Recently I was asked what I would do differently if I had to do benzo withdrawal over again, knowing what I know now. What an excellent question! First, I should say that I am not sure would do anything differently because the outcome of my recovery was amazing. I was transformed into the person I always dreamed I could be. I’m not sure I would have gotten here had the road and the lessons been any easier. But having said that, there certainly were things I could have done to have lessened my suffering. I’ll share those with you so that they can perhaps lessen your suffering.
If I had to do it over again I would ignore the advice of the doctor who told me to cut my 1 mg. of clonazepam by one quarter every week. To think that I could get off of my medication in a month was ridiculous. I managed to cut out one half of my dose in that time but it came at a tremendous price. It set me up for the nightmare that followed. Instead, I would have listened to and trusted the benzo community and started tapering very, very, slowly.
I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have up-dosed. Nor would I have cold turkeyed. My up-dose kindled me (if you don’t know about kindling, read this post) and the cold-turkey shocked my brain and plunged me into a hell I can’t even begin to describe. Live and learn.
I would have forgone the hospital stay I had at five-months free, and the one at my three-year wave. The doctors and staff knew absolutely nothing about benzo withdrawal and their care was not helpful and at times it was hurtful. For me, it was a waste of money that caused frustration and hardship.This is not to say that we should avoid all medical care or hospitalizations, but for me, it wasn’t helpful. Instead of going inpatient, I would have asked a family member to take me in and care for me. I struggled with the daily necessities of life living on my own. (I went days without showering, brushing my teeth, and at times, without food. I was too sick to stand up.)
I would not have pushed myself. I taught a class at Standford University when I was two and a half years off. I desperately needed to feel that I was back to my intelligent, creative, confident self, but it was way too soon. I know that may scare some of you to think that two and a half years isn’t enough time to jump back into life. But for some of us, it is too soon. Accepting life on life’s terms goes a long way towards our healing and recovery.
I would not have driven across the country in three and a half days by myself. (Way too much stress for my still healing CNS.)
I would not have invested so much time in looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You know, the magical cure that would either dramatically shorten the time I spent recovering or an instant cure. Nothing takes away benzo withdrawal. Time is the only cure. The body heals itself. I researched, tried various supplements, even other meds, in hopes that somehow, someway, I’d be better. I wasn’t. And often, I was made worse. Much, much, worse.
I would not talk so much about benzo withdrawal if I had to do it all over again. For many of us, withdrawal consumes our every waking thought. It’s a benzo withdrawal symptom, actually, so it’s hard to avoid. However, we can be mindful of how much we share with others, and we can do our best to make space to be fully present for others.
I would have tried to trust the process more, rest, not worry or future trip, and do my best to be grateful for every moment, even the horrific, terror-filled, painful, scary, moments. I’d do my best to roll with the punches, say “Thank you, God,” more often, and be as happy as possible, even in my suffering. I’d feel less sorry for myself, or at least try!
If I could go back in time I’d rewind all the way to the afternoon I walked out of Dr. Robertson’s office with a prescription in my hand. Instead of agreeing to take a benzo for my panic attacks, I’d say, “No thank you. Those pills are poison,” and I’d find another way to deal with the issues that drove me to see him. In fact, I wouldn’t have seen a doctor at all. I’d have found a more holistic and spiritual way to deal with my issues. And, I’d certainly have gotten my ass into a chair at A.A. sooner. My wine drinking only exacerbated my original anxiety and once on a benzo, it increased the side-effects and the tolerance withdrawals.
More than anything, I would have fallen in love myself far sooner than I did. It wasn’t until I truly understood the healing power of love that I began to cobble myself and my life back together again in a way that was *amazing*.
I pray I never have to do benzo withdrawal over again. My setback last summer was enough of a dip back into acute withdrawal that I ever want to experience. But I know that by practicing extreme self-care, the chances of another setback are very slim. My GABA receptors are healing, and my CNS is settling down. I believe that the next decades in my life are going to be extraordinary. Why? Because I’m determined to co-create with God, an extraordinary life. I deserve one. YOU DO TOO! Keep healing, my friends. Keep healing. Life will become incredibly sweet, in time.