The ways in which withdrawal affects us vary according to individual. We are all unique. We react differently and our recovery processes unfold according to what each person’s nervous system determines will work best. There is no right or wrong way and there is no time frame. It is important, though, to give yourself sufficient time to allow your recovery on all levels: physically, psychologically and emotionally.
How you react and how the withdrawal experience impacts you will depend mainly on the intensity of your experience, your personality, perception and life perspectives. However, there are certain situations that typically arise when withdrawal is difficult.
Psychologically, you are likely to experience a wide range of different emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, resentment and sometimes even guilt. If you do notice any form of self-blame, please know that this is not your fault. Be gentle with yourself. You did not know, then, what you know now.
Some may feel very vulnerable, the world might seem unsafe and threatening, and the future uncertain. Heightened anxiety and panic, which are also very common withdrawal symptoms, can also surface not only due to withdrawal but because some symptoms, and the experience itself, are or were indeed frightening.
Individuals with very intense symptoms may have to reduce their work hours or completely give up work until they are partially or fully recovered. Some are unable to pay their mortgages and lose their homes. In the worst cases they may have to declare bankruptcy and resort to state benefits. Others struggle and survive financial ruin with the help of family and close friends.
For a relationship to survive withdrawal it calls for compromise, total release of judgement and unconditional acceptance and support. The financial and other repercussions combined with the out-of-character behaviour, mood swings, benzo rage, paranoia and other bizarre psychological symptoms test many relationships. Family and friends are often fraught with worry and are sometimes in shock at the devastation withdrawal can cause. Withdrawal is definitely an ‘in sickness and in health’ situation which requires a partner’s full support, understanding and commitment.
It can be difficult for someone in the throes of withdrawal to function as a parent. The intense physical and psychological symptoms can be too overwhelming. Children can sense when the person they are used to having care for them is unwell, distressed or upset. It is not uncommon for toddlers to feel responsible, to wonder if they could have done something to cause mum or dad to be unhappy, while older children who understand more, tend to worry about the parent and whether or not recovery will ever be achieved. The best approach is to reassure your children as often as possible, be honest and give age-appropriate explanations as well as lots of cuddles. If you are unable to cope with your parental role, try to get relatives or close friends who are trustworthy to help with some duties.
A psychological trauma can either be a single experience, an ongoing one, or repeated events which completely overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope. In this context, a problematic withdrawal can be regarded as traumatic. This sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks or in some cases, longer, as the person struggles to cope with the immediacy of the symptoms. Our users have unique experiences and deal with trauma in different ways. However, here are a few important points which are worth knowing.
Withdrawal survivors may feel shell-shocked and experience episodes of grief and repeated reliving of some aspects of the experience. Although some may continue to feel vulnerable and lack the confidence to move on with their lives, these feelings tend to pass. Please note that all of the above, and other reactions, are understandable and normal responses to as unusual, unexpected and overwhelming an experience as withdrawal. If this feeling of being traumatised continues, it is advisable to speak to your GP about seeing a counsellor.
Recovery from dependency and withdrawal takes time – as long as your nervous system needs to recover, and as long as you need to release and heal on all levels. Not fighting the process and accepting the ways in which it unfolds will reduce anxiety levels. This site has good coping suggestions which, if wisely used, will help to make your experience more manageable. Eventually withdrawal will become less overwhelming and you will begin to feel more in control. The troubling symptoms will recede and will either gradually fade away or spontaneously disappear. Then the deeper, emotional healing will take place.
You will reconnect and re-establish important relationships. You will also make new, valuable friendships. Life will have new meaning and you will make positive life changes. Little things once taken for granted will become more ‘precious’. For some this experience leads to a reassessment of values and priorities. You go from being a victim of benzodiazepine or antidepressant dependency to being a victor and survivor. This can be very empowering. You may find that your confidence in your ability to cope with life’s struggles is much higher that it was before your withdrawal.
You may become more tolerant of others, less judgemental and more compassionate. This experience can be life-transforming in a most positive way. Adversity and overcoming can bring many gifts, including that of wanting to help others.
There are no time-frames for these processes. Each individual will take as long as is needed to overcome the trauma of withdrawal, to heal emotionally and to move on to creating a post-recovery life which is more fulfilling than could ever have been imagined.
“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach