How Does it Feel to Have Survived Benzo Withdrawal? GLORIOUS.
Hey there lovelies –
I got up this morning thinking about the Spotify playlist I’ve been putting together for you. It’s got a gnarly theme, so hang tight. It’s not about love or lost love or inspiration or any genre that will make you jig your ass off with delight. It’s a playlist of the songs that kept me going during a drug withdrawal that I swear to Krishna would have made William Burroughs wince. No, really. I wish I was making this up.
So, this morning, I put on Glorious by Macklemore and Skylar Grey and I knew. This would be the last song on my upcoming Spotify benzo withdrawal playlist. This would be the one that would capture the feeling of me not just kicking the drug’s ass (if only there were such a thing), but of me coming out the other side feeling like an Olympian. Nothing will ever be the same for me after going through benzo withdrawal. Ever.
Let me see if I can give you the quick overview in case we haven’t met before. I was a granola, rock climbing, yoga posing, poet type. Never into drugs. Nope. Not me. I would sing the song of wheatgrass and juice fasts before I’d ever take a pill. But my second pregnancy came with an insomnia so swift and severe that my medical doctor made note of it in my chart. “Pregnancy induced insomnia with accompanying psychosis.” It sucked. Those of you who know this kind of insomnia – let’s all just send prayers that those who don’t never have to experience it. There’s a reason the CIA calls any sleep deprivation of over 48 hours an “enhanced interrogation technique.” You’d do anything and I mean anything to sleep. For me, that ended up being a sedative hypnotic called Ativan. You probably know Xanax. Or Klonapin. Ativan is in that family. Take it every night, my doctor said. So, I did. Night after night after night.
What I didn’t know then was that it was—how shall I say—radically, profoundly, life-killingly physically addictive. After a year, I didn’t have a chance. I was a ghost, rail thin and unable to walk a straight line. 100% physically dependent on the stuff. Hiroshima in my skull if I stopped. Thanks, doc.
I wanted to just dump the pills into the toilet, but these medical miracles get deep in the brain. After five months of trying to get off and getting ground down by brutal withdrawal symptoms, I found a brilliant addictionologist. He said if I wanted to be successful, the withdrawal would take the better part of a year. That meant I’d go through an intense drug withdrawal with all the shivering and sweating and puking and seizing for a year. When I compared Benzo withdrawal to the other REALLY BAD drug withdrawals people talked about, Benzos were in a whole different category of bad. The severity seemed to have an equivalent agony, but the amount of time it took was off the charts. Opioid withdrawal often takes a few weeks, depending on how fast you taper. Heroin withdrawal also takes maybe a week until the body is weaned from dependence. For both, there may be additional months that are difficult, but you’re not having seizures in the middle of the night eight months in. You can function.
All told, it took me about 18 months. Each day was a negotiation of how long I could be up to care for the kids until I had to crawl in bed to hold on for the rollercoaster of seizures, nausea, muscle tremors and any other number of bizarre symptoms. After the symptoms resolved, it was another 18 months until my nervous system didn't go off the rails when presented with any kind of stress. Like watching an intense movie. Like working full time and taking care of my beautiful kiddos. Like writing the book about this whole crazy experience that will come out June 2022. Like ... living.
It’s impossible to imagine. Don’t even try. You’ll give yourself indigestion and I don’t want that. Let’s just say it was the trial of a lifetime, and I made it. Yay me. Yay for all the people out there who are struggling the way I did. I send them every bit of love and inspiration that I can. They too are Olympians.
Let’s get back to the playlist.
I’ve always loved Macklemore. I mean, what rapper sings about eating cake or worrying that his man junk is too small? Honestly. The guy has guts and he’s funny as all get out. But he’s also deeply vulnerable—a trait I adore.
So—I've picked Glorious by Macklemore and Skylar Grey as the last song in the playlist. It’s about making it through the darkest of the night and living to see the sunrise. Have a listen. It'll lift you up. And just look at this chorus sung by the incredible Skylar Grey:
I feel glorious, glorious Got a chance to start again I was born for this, born for this It's who I am, how could I forget? I made it through the darkest of the night And now I see the sunrise Now I feel glorious, glorious I feel glorious, glorious
That’s about right. Macklemore’s been there—in a way different from me but not so different. I love that he’s put the feeling of making it out alive and then dancing in the streets into a song. Thanks, Macklemore. You’ve sang my heart and I love you for it.
And for those of you out there still struggling—I want you to know that I’m with you. I’m sending you strength on those dark nights. Also, for the record, I'm sending strength to anyone struggling through any kind of dark night. It's unlikely any of us will escape them. Benzo withdrawal happened to have been mine but you may have lost a child or a spouse; you may be struggling with a chronic disease; you may be wrestling with any number of things I can't imagine. This song is for you.
And I’m going to start sharing my playlist. At the end, when we’re at the beginning, I’ll put the playlist on Spotify. Maybe we can all do our own and share. That would be something.
With all my heart,
P.S. I'll keep posting as I add to the Benzo W/D Spotify playlist. For now, we'll put Glorious at number 15!
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