There comes a time in the process of recovery that every person just has to get on with life, and that's not the easiest thing for me to say. I know how hard it is to motivate yourself when you have two hundred symptoms that just seem like they will never go away. If I had waited to move on with my life until all of my symptoms had abated, I wouldn't have this amazing website, a new music video, or the opportunity to be helping so many people that are really going through the most horrendous things that any person should ever have to deal with. There are still days that I want to have a bit of a pity party because the muscle tension and electric shocks can still be pretty unbearable on some days. Mostly they are tolerable now though, and I have the utmost confidence I will be fully healed very soon.
What I found was, that having a purpose again has actually sped up my healing process. I believe it is true that what you focus on grows, and shifting your focus from your pain to your joy is so very important with all things in life. I would never try to convince anyone in the deep, dark hours of acute withdrawal that turning your focus away from your symptoms is in anyway easy at all. However, it is possible when you just find baby steps that can get you there over time. It just takes a lot of strength and determination. I know that anyone who has the courage to get off these drugs, can also redirect their thoughts into something powerful that hopefully will be the foundation for a new life without benzos.
I have always loved music and have been singing and playing piano since the age of eleven. I rarely missed playing for more than a couple of days throughout my entire life. I played professional for many years and could never imagine having to give it up. From 2010 to about 2016 I was just too sick to do much of anything, and like many of you in the depths of withdrawal, I spent most of my time online looking for answers from other people in benzo support groups when I wasn't in bed suffering from a panacea of symptoms. I read as much as I possibly could in order to educate myself about what I was going through and what the possible outcome would be for me once I was finally done with my tapers. At some points I couldn't even imagine that I was going to live through this, let alone get back to doing anything normal in life again.
There is a progression of healing in the recovery process that takes place in VERY slow increments, and sometimes those increments are barely noticeable until quite a bit of time has elapsed. Then one day you just wake up and realize the worst is over. That day is like receiving a get out of jail free card. I am hoping that in sharing my process a little here, it will give some of you the courage to keep moving forward.
Since I couldn't play music much during this time period, there was an opportunity during 2011 that sort of just landed in my lap. A friend of mine suddenly past away from what we think was an aneurysm. She was a fabulous artist who left behind some amazing animated work that her husband and I came across when I was helping him clean out her art studio. Prior to 2012, I had periods of being able to function relatively well even though my energy wasn't always very reliable. That was before I actually started tapering off the benzos.
Her husband and I found some incredible jewels that even he didn't know she had drawn, and the synchronicity that happened during that time was so crazy that I had to at least go along for the ride to see what was going to happen. As we were cleaning the studio out, all of these amazing ideas kept coming to the two of us that neither of us could explain. We started recording ideas on our phone and labeling pictures with names of characters and scenes from what we were interpreting to be a movie. I had never aspired to be a screenplay writer, but since my music had been put on hold I needed a way to channel my creative juices. I'm grateful that I followed my intuition now, and I continued push forward on this screenplay even though there were many days that I couldn't even imagine what I was going to write about. During the really bad benzo days, I would sometimes just stare at a totally blank screen and wondered how in the world I was ever going to finish such a huge undertaking with my brain in the shape that it was.
After the first year of writing in 2012, Greg decided he wanted to do some traveling and just didn't want to be encumbered with a project that was obviously going to take a lot of time. We parted ways, and I started doing research and joining online screenwriting groups. I didn't have any idea what a god send this project would turn out to be for me, as it gave me some hope that I might still have other creative outlets if I might not be able to play music again. That was huge given I felt like I was in a total vacuum for the next four years, and on the better days it served as a great distraction for me from the horrendous anxiety, insomnia and digestive problems that continued to overwhelm me.
As I look back now, I don't know how I ever managed to finish this screenplay and start two others. I do know that it helped me heal, and I believe that there are many things that you can do during withdrawal that will help the healing process and speed up your recovery time. Even if it's something simple like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, or making a model airplane. Creativity comes in many forms and doesn't have to mean doing something artistic like music or writing. I think the biggest thing is that most people haven't been encouraged to pursue doing the things they love the most in life. Maybe that's why we're all taking benzos. To escape from the imposed sanctions that our day jobs have become in the name of making money and having "stuff."
What I discovered during the time I was doing the first screenplay was, that I could get lost in something where time and space didn't exist, and maybe the time out from the world actually gave me a chance to discover there were better things in life than having money, cars and toys. Not that you shouldn't have these things, but we have become slaves to them in this country. I think that is why we are seeing so much anxiety and depression. We're looking for things outside of us to make us happy, and it's an inside job.
As I progressed through my taper, I started caring less and less about going back to my old life and really started contemplating what kind of life I could create after I was off the benzos. I am still amazed at how I have learned to appreciate the simple things that I was able to start doing again as I got better. Cooking, walking, listening to music, listening to You Tube videos and just sitting by my window and watching an amazing sunset. After benzo withdrawal, it doesn't get any better than that.
Getting back from benzo withdrawal is a process of rediscovering yourself, and if you look at the experience as a chance to grow, you will come out of it with a much clearer understanding of why you had to medicate in the first place. It took me five long years to write the first screenplay, and it may never get developed into a movie which fine. However, it did help me realize that I had other gifts that I hadn't tapped into, and now I know that I absolutely can't settle for the limiting ideas and expectations that others had from me. I have to pursue my creative gifts on my own terms, and withdrawal gave me the strength to do that.
In closing, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to find something you love to do. If money were no object, and you could do anything, what would it be? You just might be surprised once you begin losing yourself in that joy how the strangest things in life present themselves. When you find that something you love to do, it spills over into the rest of the world around you. Before you know it, time will have passed, and this horrible thing we call benzo withdrawal will be over. You will look back and know that it made you a better person.