grateful that I have recovered and can be of assistance to them. I am thankful that my nervous system can handle the emotions that arise from the knowledge of where my parents are in their lifespan. The journey of healing from benzo withdrawal gave me the opportunity to learn how to cope with stress and anxiety and to be present to all that is.
I no longer need a drink or benzo to cope with life. My recovery is complete: I am healed from benzo withdrawal and recovered from my pre-existing anxiety. Life has never been sweeter, even when it’s bittersweet, as it is now, with my aging parents.
Life is precious. Keep going. Keep healing. You will get here. I promise.