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Our Thoughts Have Been Hijacked

I was speaking with a student in my Benzo Recovery School, trying to help her soothe her benzo-troubled mind. And it got me thinking about benzo withdrawal and how it hijacks our mind. Only, it happens very slowly. It's subtle. It sneaks up on us.

We notice the intrucive thoughts, and we notice the rumination, thought that one is a little more sneaky. It's a little less obvious. Intrusive thoughts are obvious. They come rushing out of some dark tunnel like a bullet-train from hell.

The terrifying thought smashes us right in the chest, and we feel it in our stomach.

"What if we don't heal!"

We think, "OMG! No! Make it stop. I don't want to think these thoughts!"

It's torturous. The more we try to resist, the quicker, more intense, and more frequent they come! Which is a teachable moment. Stop resisting them. Stop pushing them away. But I digress. We see intrucive thoughts coming, but rumination is sneaky. We can ruminate for 16 hours before we catch on. We can ruminate for days or months before someone points it out.

However, we can go further in this sneak mental invasion and hostile takeover. The withdrawal-induced fear, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., take over our mind so that, much like a tapeworm, burrows deep into our psyche. It latches on with its many hooks, and it begins feeding.

We develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, faulty beliefs, negative self-image and world image, cognitive distortions... our entire perception is taken over. And we can't see it. We think our thoughts are our own, but they're largely not. Therefore, we cannot trust them fully. This information is not meant to trigger you but to offer relief knowing that you do NOT have to entertain these scary thoughts. They're not real.

The tragic part in this is once you're on the other side, you'll realize this deeply on your own, but now is when you really need it. Whatever you're afraid of, whatever has you sad, all those problems are being presented to you in an amplified and distorted way. This realization was a revelation for me during my Benzo withdrawal. It was concerning at first, but I can't say I was shocked. It meant for me that I needed to pay extra special attention to my thoughts, my thinking, and my beliefs. I realized I needed to be careful with the words I thought and spoke. It actually brought me back to the simplicities of the Zen mind, where we are always aware, always sharp, and always with the wisdom that unaware thoughts can have.

See, thoughts have a way of going on autopilot. That's where the hijacking takes place when we are on autopilot. The challenge is, fear is a magnet and pulls us away from our awareness.

Fear puts us on autopilot. Do you get it? Fear puts us on autopilot. This is a damn crucial first step in correcting the problem.

The Art of War says that we must first know our enemy if we are to conquer our enemy. This is why mindfulness is so important. And please, don't mistake mindfulness for Zazen (sitting in meditation, because they're different. I'm talking about informal mindfulness, increased awareness of the present moment (and our thoughts), but a space of consciousness free of judgment and with a sense of vulnerability (stop gripping the steering wheel so tightly!) Take solitude in the simplicity of your recovery. Be aware that your mind is hijacked by benzo-induced fear and sadness. Don't entertain it. Don't react to it. Don't react because of it.

Keep it simple. Focus on your work. Focus on the moment, and all of the good, wherever you can find it. (hint) Seek it out!

Think of it this way. It's not all that different than when we are sad, and how our depressive thoughts can make us think everyone hates us, no one likes us, or that we aren't good enough, and that life is so much darker than it really is.

It's only when you come out of that deep dive in that cold dark ocean, and you come up for air again, that you can truly see the distinction between the two worlds. Or how when you're so damn angry, perhaps in a bit of a rage, you feel so justified in your anger and overreactions. Try telling someone that is angry to "calm down," and they'll usually shout back, "I AM calm!" They can't see it.

Even love can manipulate our minds. How many of us have been utterly and foolishly in love with someone we thought was amazing, but everyone else could see the reality. We couldn't see it until we were out of the relationship, and some time had passed. Then, looking back, it was so obvious!

In closing, my friends, take Coach Powers's advice on this one. Do your best to keep a keen eye on your mind, and remember, don't give those wildly exaggerated spam mail more attention than it deserves. It can be done just as a person in anger becomes self-aware and calms themselves. We can ease our fears.

Until next time. Keep your head up, and keep working on your recovery.

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