What to Do After Treatment for Benzos

When benzodiazepines were introduced in the late 1950s, doctors lauded them as safe and less habit-forming then other tranquilizers. Overnight, benzos became the most frequently prescribed class of psychoactive drugs available. That upward trend is still accelerating. From 1998 to 2008, abuse of benzos including Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin tripled, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Not surprisingly, flocks of people have become addicted. Those who understand the life-changing opportunity offered by rehab centers have sought help.

Professional treatment exposes people to a variety of tools, strategies and experiences that they might not find on their own. According to a study supported by the American Psychological Association, this exposure lays the foundation for lasting sobriety. Data drawn from their research revealed that people with a variety of coping strategies stayed abstinent longer than other individuals with addictions. For people who have relied on benzos to cope with stress and manage life challenges, acquiring these new, healthy habits is critical — especially once treatment ends and they reenter the “real” world. To learn ways to transition from treatment back into your regular life successfully — avoiding relapse while leaning into your new recovery-friendly lifestyle — read on.

Tranquilizers: How They Work, What Works Better

Tranquilizers work by enhancing effects of a brain-chemical transmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). They quickly slow the central nervous system to create a sense of relaxation. People who suffer from panic, phobias and insomnia often use tranquilizers to calm themselves so they can cope with stress and function normally.

To stay sober after rehab ends, people overcoming addiction to benzos must learn alternative ways to cope with stress. One of the most promising all-natural approaches to helping people live calm, centered lives is meditation. Myriad studies of one particular type of meditation, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR), a technique born from studies conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, prove it as an effective way to live life with greater ease, joy, depth, resilience and balance.

Rooted in Buddhist tradition, MBSR has been proven to lower emotional reactivity and boosts resilience among individuals who are addicted to benzos. It teaches them to pay attention to the present moment, bringing focused intention to the here and now without labeling it as good or bad, or getting caught up in analysis and self talk. MSBR also teaches one to view thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as transitory events, much like clouds floating across a blue sky. This is the opposite response people under stress typically have, which is to see strong emotions as calls to action, not acceptance. Additional benefits of MBSR include the following:

  • It teaches people to observe cravings with curiosity instead of panic
  • It lowers stress hormones, increasing blood flow to the area of the brain that is vital to self-control
  • It breaks the habit of responding to triggers automatically, instead teaching addicts to evaluate and sidestep sobriety booby traps
  • It generates pleasure hormones in the brain

Even particularly negative feelings that evoke pain or distress can be viewed with curiosity, according to MBSR teaching. For addicts, taking this tack leads to emotional stability that fuels a solid recovery. Over time, it builds resilience and the capacity to think and act from a “wise mind” perspective.  For example, a person who might ordinarily takes benzos to escape negative emotions can learn to tolerate the distress of those emotions, ultimately learning to treat those same feelings as cues to meditate. Instead of numbing stress by getting high, he or she can identify the pressures at hand and take a mindful stance toward appraising them fully.

Exercise: Another Way to Relax

People often abuse benzos simply because they do not know other ways to relax. Swallowing a pill numbs uncomfortable feelings temporarily, letting the user check out. What exercise accomplishes is far better. It releases endorphins in the brain, creating a natural high that boosts mood and lowers levels of stress hormones in the brain. This is why recovery professionals believe getting physically active is foundational to sobriety. By working out, individuals choose a healthy experience over a false chemical quick fix.

Even individuals who have never been active can explore new paths to becoming fit. The key is to know your options. Several include the following:

  • Taking a daily walk in a pleasant area
  • Joining a fitness club such as the YMCA
  • Fishing
  • Riding a bike
  • Yoga
  • Tennis
  • Training for a race
  • Horseback riding

With help and guidance, many people rediscover hobbies that help them sustain sobriety for a lifetime.

Getting Help for Benzo and Alcohol Addiction

You can recover from tranquilizer addiction. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll- free, 24-hour helpline to answer your questions. Don’t go it alone when help is just one phone call away. Please call.

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