Further Updates from March 2018
Now I’m nearly six years away from that huge jump into the unknown i.e. stopping benzodiazepine drugs cold turkey after 40 years of use for sleep. That day was to prove the start of crippling anxiety and pain that was to continue in windows and waves up to the present day. I believe this six year mark is the time it’s taken my brain to recalibrate and finally show obvious healing. I’ve fought my way through day by day and through a multitude of symptoms that caused my body to become a relentless torture chamber of fear and agony, sometimes so bizarre that I never even spoke about this or I would have been given a label and packed away to a psychiatric hospital. I’ve prayed for the release of death but my prayer was never answered for which I’m now grateful. I’ve had little medical support and my one trip to an Accident and Emergency Department for acute pain in my teeth and jaw sent me scurrying home to hide in the safety of my bed even further traumatised. The disbelief and attempts to label me as a mental health problem made me realise the awful situation that all Benzo sufferers face if they dare to seek medical help. If I hadn’t understood what was happening to me, even before I stopped the drugs, I could well be still drugged to this day and may not even be alive. As it is I am well and happy and gaining back my lost adult years; my head is clear, my sleep has mostly returned and my motivation and energy are emerging.
Lessons learnt along the way are the subject for another blog as there are so many but my thoughts about recovery are here.....
Recovery is an individual experience and can’t be compared to anybody else’s, it’s unique and personal. It’s also a process that we follow according to our own beliefs, attitudes and values which are formed from our own conditioning and self concepts. The past has gone, the traumatic experience of Benzo withdrawal has gone, our anger at what’s been done to us must be released as well as we seek ways to return to a happy and stable life which doesn’t include the need for a drug to help us through our days and nights. Recovery means the development of a whole new outlook, a new way of understanding the meaning of life and why we have been made to suffer such an indescribable nightmare. We have to let go of that experience but at the same time use it to feed our future and so the years ahead are meaningful and productive. It’s nothing to do with seeking relief for the symptoms any more (although we will have learnt that these have to be experienced and fought without further drugs, including some supplements) it’s now focussed on getting to know ourselves and becoming the best example of that we can be. There’s still a long road ahead for those of us that have been drugged for decades but I look on that road as an exciting time in which I operate in an entirely different bubble of existence as I learn new ways of thinking and new ways of dealing with the normal and inevitable stresses that life brings with it. The upshot is that I have learnt that life doesn’t need a pill to live it but needs a greater understanding of the person deep within us and the limitations and possibilities within that person. Everyone reading this has the potential for complete recovery even if that recovery may not be what they expected. We don’t return to our former selves we return to a higher self and one that has enormous strength, resilience and understanding.
(The photo is from the Facebook Beating Benzos Protracted Group where members over 18 months off benzos and other drugs can discuss their concerns and observations).
The process we have to go through to reach full recovery is extremely difficult for some of us and it's really hard to believe all the pain and anguish are actually necessary for our healing. I learnt that fighting the symptoms just made them worse but trusting in this process eventually led to the healing of that particular system or symptom. There seems to be a commonality in that things can get worse before they get better and therefore when a symptom is particularly ferocious this could be the last time that it makes an appearance. Understanding this can happen has helped me through some of the worst times on my long and arduous recovery journey but it's all been worthwhile to come to a place of peace and freedom.
Over the last three weeks I've had an upsurge of pain throughout my body but worst in my left hip, back and fingers. At first I panicked thinking this must be arthritis or some other equally debilitating disease that was here for the rest of my life. Today it's very mild, almost gone and I feel well and happy. Once I let go of the anguish and trusted that this was just another uptick in the recovery process the pain diminished and I've no doubt will completely go.
I read of so much suffering on the various Benzo support groups that it's hard not to be drawn into the abyss myself. Believing in our own healing has to be the way to go and just letting it happen as it must so we can eventually be free in a peaceful body.
I Should add that the anxiety that has plagued me for so many years now, right from tolerance to the present day, seems to have finally made it's exit from my life. In my last post it was my worst symptom so another example of a symptom ramping up before it's final disappearance (I hope).
I’m now looking at various theories, techniques and so on to try and help me conquer my residual anxiety. After forty years of being ‘calmed’ unnaturally by Benzos I have to retrain my GABA receptors to do this for themselves as they
now have to stand alone, unaided. Anxiety remains my worst and only symptom so this is essential for me to conquer before I can finally be myself again.
I’ve read a lot but don’t want to make a list of all this rather just take what I’ve learnt that’s benefited me and helped me along my final stages of this journey.
We are amazing human beings created from nothing and eventually to return to nothing. But is this really nothing or did we exist in some way before we were born and given consciousness? The most revealing and repetitive answer to this in all I’ve read and listened to on YouTube is that we all came from energy and we all return to that energy. Along the way we assimilate a multitude of habits, thoughts, beliefs, coping systems and so on that make up who we think we are and who others think we are. We are born with no preconceived thoughts we are just a blank canvas of innate intelligence waiting to be painted on through life experiences. Whatever picture goes on to that canvas that innate intelligence or wisdom remains deep inside us and cannot be lost. It gets covered up and may lie buried for a lifetime but it’s still there, guiding us even though we may not know this. It’s locating that inner wisdom that can enhance our lives and overcome what happens outside us in our world. The severity of withdrawal from prescription Benzos has forced me to look into a more spiritual existence.
