The Spiritual Component of Withdrawal HealingMay 05, 2022
There isn’t always a lot of attention given to prescription drug withdrawal in our society; at least not to the type of withdrawal that stems from antidepressant and benzodiazepine medications. Every day in this country (and throughout the world) expensive and vaguely occultic magazine and television advertisements push these medications onto a vulnerable segment of the population (a hurting segment), and after the damage is done—when medications are stopped and people go back to their doctors complaining of night terrors and akathisia and body pains and mental confusion and depression and a frightening disconnection from reality—then no one wants to claim responsibility. The situation is often denied, denied, denied.
But some people do pay attention to antidepressant/benzodiazepine withdrawal. In fact, those of us who have been affected by the syndrome often pay a lot of attention to it, for obvious reasons. However, when withdrawal and healing are talked about, too often that conversation revolves solely around the physical A plus B equals C equation: Time plus the Upregulation of Neurotransmitter Receptors equals Healing. And while the entire “upregulation of receptors” conversation is a valid one, it gives people the false impression that just sitting back and waiting for 100 percent of the healing to happen is a valid strategy. It isn’t.
While time will do some of the heavy lifting in the process of healing from antidepressant withdrawal and benzo withdrawal, there is an active component to the process as well: one that not only cares for our physical health, but for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well (and after all, these aspects of well-being are intertwined oh so closely).
In this post I’m going to focus on the last of those four aspects of well-being, the spiritual component. I believe that, in fact, withdrawal healing has a distinctly spiritual component, and because my own spiritual background and faith are Christian, that is mostly how I’m going to approach the subject here.
Four Common Withdrawal Symptoms/Challenges, & How Their Remedy Is Found In Spirituality
1. GUILT AND REGRET
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I don’t know too many people who’ve gone through antidepressant withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal and who weren’t struggling against some form of guilt or regret regarding their situation. How can those things not be a part of the experience?
During the withdrawal and healing process, we might feel guilty about having been unavailable for loved ones during the years we spent on those medications that blunted our emotions. Or we might feel guilty because we acted impulsively or arrogantly while on the drugs. We might feel guilty because we didn’t take proper care of ourselves physically, or because we neglected important aspects of our financial, professional, domestic health.
We might regret having stayed on the medications for such a long time when there were clear signs that they were causing harm in our lives; we might regret having lost time or productivity to withdrawal; or we might simply wonder how life got to this point—the point of being sick and needing healing. We might wonder, wonder, wonder, and regret, regret, regret.
But guess what? A spiritual view looks forward—not backward—and it does so with the fresh eyes of newly redeemed men and women who are no longer slaves to the failings of their past.
The Christian faith, in fact, is something that is built upon the concept of redemption. It is about fresh starts and new beginnings. Our failings were erased with the events of Easter weekend, and no matter what future mistakes we might make, we know that the forgiveness of Jesus knows no limits. We are accepted—no matter how we got to this point—and we are given a hopeful future that holds great things.
So, if you’ve been feeling guilty or regretful lately, please hand that burden over to God so that you can begin to walk forward with a lighter bounce in your step. Remember, this is your new beginning. A better future awaits you!
2. FEARS OF ISOLATION
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:10 NLT
At times in the withdrawal process, we might feel as if no one can help us, as if we’ve been abandoned. However, one of the great comforts of faith is the idea that God is with us at all times. He can comfort us and protect us in the dark of the night and in the heat of the noonday sun equally, and He can understand our every physical, emotional, and mental struggle without us having to say a coherent word. The next time you are feeling all alone, please remember that Jesus is your Good Shepherd (the one who cares for you at all times) and your friend (the one who will never abandon you).
3. EXISTENTIAL WORRIES
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NIV
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
I think this is the biggie in withdrawal. No matter what else the antidepressant/benzodiazepine withdrawal process throws at us—shooting pains in our extremities, mental fog, head pressure, insomnia—the existential turmoil seems to be an ever-present thing. We can get lost in deep thoughts and fears as never before, continually pondering super-heavy questions like: “Why do I exist? What is time? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of life in general? What happens after I die? What does ANY OF THIS MEAN?
The whole point of getting spiritual is to find answers for those really big questions—the ones that prescription medications might help people to ignore—and although some aspects of meaning and fulfillment will be decided on an individual basis, we can all rely on the following thoughts as a very comforting place to begin finding those answers:
Question: Why do I exist?
Answer: We exist because we were created out of love.
So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them. Genesis 1:27 KJV
Question: What is time?
Answer: Time is eternal, and therefore we shouldn’t worry about our measures of time on this Earth nearly as much as we do. We should stop stressing about alarm clocks and appointments and deadlines, and we should allow Jesus to lighten our burden by allowing us to simply live in the present with joy.
Question: What is my purpose?
Answer: Our purpose is to accept God’s love, care for ourselves and each other in a Godly way, find (and spread) peace and joy on this Earth, and make creative and productive use of our talents so that we can build a Godly legacy. (That is a partial answer, I guess.)
Question: What is the purpose of life in general?
Answer: To find joy in “everyday” miracles, and to build an increasingly strong relationship with our Creator and Protector; also, to find love and fulfillment and to help others find God’s presence and therefore find greater healing and joy for themselves.
Question: What happens after I die?
Answer: We find eternal peace in new life, we find an eternal reunion with loved ones, and we find eternal (pain-free) joy in the presence of God. Our existence continues in a beautiful way.
Question: What does any of this mean?
Answer: We should trust that God is forming a divine tapestry with our lives. We should do the best with the gifts (and the challenges) we’ve been given, and we should trust that God is making them meaningful (both here and in the hereafter).
“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God.” C.S. Lewis
Okay, wow! That was deep. That segment of this post hopefully provided you with some inner peace, but it also might have given you some intellectual fatigue! So, when you’re done reading this take a deep breath and then go find some mindless fun for a while!
4. ANXIETY ABOUT THE FUTURE
Jesus wasn’t big on worrying about the future. In fact, this is what He had to say about it in Matthew 6:25-34 (lengthy Bible quote alert):
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It’s easy to get worried during the withdrawal and healing process, not only worried about today’s symptoms but worried about the future. How long will this last? How will I survive financially while healing? How will my future look?
So the next time you catch yourself worrying about the future, remember those words from Jesus. He says, in effect, “Do not worry. The Father will provide for you.”
And remember to keep that above promise from the book of Jeremiah in mind, too: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I believe that there is not a single soul out there going through the withdrawal process who isn’t longing for inner peace. There isn’t a single soul out there going through the withdrawal process who isn’t longing to have life be something joyful once again.
So, to all of you out there who are currently going through antidepressant withdrawal and/or benzodiazepine withdrawal I say, Start focusing on the spiritual aspect of your healing. It is something that cannot be ignored, and once you begin to make it a part of each day’s journey, you will find greater and greater measures of calm, peace, and joy. You are cared for within God’s plan, and by getting closer to Him and to the fabric of that plan you can find much-needed measures of healing.
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