Waking Up Again

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The post-acute withdrawal stage of benzodiazepine and hypnotic abuse can last for years. I’ve been off these medications for 8 months… and I’m just beginning to wake up.


For the first time since my addiction began.

14 years ago.

What’s it like?

I can’t describe it any better than a re-awakening. This may sound overly-spiritual, but heck, I’m a bit of a spiritual guy. I’m also highly sensitive, so this process was bound to be difficult.


But amazing.

I went for a run, as part of my therapy, around the lake last night. The lights had been strung before the holidays, and there must’ve been thousands of glittering specks lining the walkways.

I’d seen them before. But this time the experience was entirely new to me. The lights were vibrant, exciting, and colorful. It’s a strange feeling… seeing something you’ve witnessed before, but for the first time. Kind of a paradox.

Waking up for the first time in 14 years has been overwhelming.

Every day I experience new emotions. Emotions I haven’t felt in years. I feel connections to others, when just a year ago, I felt distant, alienated, and angry at the world. Connections are a necessary part of living a healthy life, and are the biggest determinant of fulfillment and mental well-being. This is new to me.

My thoughts have become more insightful, more articulate, and comprehensible. I’m beginning to have a better grasp on who I am as a person, and where I’d like to go from here. I had no identity whatsoever. So, finding myself at the age of 31 is both an incredible, and frightening journey to embark on.

Addiction is an epidemic in Canada. We’re all familiar with the opioid crisis, particularly here in British Columbia. But, new controls are also being put on other substances. Certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, while potentially addictive, do have a place in the treatment of mental illness. However, more oversight and caution need to be exercised when prescribing these substances.

It’s been 14 years. A journey through ups, downs, and long and stretching plateaus. And everything in between.

I’m grateful to be in recovery. I really am. And despite being overwhelmed currently, this is a very special time in my life. I’m learning adulthood. I’m setting out into the world, with the skills and coping strategies I’ve gathered over the years, and I’m trying to find a place. I’m trying to find peace.

Mark Twain wrote:

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This is how falling asleep in the dark and waking up in the blinding light is supposed to be.

This is recovery.

And I’m grateful.



One thought on “Waking Up Again

  1. Dear Andrew,
    I am where you are.
    I have recently withdrawn from psych meds (mood stabilizer, anti-psychotic and anti-depressant) because they were keeping me sick. 11 years. And now, I too am awakened. I deeply relate to your words and experience- experiencing something you have already witnessed, breathing in new emotions and at times feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for writing about this. I feel somewhat alone in this world of psych meds because I have been told and made to believe I cannot function without meds. Yet… I am doing it. Controversial and difficult.
    Thanks for putting it out there.


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