True Treasures of Life
(original post November 30, 2013)
I am sitting here (with my cup of coffee of course) looking up at the mountain which now is brown-grey in color. Just last week it was dabbled in brilliant shades of red, yellow, and crimson. Amazing how quickly things can change. This would be a great lead-in to how quickly withdrawal can change from miserable to wonderful (and it can and does), but that’s not where I am going with this.
As I was contemplating the mountainside and how much I like my morning coffee, the phone rang. It was one of my best friends, Gary. I have written about Gary on some of the forums. Gary is a homeless man I met in the summer of 2007 when I worked in the city. One morning, I was on my break and heading for an ATM to get some cash. On this particular morning I decided to take a different route to the food arcade where the ATM was. As I turned to go through the doors, I literally ran into a guy who appeared to be in a very bad way. “Sir, I haven’t eaten in a long time, could you help me out?”
Gary was now in my life. I very rarely gave anyone cash in the city so I said, “Let me go in here and get some money.”
After I made the withdrawal, I told him that I would go with him anywhere he wanted and buy him a meal. He only hit me up for a couple hot dogs and a soda. We made the purchase and went down to a picnic table by the river and talked. (My break now became my lunch.) I learned a lot about my new friend in that very first conversation. He offered me one of his hot dogs. That spoke a great deal to me about him and his heart.
Over these 6 years, we have had many conversations and spent much time together. We have shared many incredible moments. We are nearly identical in age – so we can share the memories and music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. We have also walked (sometimes crawled) with each other through the most dire experiences which, at times, we have both assumed would be our mutual demise. I could write an entire book just about Gary’s life in only the time I have known him. (Maybe one day I will.)
He would often call me at work, and I would go out on breaks and talk with him and help him out with some money. When I entered withdrawal in the fall of 2009, those meetings abruptly became a thing of the past. Gary had been drinking a good bit during that time and also somehow ended up on Klonopin. He was very aware of what Klonopin did to me so he cold turkeyed both his booze and Klonopin. Boom! Now he was in withdrawal and suffering greatly.
I recall him calling me one day at work shortly before I had to quit. We met at the food arcade which was very noisy. As we sat in our usual spot (which we jokingly called our “office”), we were both shaking and extremely sensitive to all the sounds. That was our last meeting for many months. I became too sick to even go into the city, and he spent his time hiding in the basement of abandoned buildings – too terrified to even go out into daylight.
During this time he would occasionally call me to see how I was doing. We would always “lie” to each other and tell each other that one day we would share a meal again and even throw some horseshoes at the church like we did in days gone by. Neither of us believed that we would be alive to see such days again.
He called me one time when I was right around 18 months off the Klonopin and feeling pretty well again. He was not doing real well, but he was good enough to get a meal. So, I picked him up and we went to an Asian buffet. He was trembling and had to sit with his back to the wall, but he did pretty well. We reminisced a little, and we both expressed amazement that we were actually sitting there and “living the lie” that we kept telling each other when we were so ill. Since then, we have shared many meals together, and we have even thrown horseshoes at the church. It’s a miracle that either of us is still alive and kicking. For both of us to be alive is almost beyond imagination….but here we are. We both survived benzo withdrawal somehow.
As I reflect on my relationship with Gary, I am realizing that the very strongest relationships in my life have been forged by fire that has seemed like it would destroy those relationships but instead has rendered them indestructible. Nothing can touch them. They are untouchable.
During my withdrawal, many of my relationships seemed to end. In reality, they were “put on hold.” For some reason, I have always been attracted to the “downtrodden” and “unassuming” rather than the popular and well-to-do. I think it’s because they are “real” to me perhaps because we have shared similar experiences. We have suffered together. I don’t know.
Most of my friends and I have shared similar life difficulties, and we remain very good friends despite my two-year “disappearance.” But, Gary and I have shared the brutality of benzo withdrawal – a relentlessly agonizing near-death experience that few can possibly know or understand. It’s as though we are one person physically existing in two different places…perhaps a “spiritual” thing. Again, I don’t know.
Our relationship is a precious treasure because we have shared a suffering that is beyond human comprehension….benzo withdrawal. It’s one of the greatest rewards of enduring the anguish.
There is something “supernatural” about the whole journey which, for me, has become obvious as I began to feel well again. It has something to do with the preciousness of relationships and the meaning/purpose of life. It amazes me more and more as I continue on this journey.