Questions plague every one of us who experience benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome (BWS). Incessant, unending questions. As for me, I am also ADHD, which created a perfect blend of fear, anxiety, and a hyperactive mind. All these questions, and so few answers.
That’s why I wrote Benzo Free. I had all these questions and I was obsessive about research. Eventually, it became a book. Your path will most likely be different, and that’s good. You have to find your own way through this maze of uncertainty. But I have faith, you will find it.
One of my struggles, even back when I just started to taper, was figuring out my position on things. The benzo community — much like the world around us — is rife with controversies. We are a very diverse group of people, and we all have our values and beliefs.
Unfortunately, these controversies can cause stress and often leave us in a state of bewilderment and anxiety. We desperately want to find the truth amid all of this posturing and yet we sometimes feel attacked by other members of our own community just for asking an innocent question. We can get into heated debates about doctors, big pharma, alcohol, caffeine, supplements, antidepressants, exercise, length of withdrawal, stages of withdrawal, Ashton, detox, and so much more.
Let’s take a look at one of these topics just as an example. Here are actual statements (somewhat paraphrased) I have heard or read over the last five years regarding the terminology we should use to define this illness.
What do we call this illness?
It’s called “Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome,” or “BWS.”
No, it’s just “withdrawal syndrome.” Drop the “benzodiazepine.“
Not if you are protracted. Then it’s “PWS” or “Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome.”
It’s actually “post-withdrawal syndrome,” or sometimes, “prolonged withdrawal syndrome.”
It’s not a syndrome. It’s real. Benzos are highly addictive drugs.
Never use the word “addict” or “addictive.” Ever. It’s offensive. Instead, say “dependent.”
Don’t use “dependent.” It’s inaccurate. Say “physiological dependence.”
It’s not really “psychological dependence.” If you have to label it, it’s “neurological damage.”
No, no, no. It’s all part of “somatic symptom disorder.” But it doesn’t really matter; I don’t think I’ll ever find recovery.
You’re an idiot. I’m not in “recovery.” I’m not “drug-seeking.” That’s what you call addicts.
Don’t say “drug-seeking,” instead it’s “non-medical use.”
What if you are an addict? I’m dependent and addicted. What about me? Where do I go for help?
Okay, so I guess you get the picture. Some of those above statements are held as gospel within the benzo community — and for a good reason. Using the right terminology is important, and we need to work towards agreement if our message is to be heard. And debates on these topics is good and healthy. How else are we going to disseminate the truth without talking about it? But until we come to an agreement on universal terminology, or any other topic of debate, where does that leave the rest of us?
Finding Your Balance
As a patient in benzo withdrawal, struggling to decipher the overwhelming gluttony of opinion can be very distressing. How do we find our way through the minefield when we can barely get out of bed in the morning? Here are five tips which I found helpful in finding peace with the informational overload during benzo withdrawal:
1) Trust Your Gut
Use your own common sense. While our minds can often play tricks on us during this time, and make the world seem exponentially worse than it really is, we still can rely on our rational mind. Research, evaluate, use trial and error. Find what works for you. Track your personal results in a journal (trust me, this comes in very handy). Experiment to discover your own personal truth.
2) Read the Boards with Caution
The benzo discussion boards can be a wealth of information during withdrawal. Unfortunately, they can also be a source of anxiety, worry, and conflict. Avoid them, use them, that is up to you. But if you do visit them, do so cautiously. Pay attention to your mood and symptoms after visiting them. Sometimes it’s good to disconnect and let yourself heal.
3) Use Reliable, Evidence-Based Sources
Accurate, proven information can seem impossible to find sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be. Sites like Benzo Free, Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (BIC), the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices, and of course the Ashton Manual are evidence-based resources. Sure, we all have opinions and will share them with you on occasion but we strive to make sure that the information we provide is well researched, cited, and backed by science.
4) Avoid the Extremes
If someone offers you the “miracle cure” or tells you “this is the worst thing you can do/eat/drink/think/etc. during withdrawal,” perhaps it’s a good idea to be a bit skeptical. Beware of the extremes. Yes, there are things that most people should avoid during this time, but only a few. Might there be a miracle treatment right around the corner? Perhaps. But until there is, I’d stick with what’s been proven.
5) Find Acceptance
Am I mad at what happened to me? Sure, sometimes. But not as much as I used to be. For the most part, I’ve accepted my condition and learned to live with it. I don’t believe anyone deliberately and intently tried to harm me. Was there some negligence at play, perhaps, but not as much as my bitterness would have liked to have believed. It happened, and I have to live with it.
If you were prescribed benzos long-term, like so many of the rest of us, then you have every right to be angry at those who did this to you. Feeling that anger and experiencing it is healthy and natural. But, if you’re clinging to that anger over time, unwilling to let it go, then you are most likely only hurting yourself. Find a way to process those feelings and let them go. Your body and mind will thank you.
The benzo community is no different than any other. While we may have a common message and goal, we still debate the details. And that’s okay. But don’t let the confusion or conflict add to your strife. Find tools and resources which help you, avoid those which add stress, and in the end, trust yourself. This is your journey, and no one else’s. Take charge and lead the way.
Keep calm, taper slowly, and take care of yourself, D :)