Withdrawal & Coping: Which Path Are You Choosing Today?
Robert Frost said that “two paths diverged in a yellow wood, and he took the one less traveled.” And because that particular path was chosen—because of one decision—life went in a totally different direction. “It has made all the difference,” he wrote.
I think that each day we face a fork in the road, a divergence of paths in the woods of our lives. Each day, multiple times per day, really, we are faced with decisions that will then take the rest of our day in one direction or the other. In an increasingly negative, angry, depressed, anxious, fearful, and stressed direction. Or, if we choose the other path, in an increasingly positive, grateful, calm, hopeful, courageous, and well-balanced direction.
Sometimes the difference between the two paths seems negligible at first—barely noticeable—but over the course of an hour, and then two hours, and then a half day, the paths might have diverged vast miles from each other. And the resulting landscape of where we would end up looks night and day different, depending on the one little decision we made.
This concept is especially important when it comes to coping with the difficult days in our lives. This month at the Lovely Grind I’m writing about the challenges and complexities of prescription drug withdrawal—namely antidepressant withdrawal and benzodiazepine withdrawal—but this choosing of paths might apply to coping with any difficult day in our lives that seems, at first glance, hopeless. So, if you are one of my readers who is not specifically dealing with a life challenge related to medications or withdrawal, then please exchange those situations for something more apt to your current struggle as you read.
Now, let’s draw out an example of how this choosing of paths might play out in your daily life.
In this example, you wake up at 7 a.m. and you can tell you might be dealing with a symptom “wave” (a period where physical pains and negative emotions and thoughts are ramped up). Now you don’t know for sure if these symptoms will be moderate or strong or maybe just fleeting, but you worry. And overall this sucks, because maybe you were feeling better just yesterday and had great plans for today. And more than just ruining your plans, you now feel that your life has been ruined. In an instant, your mind says there’s been no healing, no progress. And you’re tempted to go down a dark path.
You’re tempted to go on antidepressant withdrawal or benzo withdrawal “support” forums and read endlessly about the symptoms of other people. You know it really won’t make you feel better, in fact you know it will make you feel much worse—you know you will absorb the pain and anxiety of others, some of whom are severely troubled in multiple ways—but it is the path of least resistance.
So you go ahead and do it anyway.
You click on your phone’s web browser, and you begin to read about the horror stories of people whom you don’t know and about whose total life situations you will never know. And then for good measure, you watch videos of that sort for a while, too. You shut the door, close the blinds, refuse to eat or hydrate, tell your family members you don’t want to talk, and you sit in your dark bedroom absorbing the fear, negativity, hopelessness, and miscellaneous mental and emotional toxicity of strangers.
And then you stare at the ceiling for a while replaying your own past mistakes and projecting your own negative future on a large, dark movie screen in your head.
And the restlessness and anxiety and guilt and depression build.
And then you go back to the negative places online, and it starts over again.
And what began as a few symptoms (or maybe even just the thought of symptoms) at 7 a.m. has now, by early afternoon, turned into an absolute, full-blown horror show for you. You feel hysterical, depleted, depressed, alone, and hopeless. And a hole has been dug for the day.
Now, let’s rewind and play that scenario out again.
You wake up at 7 a.m. and you can tell you might be dealing with a symptom wave. You don’t know for sure if it will be moderate or strong or maybe just fleeting, but you worry. And overall this sucks, because maybe you were feeling on top of things just yesterday and had a lot of awesome plans for today. And more than just ruining your day, you now feel that your life has been ruined. You feel that there’s been no healing, no progress. And you’re tempted to go down a dark path.
But you stop yourself. And you choose another path. One that seems to take a whole lot more energy to walk down at first, but one that leads to a better rest of the day, and ultimately a better future.
Instead of looking at negativity on your phone, you watch a positive video, one that encourages you and tells you that you are getting somewhere, even if today is feeling rough. Maybe you read a five minute devotion, and maybe you tell yourself that you are protected and will not be defeated.
And then you take another step down that second path by opening up the blinds in your room and getting out of bed and getting a good healthy drink of water.
And then you take another few steps down the second path by showering and making your bed and forcing yourself to eat a little something, just so that your stomach isn’t empty and anxious. Just to keep the body and mind fueled. You take your vitamins or supplements, if that’s your thing, and you imagine how they—and the forced breakfast—are helping to nourish you.
And then you take another step down the second path by talking to someone who cares and who lifts you up and who refuses to allow you to fail. Maybe that conversation is with a coach, maybe it’s with a brother or a sister, maybe it’s with a friend or parent or spouse, or maybe it’s with a pastor. But it is with someone POSITIVE. It is with someone who has a healthy perspective. It is with someone who has compassion and intelligence. It is with someone who can lift you up out of your muck because they aren’t themselves sitting in a pool of dark muck at the moment.
Misery begets misery, and hope begets hope. Weakness and fear are contagious, but so are strength and courage. Find ideas and people who give you these things!
And so now you’ve had that positive conversation, and you have a clean body and a clean room, and you’re beginning to feel just a little bit better.
So you decide to take a few more steps down that second path by taking a walk or a jog or a bike ride outside, even though it’s tough as hell to get moving at first. And as you’re walking you listen to more positive ideas; you fill your attention and the deepest pockets of your psyche with them by listening to positive music, uplifting sermons, positive TED talks, or inspirational speeches.
And when you get home from that walk, you take off your headphones, and you can actually hear the birds chirping and feel the sun shining on your face. And you can actually reach out and touch hope again. You can actually feel some hope for your future. Even if you are still dealing with pains and challenges, you know things will get better.
So now it’s early afternoon after you’ve chosen that second path, and your day looks and feels a million miles different that it would have had you chosen that first path in the woods, that path of darkness and negativity.
You made a different choice, and it literally changed your day, and your brain chemistry. It kept your body active, your mind soothed, your emotions uplifted, and your soul hopeful.
You chose to walk down a positive path, and it literally made all the difference.
Yes, some days will be more for coping in this process. But how you cope always matters!
Keep choosing that second path as often as possible. Over time the results build on themselves, and ultimately it is that path that leads to healing and growth.
Take care until next time,
Michael Priebe is a writer and wellness coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors, and over the years he has helped people from all over the world understand antidepressant withdrawal and benzodiazepine withdrawal and find healing in their lives. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Instagram.
“Michael helped me in a way that no doctor or therapist has been able to! His personal experience combined with his optimistic, constructive input and guidance is priceless. I highly recommend his coaching sessions.”
“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”
Jon - British Columbia, Canada
“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.
"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”
Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt
“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”
Andi, North Carolina
“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”
“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”
“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”
Erikka, South Dakota
“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”
“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”
Leanne – Ontario, Canada
"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."
Miguel, Atlanta, GA
"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
Emma, United Kingdom
“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”
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CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING
If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.