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The Healer & The Vampire

People in benzo recovery are some of the most compassionate and helpful people on the planet. They truly are. I think Benzo withdrawal and recovery is often such a traumatic and lonely/isolating experience that it simply forges a certain kind of individual. It has a way of changing us.

While this is beautiful and archetypal of the human spirit, it isn't without its risks. And there are two types of benzo withdrawal people, the healer and the vampire. Ask yourselves which one you currently are, as we often are both at some point.

I was a Benzo vampire at first. I became completely disabled and neurotic beyond belief, and I fed off of support and reassurance like a vampire. Of course, none of us mean any harm, and rarely can we even see this in ourselves. It often has to be shown to us. I remember the day I had the realization. I was walking with a friend who came over frequently and supported me. He'd drag me out of the house for short walks and do his best to help me focus on anything other than benzos, which is angelic, in my opinion.

One day, while walking, I was doing my usual incessant diatribe on benzo withdrawal and how I believed I was permanently damaged. I realized that I was always stuck between two modes: complaining AND fishing for reassurance. Eventually, I stopped fishing for it and would ask outright. "Do you think I'm getting better?!" "Do you think I'm getting sicker? Be honest!"

That particular day, while on our walk to the corner store, while ranting, I caught a side glimpse of my friend's expression. He sighed heavily and had this look on his face that I can only describe as "being over it." It's hard to explain, but it made my stomach drop. I said to myself, "Oh, no. I think I broke him!" I knew in my heart he'd probably not come back after that day, and if he did, it wouldn't be the same. He'd likely begin putting distance between us. And I was right. His visits got shorter, and the time between the visits grew longer.

Needless to say, this wasn't good for me. I began sitting in the house more. I was more isolated and lonely. And my rumination and fixation greatly increased. Also, there was no one to really give me that reassurance, which only made me want to return to the doom-n-gloom forums all the more!

I called my friend up one day and asked him to come over, which he did. I went for a walk, and I apologized to him for being so damn needy and negative and just, overall, a real psychic vampire! We reestablished things, and I promised to work on the rumination. I asked him to please let me know if I started to get too heavy, which he did. Sometimes, that frustrated me because I absolutely craved the rumination, venting, and reassurance seeking. But I knew it wasn't right. It wasn't fair to him, and it wasn't healthy for me.

Benzo recovery is filled with many little enlightening moments like this if your eyes are open.

I saw the point. While I craved attention, audience, and reassurance, almost like a crutch, I ultimately needed a friend. I'd rather have someone I could talk to for even just a few minutes a day about anything other than benzos than to push them away and be alone. Yes. I wanted to talk benzos! But I didn't. Perhaps for a few minutes, and then I'd cognitively reframe to healthier things. This was critical in my recovery, my friends. And it wasn't easy! I felt like an alcoholic weaning off the booze.

Sometime later, as I improved in my recovery and learned to stand on my own two feet better, I began helping some of the Benzo friends I had made. Quickly, I found myself on the other end of things, having a few people write me daily, sometimes ALL DAY! I had become like my friend. I was the ear to listen to their incessant fears, rumination, and reassurance-seeking.

This drained me so much, and I began to reactivate that trauma I was healing from as if it were digging open that healing wound, ripping the stitches apart. But the problem was my compassion. I loved these people and felt so damn bad for them that I couldn't pull myself away. I quickly found myself drowning again with them. As if they had been drowning, and I swam out into the murky water I had escaped from to try and save them, only to be pulled under with them. In fact, I believe I was inevitably contributing to their drowning in my own compassionate way, for I was feeding their rumination and obsession.

When I tried to reframe things and keep things positive, they would sometimes become angry with me. Some of them would shout at me. "JUST TELL ME I'M GOING TO BE OKAY!"

This had become a little toxic and certainly unhealthy for me. Still, my compassionate nature wouldn't fully allow me to pull away. I cared so much that I was willing to drown with them. It was somehow tragically poetic.

I was eventually able to correct this before I became too sick and before I became jaded. I simply saw the point. That helping someone doesn't always mean telling them what they want to hear or being a support person for several hours a day! We only have so much blood! And it's not even about the other person acting like a vampire in some negative way. It's not a reflection of them or that they're not a good person. I knew when I was the Benzo vampire I wasn't a bad person! I was just hurting and afraid and searching for support.

No. My friends, it is the nature of the beast. Benzo withdrawal makes us utterly neurotic! It makes us utterly desperate and even a bit narcissistic, as we are so very hyper-self-focused. And who could blame us? Still, something has to change. I realized deeply that to help them meant not always being their best friend, their ruminating buddy, or someone they could call up all hours of the night and keep me on the phone for hours a day or flood my inbox or phone with novels of crisis texts! To be truly helpful to them, I needed to help them pull themselves out of this obsessive, neurotic vampiric phase. They didn't always like that about me. Perhaps sometimes I looked cold to them, but I knew what was best. Less is more. We have to choose whether we want to be effective or whether we want to be food. Do we want to tell them what they NEED to hear or what they WANT to hear? Oftentimes, what they NEED to hear is some reassurance, but also some direction and help with their perception to do the hard work needed to heal.

So much of our recovery through this process is learning how to regulate our own emotions again and how to manage our own fears. See the point, my friends. No one can do this for us. And we end up trading an ounce of relief now for a pound of suffering later. I hope this blog has been enlightening to you, no matter what side you're currently on or if you're on both sides. Balance is key. Self-growth is key. Don't bite the hand that helps you. And if you're helping others, don't lose yourself in the process. We cannot help anyone else until we can help ourselves. That's a fact. Learning it the hard way could be catastrophic.

Until next time. You ARE healing, and you WILL make a full recovery! Keep going.

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