The Common Thread to Survival
(original post January 30, 2014)
As we go through benzo withdrawal, many of us are willing to consider virtually anything that may relieve us of even the slightest bit of our anguish. I would have jumped off the roof if someone told me it would help me feel better. Perhaps even worse, I did voluntarily submit to ECT treatment in my desperation. That was certainly not the best decision I have ever made.
We ask each other about other meds, supplements, foods, therapy, different things we can do to find relief, and so on. I tried all kinds of things – some of which helped and some of which harmed. Some of the things that helped me were very harmful to others who tried the same things. One size does not fit all. We tell each other over and over: “We are all different.”
This has become very obvious as I have walked into the world of wellness. I have talked on the phone with many people in benzo withdrawal and spent many hours messaging online with lots of people making the journey. However, the unique “differences” are most striking when I get to sit and talk with someone face-to-face. I not only get to “hear” but I also get to “see.”
I’ve met five different individuals as they have gone through withdrawal. Each one is vastly different with respect to the way they are traveling through benzo withdrawal. No doubt this is a function of many different things: age, gender, previous life experiences, current life situations, relationships/available support, time on the drugs, time off the drugs, what the drugs were/are, genetic composition, personality, belief system, education, and many more. It would be virtually impossible for any two of us to “weather the storm” in the same way. We are all tapestries of different shapes, sizes, colors, designs, fabric, and on and on.
My homeless friend, Gary, and I went through benzo withdrawal at the same time but in different places. We did meet a few times during that period. We both handled it very similarly with the same sort of overall attitude – “It is what it is.” We are almost identical in age and have experienced much of the same nastiness of life in our early years. Life can be a downer. We make the best of it and press toward “the next good thing.” Although he has never taken a personality test, I suspect he is also a “dreamy idealist.”
In February of last year, I met with a young lady in the area (who has since moved away) who is now about 18 months off. When I met with her, she was very positive and actually appeared to be pretty well. She was very accepting of the possibility that this could take a couple years. She is still struggling and has called me a few times for a “recharge” of hope, but she is still very positive. She and I lost a common friend to withdrawal about a year ago, and that wasn’t helpful but she presses on. She has her eyes set on the goal.
This past fall I met with a woman and her husband. At the time, the woman was about a month off Valium and having terrible pain. She was very clingy and unaccepting of her plight. Her attitude was basically – “I can’t do this. I won’t do this.” Over the next month, I heard very little from her or her husband. She seemed to be healing well. Then the wave hit. She was calling nearly every day. She has recently taken a nosedive. The last time I spoke with her was very difficult. She could not get to the attitude of “I will do this. I must do this. There is hope.” I haven’t heard anything for a couple weeks.
Yesterday, I got to spend a couple hours with another guy. Although he lives only minutes away, I don’t visit him as much as one might expect. There are times when he is ”up” for a visit and times when he is not. In withdrawal, there is no way to predict what symptoms will be showing up and leaving at any given time. Visits are hard to “schedule.” There is also the fact that we have similar personalities an don’t want to “bother” each other. We have agreed that maybe we are both just “too nice.” We will both have to work on that.
I have watched him progress slowly. I have seen him when clarity of mind just kind of “shows up” out of nowhere and when the nearly constant pain dissipates for a while. I have seen the opposite happen too. It is very much like seeing a window open and close. It is something that would be impossible for others to comprehend. It is such a bizarre thing.
Anyway, he was feeling like he might want to “do” something yesterday afternoon. So, I picked him up and we went to the gym at the church and shot a few hoops. He clearly has played basketball before. He knew what he was doing. I was impressed that he could do that at 9+ months off.
After we were done, we sat and talked. I could see the physical pain returning. I had considerable physical pain in my own withdrawal, and I am accustomed to “pushing through” pain, but I had nothing as intense as what I have seen in him. I can tell that it’s excruciating at times – not something that can be pushed through or mentally dismissed with meditation or the like. It is “big bad” pain. I have read about such pain on forums. Seeing it with my own eyes gives me a better perspective. It helps me to understand it and “feel” it at some level.
Anyway, he and I have shared our stories at length with each other. His is an amazing story with lots of “what ifs” as is the story of each one who endures benzo withdrawal. Each one is unique. Each one is different in countless ways. Each one has at its core some sort of profound suffering which is certainly a common thread – of dubious distinction, at least while we are going through it.
But there must be another more important common thread if one is to survive the suffering of benzo withdrawal. I have noticed it in nearly every withdrawal sufferer I have sat and talked with. It is the one thing that was etched into my being as I suffered. It was the best advice I received on my journey. For me it was the “It is what it is” attitude. It was the mindset that said, “Yeah, this stinks. No, it’s not fair, and it’s not my fault. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. I will do it or die trying.”
It’s the best advice I can ever give to anyone. It’s the most necessary step to survival, and it is the key to wellness and eventually attempting to right the wrongs.
Without it, we do not survive….acceptance.