I know, I know, you’re reading this post’s headline and thinking, “Help them through my withdrawal? I’m the one suffering! I need help, not them.” True, you are doing the lion’s share of hurting, but I assure you that your loved ones are not unscathed by your experience. My coaching clients ask me what they can do to help those who are supporting them through withdrawal feel better. Here are some suggestions that may help you help others, without compromising your own needs for help.
- Let go of guilt. You didn’t do anything wrong to end up in benzo withdrawal. Feeling guilty won’t help you to heal, and may even cause an increase in your symptoms. When we feel guilty about our benzo illness, it can set up an unhealthy relationship with our loved ones. We may feel that we have to apologize all the time or to seek approval in compromising ways. That can be draining for all involved. The most loving response for yourself and for others is to accept that you are in benzo withdrawal, it isn’t your fault, and you are doing the best that you can. Trust that you are healing and that one day you will be healed.
- Don’t over share. One of the most common ways we add stress to our loved ones is to share too much about our benzo withdrawal symptoms. Being obsessed with “all things benzo withdrawal” is a symptom of withdrawal, however, we can do our best to minimize our constant speaking about how we feel. It is important to be mindful of what we share about our recovery process with our young children. It’s easy to turn our children into sounding boards and they may not be emotionally mature enough to handle such a role. It’s probably a good idea to vent fears and frustrations with adults. Sure, we need reassurance that we will recover, and we need to know that we are still loved, still valuable, still worthy, etc., but we can get those needs meet without talking about withdrawal 24/7. If I could go back and change how I got through the worst of my recovery, talking about it less to others would be one of the first things I’d change.
- Encourage your loved ones to take some time off. Compassion fatigue is a very real phenomenon. No matter how much we love someone, we all have a limit as to how much we can emotionally bear. Being a care-provider for someone who is suffering in benzo withdrawal is an exhausting and heartbreaking task. Time off is critical to recharging and renewing.
- Say “Thank you!” It’s easy to forget to express your gratitude to someone who is helping you when you are in survival mode and holding on by the skin of your teeth. Do your best to remember these two words and say them!
- Allow your loved ones their opinion. Not everyone who tries to support you will understand benzo withdrawal. Some people may believe that you are suffering because you are tapering or no longer taking a helpful medication. They may not believe in the dangers of benzos. They may think that you just need to think happy thoughts, or get a good nights sleep, or stop worrying in order to feel better. It’s not worth the stress and strain to continually educate or argue with a loved one who doesn’t “get” benzo withdrawal. You can do them a favor by letting their opinions go through one ear and out the other. One of my favorite sayings is rather vulgar, but it’s apropos: “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one, and they usually stink.”
- You can’t control what others think, feel, or do. You can’t stop your loved one from feeling the way that they do about your recovery. Sure, you can do your best to minimize their stress, but at the end of the day, you can’t make them stop worrying. Just keep your side of the street clean (I love that A.A. saying!) and let your loved ones be responsible for their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- Take responsibility for yourself when you can. Wean yourself off of needing so much help/support/attention as you recover. Do the things that you can do, and don’t feel guilty about the things that you can’t.
What’s most important to helping the people who help you is to check in with them from time to time for an honest assessment of how they feel. What do they need? We are so preoccupied with ourselves in benzo withdrawal that we may forget that our loved ones are hurting because we hurt. We may envy their healthy and happy life so much that we can’t see their pain. Or, we may see their pain and feel so guilty for having caused it that we make ourselves and our relationship worse off.
Patience. Acceptance. Distraction. Gratitude. These are the things that can help you to best navigate benzo withdrawal. Hopefully, these things will help you to reduce any negative impact on others who are doing their best to help you.