After acute withdrawal, some former benzodiazepine users experience protracted withdrawal, an unpredictable process that can last from months to years. During this period, it’s important to build a strong support network to help you feel understood and make sure you have someone to fall back on at any moment. By reaching out to close friends and family, getting involved in peer groups, and establishing clinical supports, you can line your road to recovery with support and ultimately help yourself through the healing process.
At times I felt burning pains within my muscles, and on some days my body would ache to the point that I didn’t want to get out of bed. But what really got me was the feeling that pins and needles were prodding my skin from the inside out, like I was sick, and the sickness was trying to tear its way out of my body. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
Dan is no stranger to addiction—he’s had past affairs with drugs like cocaine and heroin, and he thought he knew what to expect when he prepared to face benzodiazepine withdrawal. Yet unlike cocaine and heroin, where symptoms gradually fade away and the worst is usually over after the acute phase, benzodiazepine withdrawal is a different story—there’s a chance that you’ll have another obstacle waiting for you afterward, one that Dan now knows all too well: protracted withdrawal.
Acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms tend to surge up and down in waves, with small windows of peace where you might start to think that it’s all over… only to be swept right back into the storm. But to make it through these hardships, only to find out that you might have to deal with months, even years, of anxiety, depression, and strange sensory symptoms is a devastating feeling that only those who have experienced protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal will understand.
Finding the right treatment program to get you started is vital, but another thing that will help you immeasurably through this frightening time is a strong support network—your family, loved ones, therapists, peers. Support networks, in whatever form they take, can make you feel understood, can quell your fears and reduce the stigma that you feel about your addiction by giving you an outlet to talk about how you’re feeling—without judgment. They give you a constant connection to people who understand what you’re going through, respect you, and can be there when you need them to remind you that you are healing, no matter how broken you might feel in your lowest moments.
Start by Reaching Out to Close Friends and Family
If friends and family don’t know what you’re going through, they won’t be able to help you. Reach out to the people closest to you, the ones you know will support you, and tell them that you need someone to listen to you and make you feel heard. Be honest about everything you’re feeling, whether that’s fear, anger, or pain, so that they can understand your state of mind and give you open ears to express yourself. Protracted withdrawal can make you feel damaged beyond repair, and that’s why you need your loved ones by you to remind you that you aren’t. The reality is, no matter how painful your symptoms are, they are signs of recovery, and you are getting better. It can be hard to remember this on your own, so keep your loved ones close so that they can act as reminders for you.
Find a Peer Group to Get Involved In
Every treatment center and hospital offers and can suggest peer groups for people struggling with all kinds of addictions and mental health issues, including benzodiazepine withdrawal. Being surrounded by people that don’t understand or empathize with what you’re going through can be isolating, and isolation can make what’s already a scary, difficult experience even more frightening. It’s important to surround yourself with other people that are going through the same experiences as you, as it will help you feel accepted and understood. These feelings create a sense of validation that can give you the strength to face your withdrawal head-on, month after month. These are people that are working on the same things you’re working on, and struggling with the same symptoms that you are, and working through these struggles together will create a sense of belonging that can make the recovery process more manageable.
Don’t Forget About Your Clinical Supports
Continued therapy is a cornerstone of recovering from protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal, as sometimes symptoms can linger for years. Part of that is having a system in place that allows you to receive clinical support even outside of regularly scheduled therapy sessions. The continuing care plan from your initial treatment center should include setting up a network of therapists, psychiatrists, and local mental health clinics. Your program should also offer alumni support, where you can keep in touch with them after treatment, further adding to your clinical support network.
Once you’ve established this clinical network, create a safety plan with them for situations outside of the clinical setting where you need their support and guidance. This means having their office number on hand, but also making a plan for when they can’t be reached. Counseling with telephone back-up support has been shown to be the ideal intervention during benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment, and works great when combined with support groups. Given the unpredictable nature of protracted withdrawal, you should keep the office numbers of your therapist and psychiatrist on you at all times, as well as the crisis line for times when they’re not available. Keep them in your phone of course, but also keep them written down in your wallet, should you ever find yourself in need and without your phone.
Lining Your Road to Recovery with Support
After residential treatment, finding a sense of peace in the midst of protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal can feel scary, isolating, and even impossible when you have nobody to lean on. Having a support network provides that necessary stability and strength. For every moment that you feel anxious, or start to feel the pain of withdrawal manifesting in your body, you have a chance to connect with people that care about you and give you the will to take control of every symptom that threatens to drag you down. That’s something positive that you can take from the annoying and difficult process of protracted withdrawal: it will constantly remind you that, no matter how hard things get for you, you have people that love you and are willing to go out of their way to offer you a helping hand on your road to recovery.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive rehabilitation programs for people suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, in a comfortable environment conducive to recovery. Contact us today to learn more about how you can best deal with these addiction and withdrawal symptoms, and the importance of a loving network of support.