Discerning Ones
(original post May 24, 2014)
It’s been quite some time since I’ve come here to write. I’ve been trying to get my mind ”in the zone” each day to spend a couple hours in the evening writing my story in the form of a book. It takes a lot of time and energy. I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time emailing, messaging, and talking on the phone to comrades still in withdrawal.
One thing that I have noticed more and more as I communicate with them is how they are perceived by others in their lives – husbands, wives, children, parents, doctors, and so on. What I am finding is that there seems to be no “middle ground” in the minds of those who spend time in the presence of someone in benzo withdrawal. There is either a complete “buy in” by others who somehow see the truth of withdrawal and its suffering or a total “sellout” by others who only see mental illness and a need for psychotropic medication or commitment into an institution.
I have seen instances of someone in withdrawal being completely rejected by friends and family and meeting complete strangers who “see” the truth, understand the problem, and offer help. I have seen (far too rarely) husbands and wives who know their spouse is in an agony that is most certainly benzo withdrawal. They sense the truth. Far too often, it goes the other way, and relationships end because the truth is not seen by the ones whom we expect to see it – friends and loved ones.
As I look back on my own experience, there were only two individuals who “saw” me as someone other than a hopelessly mentally ill person. The first was my friend Jayson who helped me through withdrawal. He had already suffered withdrawal from booze years earlier in his life so he had the advantage of experience.
I would like to say that the other person who “saw” my suffering as withdrawal was a member of my family, but that would not be true. My children thought I needed to stay on meds until they “kicked in.” They thought I had a mental disorder (or maybe two or three as the psychiatrists all told me). Not even my wife was sure.
The other evening I spent some time speaking with a man whose wife is in withdrawal. There is no doubt in his mind that it is withdrawal. None. So, when I got off the phone, I asked my wife point blank if she thought I was in withdrawal during those many months of illness. She said, “I don’t know what I thought.” When translated, that means, “I thought you were crazy as a loon, but I’m not going to tell you that.” I didn’t pursue it. She stuck by me. That’s what counts.
Oh yes, the other person who was somehow able to look inside me in a way that no one else could was the gentleman in the psychiatric hospital who dispensed the nightly meds. He told me that I didn’t need to be in that place or on all those meds. His name was Matthew. There was something very special about him that I sensed even in the pathetic mental state I was in at the time. He will get specific mention in my book. He was the only person I met (of dozens) in the mental health care field who “believed.” He “saw” the truth, and he was a complete stranger to me. He knew nothing of my life story or experience, yet he “knew” me.
As I traveled through the misery of my own withdrawal journey, I would often read success stories of individuals who insisted that surviving the journey was a spiritual endeavor. I knew it was spiritual, but it didn’t feel spiritual. It felt like pure mental and emotional anguish – nothing more – nothing less.
Somehow the suffering and its meaning or purpose are discerned only in a spiritual sense – not only by us but by others. Our intellect and reasoning, no matter how well-honed, cannot grasp all that is encompassed by withdrawal.
Strangely, it’s only a select few who have that discernment, and they are often not even those to whom we are close. In a sense, it’s like a spiritual sort of gift or attribute. Not everyone has it.
It reminds me very much of the scene in “Field of Dreams” where only Ray Cansella (Kevin Costner) and his wife and daughter see the baseball players on the field. No one else can see them.
Those who don’t “see” the truth of withdrawal and its ravages don’t have the “gift” of discernment. I am just glad at least one person could see the real me – even when I couldn’t. His words stuck with me and meant something to me. It was like he “believed in me” when no one else did.              
Discerning ones are very rare. If you meet one, pay attention to what he or she says.
Good to be back.