Finding a New Normal
One of the great things about hosting a blog and podcast is that I don’t have to think up all of the topics by myself. The ongoing correspondence with each one of you gives me plenty of ideas for my next post or episode. And yet, I still sit here and ponder, sometimes for hours, on what to talk about. At some point, I just have to pick something. Today, that something is “returning to normal.”
So many who find themselves trapped in the throes of benzo withdrawal have asked, “when will I be normal again?” Or even, “will I be normal again?” These questions beg other questions. What is normal? And, is that really the goal we should have? Perhaps we should aim higher.
Most of us took these drugs to help alleviate our anxiety, or our depression, or our insomnia, or some other malady we struggled with, perhaps for years. Sure benzo dependence and withdrawal can be hell, and sure our lives before benzos look damn good from our current vantage point, but do we really want to go back to the life which led us down this road in the first place?
Benzo withdrawal sucks. But in the deep recesses of the muck and mire lies a tiny window of opportunity. And it’s that window that births hope. Hope that we will come out the other side actually better than we were before. And for many of us, we do.
Finding Your Rainbow
Rainbows require two key ingredients to happen. Sun and rain. It’s a very basic recipe. The pain of withdrawal, the mental anguish, the struggle — that’s the rain. The determination you have, the tools you learn, the support you receive, the hope you cling to — that’s the sun. Without both, there is no rainbow.
I know it’s a silly metaphor, but it’s the best I could do on short notice. Most of the greatest things in life are triggered by hardships. Hardships force us to be creative, to find solutions, to learn, and to change our mindset and attitudes. Can we accomplish this change without hardship? I don’t think so.
As humans, we are inherently resistant to change. Our lives are so busy and overwhelming, so focused on the goals someone else set in front of us, that we never take the time to ask the hard questions. Without some dramatic event to trigger change, change rarely happens.
It really is true that if you persist and believe in recovery that you will come away from this stronger, more insightful and wiser. — Anne – Canton, Michigan, USA
The Opportunity Buried in Withdrawal
I see benzo withdrawal as an opportunity (although buried deep in the muck and mire). It’s an opportunity to work on ourselves. An opportunity to improve our relationships. An opportunity to find a new outlook on life. Change can be good. Even a change triggered by something as overwhelming as benzo withdrawal.
Now, please know I am not belittling anyone’s experience in withdrawal, including mine. I would never choose to go through that experience again, no matter what benefits lie on the other side. But here’s the thing. I did go through that experience. It’s a fact, and I have to live with it. So, the only thing I really get to decide is what I’m going to do with that experience.
I have learned a lot: what is really important in life! And to be very, very grateful for my family and friends who are on my side in this most difficult time of my life! — Beatrice – Zurich, Switzerland
Benzo withdrawal can be an opportunity. An opportunity to work on ourselves. There is no magic pill. I think we should all realize this by now. But there is support. There are people to help. There are tools to learn. And there is this amazing, scary, exciting, frightening, loving, angry, safe, dangerous, beautiful, wonderful world out there. And it’s waiting for us when we are able to embrace it again.
Many users have remarked that it was not until they came off their drugs that they realised they had been operating below par for all the years they had been taking them. It was as though a net curtain or veil had been lifted from their eyes: slowly, sometimes suddenly, colours became brighter, grass greener, mind clearer, fears vanished, mood lifted, and physical vigour returned. — Prof. C. Heather Ashton – The Ashton Manual
There is a rainbow on the other side. Sure I still have some symptoms, but so many other aspects of my life have improved. I’m a better person than I was. I’m a better spouse. I’m a better friend. I have new tools, new values, and a whole bunch of new friends all around the world. And I am very grateful for each and every one of them.
You can do this. We’re here to help, and we’re not going anywhere.
Keep calm, taper slowly, and take care of yourself, D :)
Ashton, C. Heather. Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw (aka The Ashton Manual). 2002. Accessed April 13, 2016. http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual.