People ask me what is left of withdrawal as I close in on four years free. Everyone wants to know to what extent I feel healed. I don’t really know how to calculate that, but I’ll try. On good days when I don’t have much muscle or bone pain, or weakness, fatigue, or dizziness, I feel about 80% or more healed. I have never had a full day of zero symptoms, however. I only get a few hours where I feel pretty darn good! Mornings are still a challenge in that I feel so tired, sluggish, in pain, head pressure, weak, woozy, etc. By the afternoon, I usually feel better. On “bad” days, I feel I’m about 60% healed.
What has gone away is the crushing anxiety, depression, fear, paranoia, panic, terror, existential angst, and all the other crazy bizarre emotional/mental/spiritual symptoms that are the hallmark of benzo withdrawal. I rarely feel anxious, and when I do, I know how to cope with it until it passes. Anxiety is a natural human emotion and is not an indication of some “disorder,” weakness of character or some other nonsense people/doctors may want to label it. Many of us found our way onto a benzo because we had anxiety. Many of us had high ACE scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences) that set our nervous system to a higher level of sensitivity than others. This still does not make our anxiety a “disorder.” It means simply that our nervous systems were influenced by outside circumstances. The good news is that they can be influenced to regulate themselves better. Those of us who are sensitive or high-strung may always have a propensity for that, but we don’t have to live our lives on the edge of our seats though. I do not battle my old pre-benzo anxiety. I wish that my doctor had never put me on a benzo and had given me alternative ways to cope with my anxiety. But that is water under the bridge.
Will the remaining body symptoms go away? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve briefly spoken to a man who is 23 years benzo free. He was one of the pioneers way back before there was information on the internet about benzo withdrawal. He still has some body symptoms. I know Dr. Reggie Peart had a few lingering symptoms at 16 years free that he claimed he could integrate into normal life. What those were, I can’t tell by reading his bio. I am not sure that all of us heal 100%. I do believe the anxiety/fear/terror and all of that horrible stuff does go away. I believe we can all embrace life fully and deeply at some point. I know I am. I just have to be very aware of my stress levels and I have to take extremely good care of myself. I follow the paleo diet to a fault. I sleep when tired. I don’t invite drama into my life. I avoid people who like to argue, or complain all of the time, or in other ways be emotional vampires. I set healthy boundaries. I don’t expect myself to be perfect anymore. I don’t stress over my looks, wardrobe, possessions, etc. The biggest thing I have done for my recovery is to become fully reliant on God. It has made all the difference in the world to me, and it has given me a peace and comfort that is hard to describe. I don’t worry much anymore. When I do find myself in worry, I stop, and I focus on love, kindness and compassion. I let those feelings wash over me. I can’t be in two places at once, so the love usually wins out and the worry fades away.
What can you do right now today if you are still in the thick of withdrawal? You can simplify your life to the best of your ability. Make room for yourself to heal. Let go of stressors. Eat healthy. Cut out grains, they really are bad for our gut. It’s been proven that “leaky gut” is a real phenomenon that causes a host of health problems. Rest when you are tired. Distract as much as possible. (I still garden as much as I can!) Take walks. Spend time in prayer talking to God and listening. (Don’t just use prayer as a time to beg for healing.) Find a way to be of service to others, even if it is just a simple phone call to give hope to someone else. Learn to listen with your whole non-judgemental heart. Be patient and have hope.
I have not given up the hope that I will heal more. I have given up the expectations and I accept whatever happens will happen. I accept my life today as a precious gift. It may not be perfect, it may not be how I imagined myself at 57, but it is my life and I am grateful I am still here on the planet.
So, that is what is left of withdrawal two months shy of 4 years off. I feel good emotionally/mentally/spiritually. My body still isn’t 100% and may never be. I don’t know to what extent it will heal more, but I accept the symptoms that I still have and am living a life full of love and gratitude. I know that from here on out I must take exceptionally good care of myself with diet, exercise, sleep, rest, hydration, prayer, gratitude, healthy boundaries, healthy relationships and acceptance. Whatever the future will bring, it will bring. I will face it head on with God. That’s the best I know to do.