There are many cures in medicine. Antibiotics cure infections. A cast cures a broken bone. Surgery cures some problems. Even chemo, as nasty as it is, seems to cure some cancers. But there isn’t anything we can take that will cure benzo withdrawal. It’s a wait-it-out kind of a thing. And the wait can get long and exhausting. What can we do while we are waiting to be well? We can do our best to avoid the things that rev up our symptoms or hampers our healing.
Let’s look first at the GABA receptors. It’s thought that the use of a benzodiazepine degrades some of these receptors, essentially turning them off and making it impossible for our bodies and minds to be calm and relaxed. We’ve got damaged receptors that we need to treat with respect. That means we avoid anything that works on GABA receptors, giving them plenty of time to rest and repair themselves. We avoid alcohol, chamomile tea, benzodiazepines, Z drugs, kava kava, kavinace, phenibut, valerian, and any other substances that are GABA agonists.
We also avoid ingesting food (or substances in our food) that cause an increase in benzo withdrawal symptoms. Some of the main culprits are sugar, colorings, caffeine, preservatives, additives, and of course, MSG, which can be neatly hidden in plain sight, called by innocuous names like “natural flavoring.” (You may want to google all of the names that MSG goes by.) Avoiding these things can be easily done if you eat whole, fresh food, (preferably organic) and you drink water (preferably filtered, no fluoride or chlorine.) Gluten can cause a reaction for some people, and it’s thought to cause leaky gut, which can be bad for our brains. If a certain food makes you worse and you can substitute another food to get what your body needs, that’s great because it’s important to get proper nutrition so that we can heal.
Avoid things that vibrate, such as lawnmowers, blenders, vacuums, and motorcycles. Even driving/riding in a car for long distances can bring on an increase in symptoms. (I found out the hard way.)
Avoid drama (stress) while you are in benzo withdrawal. (Avoid it too, once you heal!) We can’t regulate our emotions very well while we are recovering from the damage caused by a benzodiazepine. That means we need to keep a safe distance from people, places, and things that disturb us. Otherwise, we may have an increase in withdrawal symptoms. (This doesn’t mean to live your life in your bedroom with the drapes drawn. It means to be kind and loving to yourself and to limit your exposure to drama/stress.)
Vigorous exercise is another thing that we do better to avoid. Many of us become exercise intolerant while we are in benzo withdrawal. Gentle walking and stretching is usually enough movement for us as our CNS settles down.
Medications, both over the counter and prescription, often make us feel worse. Some are even dangerous, such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics and some pain meds (opiates) when taken in combination with a benzodiazepine. Avoiding unnecessary medications is a good idea in benzo withdrawal. Avoiding unnecessary medical procedures is a good idea as well.
Vitamins and supplements can cause an increase in benzo withdrawal symptoms. People report that vitamin D, B, and magnesium can spell trouble for us. Epson salts baths have even been known to flare up symptoms due to the magnesium.
Avoiding extreme temperatures can help us feel better as our receptors heal. Heat is a trigger for an increase in symptoms, as are freezing temps. Do your best to limit your exposure to harsh conditions.
Dryer sheets, air fresheners, perfumes, and scented candles, and paints can give off chemicals (VOCs) that aren’t healthy for the brain/body. Do your research and find out if you are using products that may be damaging your central nervous system.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s a list to help you begin to discern ways in which you can avoid things that might make you feel worse or even slow down your healing. Some people may be able to tolerate things that are on this list, everyone’s experiences are unique. Do what is best for you.
With such a long list of things to avoid, it may sound as if our lives are very small; that we are unable to do so many “normal” things. In some ways this is true. We can’t just go out and engage in things we did before benzo withdrawal. However, even within the new parameters that we find ourselves operating under, we can live large lives. By that, I mean, we can live with our hearts wide open. We can learn to love more, forgive more, and accept life on life’s terms more. We can learn to be more kind and gentle with ourselves, and with others. If we do those things, our lives aren’t small at all! They are enormous, for those are enormously important things to do. Which brings me to the last thing to avoid. Self-pity. I didn’t do a great job of that in the beginning of my recovery, as you can see by some of my early posts. I also struggled with self-pity during my setback. I was angry at God and the world for allowing me to suffer. But when I was able to maintain a more positive and accepting outlook, I suffered less, both mentally and physically. Avoiding negative emotions is hard in benzo withdrawal, I know. With a damaged brain, we aren’t able to think clearly or have control over our emotions. However, we can do our best to be present with what is, and to embrace life as best as we can, knowing that one day, our suffering will be behind us. We will turn the corner and there will be a new chapter in life waiting for us. And it will be so incredibly wonderful that we will forget this season of suffering.
Please feel free to leave a comment to tell us the things that you are avoiding in benzo withdrawal in order to feel better.