I was chatting with someone yesterday who was very distressed and hopeless. It was heart-breaking. I soon realized that so many others are in the same boat as she is. I wish I had an answer to make her pain and suffering go away, but I didn’t.
The factors that can affect our experience through withdrawal are endless. How is our attitude? Do we have a positive outlook? What’s our anxiety level? How about our physical health? Do we have a good doctor to help us taper? Do we have other mental difficulties? Are we on other psych meds? Have we tried to withdraw before? Do we have a good doctor to help us withdraw? Do we have a support system? Or, as was the case with this woman, are we all alone?
When I went through withdrawal, I suffered and struggled just as so many of us do. Since I’m still in protracted withdrawal, some of that is still going on. But one thing, above all others, made my experience bearable. I had a support system. I had medical professionals, friends, family, and a loving and devoted wife. Oh, and my dog. Don’t forget Bear. Anyway, I was incredibly blessed to have all of these people (and animals) in my life. But that is not the case for everyone. I can’t imagine what going through benzo withdrawal would feel like if I were truly all alone.
So, my conversation with this woman gave me an idea for this blog posting. I dug around in my drafts and found a chapter I wrote for my book which didn’t make it into the final version. It was all about preparing to withdraw including sections on stabilizing, taking charge, educating yourself, developing your tools, building your team, and setting your boundaries. In the section on building your team, I laid out four areas where we all may need support: Personal, Community, Medical, and Financial. I decided to share with you the “personal support” topic for today’s news post. I realize that it may not help those who are all alone and in protracted withdrawal, but perhaps it might help a few who are just starting out and can prepare to make their experience just a little bit easier.
This following excerpt is written in the Q&A format of the book, “Benzo Free.”
Tell me about personal support?
Personal support can be a spouse, partner, friend, family member, or even a devoted acquaintance. Sometimes a mix of all the above.
The primary requirement here is to have people in your life that you can rely on. I was lucky. So incredibly lucky. I have a loving wife who also happens to be my best friend. She has provided me with unyielding love, support, and friendship. She allowed me time to heal and struggle when I needed to but also provided me a kick-in-the-butt when I needed to get off my ass and get on with my life. She even read “The Ashton Manual” from front to back so that she would better understand my experience and what I was going through. I am so very blessed, and I know it.
In addition to my wife, I had a collection of family and friends to support me in this endeavor. My parents were amazing. Even though they are in their 80s and my dad is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, they have been there for me day in and day out. And my best friend (outside of my marriage), a counselor at a community college in Kansas City, provided constant wisdom, kindness, and friendship over many difficult years.
What if you don’t have someone?
That is a tragic, and far too common situation. Especially with people struggling with benzos.
I understand that not everyone has someone in their life who they can truly rely on. Still, it is good to see if you can find someone to help. Perhaps it is just a neighbor who can do a little shopping for you on those days you can’t get out of bed. Perhaps it is a friend from work who can help you keep up with the latest demands from your boss. Perhaps it is a family member in another state who is willing to lend-an-ear on the phone when you just need to hear another’s voice. Perhaps it is all the above.
Relationships are critical to human health and happiness. In benzo withdrawal, this is even more important. Unfortunately, the withdrawal itself can make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship for several reasons. Just at the time when we need it most. But that is no reason to give up.
But I’m pretty much a loner. Are relationships really that important?
A 75-year Harvard study found that relationships are the single most important key to happiness. And yet, social isolation is currently on the rise. About a third of Americans aged over 45 say they are lonely. In fact, half a million Britons over the age of 60 usually spend each day alone. And this doesn’t bode well for our health. According to an article in the New York Times titled “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” the author notes that “isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions.”
I am not good at making friends. I was, back in school, but not so much anymore. I do my best to reach out to my wife and try and tell her how much I appreciate her every day. But as for others in my life, well, there I struggle. My closest friend outside of my marriage lives in another state. I have lived in Colorado for almost twenty years now and I still haven’t made a new friend even remotely as close as the ones I formed in my youth. Perhaps this is common, I don’t know.
Regardless of your current situation, friends don’t come along out of the blue. You need to put effort into it. With relationships, you definitely reap what you sow. If you want to know something you can put effort into that might reap the greatest rewards for both your psychological and physical wellbeing, it would be hard to beat time spent on your relationships.
And remember, relationships require patience. I listen to people on the benzo boards sometimes complain that the people in their lives don’t understand what they are going through. And they are right, they probably don’t. So, help them. Try and have as much patience with them as you want them to have with you. Caregiving for someone going through benzo withdrawal can be an arduous process. Have patience for them. Take what you can get and try to treat the people in your life with kindness. You need them, trust me.
And don’t rely totally on the Internet for all your interactions. While it is a great source of support and caring from the benzo community, it cannot replace face-face communication. We are humans, and we need direct human interaction. We need dialog. We need to see people we are speaking to. And we also need touch. We can’t get those things online, we need them directly in our lives.
Have you ever noticed what a warm hug from a friend or family member can do to your stress levels? It’s amazing, The stress can just pour out. I know that all this relationship talk is making some of you uncomfortable. I get that. If social phobia is an issue for you, then absolutely know your boundaries and make those work for you. But find some way to develop and enhance relationships in your life. It just might save it one day.
So, if you are preparing to withdraw from benzos, perhaps now is the best time to shore up your current relationships and maybe even create a few new ones. It can’t hurt, trust me.
Withdrawal can suck, but having people to help you through it can make a world of difference.
D E Foster
Khullar, Dhruv, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” NY Times, December 22, 1026, accessed January 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html.
Smith, Emily Esfahani, “Friend Zone: Why We All Long to Belong,” Guardian, January 15, 2017, accessed January 15, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/15/friend-zone-why-we-all-long-to-belong.
Wikipedia, “John Donne,” last modified April 1, 2018, accessed April 13, 2018, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Donne.
Not Medical Advice – Information presented on Benzo Free and in the Benzo Free News Blog is not medical/health advice. It is strictly for informational purposes only. Withdrawal, tapering, or any change in dosage of benzodiazepines or any other prescription drugs should only be done under the direct supervision of a licensed physician.
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