I’ve called this Blog ‘Checking In’ because this is how I’ve chosen to combine the various techniques and understandings to help me slowly locate that inner wisdom and overcome my anxiety. There are many physical practices that we can learn such as the Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping, Gupta therapy, deep breathing, Yoga, HeartMath and so on but none of these ever helped me to do more than perhaps overcome any hell in the moment, they didn’t last. It's necessary to go beyond these more superficial practices to something that doesn’t require learning anything at all, it just requires that we remain in the thinking and follow the conversations where it’s outlined in books and videos. In fact we just need to listen. This is called the ‘Inside Out Understanding’. We should live our lives from the inside out and not from the outside in. If we just live from the outside we may become materialistic, strive for recognition, and constantly overstressed by life events that challenge us. If we acknowledge that its our thoughts creating our experiences we start to realise the importance of something deeper within ourselves. What happens to us on the outside is reacted to by our thoughts which create our emotions and feelings and even who we are in this world. Therefore every so often, throughout my day, I check in to myself and to what is going on in my body....where it is in space, what position am I in, what am I feeling, what are my thoughts and watching my breathing as I do this. I will write more next time but it takes awhile to understand all this and I know I haven’t yet and this may be muddled but it’s a start for me and helping me deal with any stress as it appears in my life. I will also list helpful books and websites. Thanks for reading my ramblings!
I apologise for such a long delay in writing but my devices were hacked. I have now retrieved some of my data but please be aware that the beatingbenzos email address is no longer available and contact can only be made through my Facebook group Beating Benzos. If you've not received a reply to an email then this is the reason.
I'm now a long way from the start of my journey at 67 months off. In spite of recent stresses in my life and bad overreaction of my nervous system there's no doubt that I'm a lot better. My aim at this point is to help my nervous system fully heal and retrain it to remain calm in the face of turmoil in my life. I believe after decades of my CNS being under the control of Benzos I've failed to develop the coping techniques as I've aged so I'm left in a very 'raw' state. I'm doing my best to help it fully heal rather than waiting around and letting even more time pass. This doesn't involve any special techniques, supplements, diets or therapists, it merely involves me and my belief in myself. I'm going to write more about this another day but just wanted to let you know I'm still here and doing well. My Love 🤗
After writing of my recovery a few months ago and then being plunged into a setback due to an antibiotic I wanted to write something more uplifting today. Sadly, reading through one or two posts in the few Facebook groups I belong to, I see the utter hopelessness of people in Benzo withdrawal and the desperation that comes across time and time again. It does make me wonder if actually reading through these posts can influence our own fragile minds and worsen symptoms. I know how hard it is to remain positive in the face of a relentless nightmare but on the other hand perhaps avoiding the pain of others is necessary to help ourselves. We must put ourselves first in recovery and try not to be influenced by the ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys’ that circulate all the time. This post is one of my awakening to the truth of what’s helped me over time, much of which I’ve written about before.
It’s natural to ask questions and seek answers and it’s natural to seek help through the experiences of others but the one problem with the Benzo syndrome is that there are no sure fire answers apart from ‘time heals everyone’. Now, I’m not one for saying ‘Everybody Heals’ because just like one or two others I have no proof that everybody heals because there’s been no quantitative research into this. As far as I’m aware people heal from benzos if they don’t add further drugs, try to remain clear of supplements and follow their own instincts. At the root of all this is that they must put themselves first. Do what is best for them and don’t be too influenced by what has proved best for a Benzo friend. In other words our bodies and our lives are ours alone and nobody has the same experiences or the same body.
I’m now 5 years 6 months off being prescribed benzos, sometimes more than one, for over 40 years. For some of you that is a lifetime. I also cold turkeyed which is never a good idea. Once I realised why I was so ill (tolerance) I just couldn’t put another pill into my mouth. It was a bad idea and my withdrawal has been utter, unmitigated hell year after year. Look back to Blog Posts/7 and my Recovery Story. However, it’s changing, the setback is ending and hopefully recovery is returning. My symptoms are different, the anxiety has gone and the future is looking brighter. I’m not saying more at present because I know how quickly things can turn around. I want to just list concisely some of the things that I’ve learnt on this journey and what may be of help to anybody else suffering a long recovery.......
- Don’t read the numerous sad and desperate stories out there.
- Try not to focus and write about all the individual symptoms you may experience, just get reassurance that they are caused by benzos and preferably medical reassurance (perhaps pie in the sky!).
- Read as many success stories as you can and talk to recovered people.
- Know and understand that recovery from long term use of benzodiazepines can take six years or longer before the body fully readjusts to a drug free life. Don’t let this scare you but inform you when suffering many months off.
- Always put yourself first and do what is right for you and not what others think is right for you.
- Don’t push too hard, remember your brain and body are exhausted through this and more than anything need rest and gentle exercise not mammoth gym sessions which will rev up symptoms and lengthen withdrawal.
- Take time to rest and meditate every day and listen and read about spiritual evidence for helping yourself. This has been one of my biggest crutches in these final stages. There’s so much out there that points to our healing from within and not seeking cures in the outside world. (Ask me for more info if you like).
- Steer clear of supplements, vitamin injections, herbs, drugs, crazy diets, fasting, miracle cures and any other money making scam of which there are tens of thousands. You are your own healing.
- Above all trust yourself and stop looking for answers as they don’t exist. Once you relax and allow everything to wash over you without a major reaction your central nervous system will start to calm. It’s the constant looking that tends to provide the negative thoughts that we react to. I know keeping positive is futile but keeping a clear, open mind uncluttered by the whys and what ifs is going to help.
- Keep to a few trusted friends to support you and who will not pull you down into their own inferno. Talk openly and supportively to each other and be absolutely honest. Honesty and trust in each other are paramount.
There’s lots more but that’s a start and I will add more over the next few weeks. This process is unbelievably awful, a gigantic Tsunami out of all proportion to anything anyone has ever experienced before BUT it’s going to elevate you to a much higher level. You will be a thoughtful, loving, caring human being and the most amazing friend and partner. Love will colour everything you do and say. You will be invincible.