I like to refer to the first three months off the medication as the “fetal position days.” I tried for about a week to continue living in Gainesville and my daily routine went as follows: Wake up before the blood-sucking monsters (my roommates) were awake, skate to the local gas station to stock up on food, skate back to my room and hide under my bed covers for the remainder of the day. The chemical fear was so intense I couldn’t even answer the door for the UPS guy or anyone else for that matter. If I had to use the bathroom and my roommates were in the hallway, I would just hold it until they either left the apartment or went back into their bedrooms. I had lost my ability to form a sentence and it took me about 30 minutes to read even a small Bible verse.
My mom became concerned that I was only eating gas station food and we both agreed that it would be my best option to move to Georgia with my dad where I wouldn’t have to worry about functioning as a regular human being. I hadn’t seen my dad since I had gotten sober and it was heartbreaking that THIS was the condition he had to see me in. So for three months I laid on the couch completely incapacitated. I was not human. I was not in this world. My soul did not feel like it was in my body. I continuously felt like I was floating out of my own skin and my pupils continued to stay the size of bowling balls. I was horrified and lost. The battery acid continued to flow through my veins and there was no comfort in sleeping because my dreams were filled with demons, hellfire, and terror. I felt like I was possessed in my sleep and had the re-occuring nightmare that the evil girl from the movie The Ring was clawing at my legs.
The depression was bone crushing. The despair was breath taking. In fact, “despair” is not an adequate word to describe such an experience. The only phrase that I can think of that begins to come close is “Spiritual Holocaust”. I felt like I was truly a prisoner trapped in the underworld.
I had to hold onto walls when I walked because I was so incredibly dizzy all the time to the point it was nauseating. When I tried to leave my driveway the sounds of birds chirping were still so horrendously loud and the sight of nature itself was terrifying. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, except it was some sick and twisted rated R version. I knew from all the online articles I had read during my taper in rehab, that time was essentially the healer of my misery. I knew that the GABA receptors in my brain (basically the things that keep you from freaking the fuck out) needed to be restored in order for me to feel any inkling of peace or sanity. So the name of the game was simply to pass the time without dying or killing myself. Simple? yes. Easy? Not in the slightest.
I was an avid skateboarder in those days and even though I was disoriented and dizzy, I wanted to see if I could still land a few tricks in the road outside my house. Just walking to the road became a sort of hell defying mission and as I put the wheels to the pavement I became afraid that my dark and evil surroundings were going to swallow me up and take me to the depths of Lucifer's den. (In reality it was a beautiful, bright, sunshiny day mind you.)
As I was attempting a few heelflips, I heard an SUV driving up the road in my direction. "Oh NO! It's my Aunt!! She can't see me like this! Nobody can see this monstrosity that I have become!" I tried to skate away but the SUV pulled up before I could make my escape. The window rolled down and it was actually my older cousin, but it might as well have been the grim reaper.
"Hey Justin, how are you? Long time no see!"
Nothing. I couldn't even get a word out. I get emotional when I think about it because I have never (or will ever know again) that level of helplessness. All I could do was shake my head and look at her with those large, terrified eyes. Maybe she saw my unrelenting fear or maybe she didn't. Either way, her reply was: "I heard you were moving up here to get your stuff together. It's good to see you, you look great!"
I just shook my head again, wildly humiliated that I couldn't even form a sentence long enough to hold a light conversation with one of my favorite cousins. She kindly waved goodbye and drove off.
I had to get back inside! That interaction was almost too much for my psyche to handle. "What...has...HAPPENED to me!?? What is GOING to happen to me??! HOW am I supposed to LIVE if I can't even talk to people or TALK IN GENERAL!!??" I thought to myself in extreme panic.
This level of intense torture persisted for about 3 months. Three...months. That's 90 days of holding onto walls to walk, 90 nights of demon possessed nightmares, 43,800 minutes of feeling like there was battery acid in my veins...and the fear, oh my God, the fear.
Now on the 91'st day, all of these awful symptoms didn't just disappear into thin air. It was still hell....but...I will always remember the moment when the battery acid stopped flowing through my arms and legs. I was trying to keep my mind occupied by watching videos on Youtube (side note: images and colors radiating from the phone screen used to be SO bright and SO scary!) when suddenly I realized ....the extreme burning was gone! I still had all the other countless symptoms, but at least the lava burning in my limbs was GONE! I remeber I walked outside and paced around the garage (still too afraid to venture out into the front yard) to see if it would come back, but it never did!
I quickly dialed my Mom's number to tell her the great news! As I mentioned in a previous chapter, my mom didn't always believe me when I tried to describe the agony of benzo withdrawal. Her reasoning was " If people can get off heroin, then my son should be able to get off benzos." It's not her fault that this was her reasoning. I mean, how was she supposed to think any differently having never been through it personally?
In any case I called her up and let her know what had happened. Now, keep in mind, it was still very hard for me to articulate thoughts and put them into correct sentences at this point. So when I would call my mom there would be a lot of stuttering, starting over, and getting frustrated. But God bless her, she was always so so patient. I remember on one particular day, I was trying to explain to her how I felt, and I managed to mutter "It..it feels..it feels like an alien or...i dont know...it feels like an alien has kidnapped my body." I can only imagine what was going on through her mind hearing her son say such wild things. But she listened intently and I could hear the compassion in her voice. I couln't necessarily feel it because any and all kind of seratonin or positive feelings were no where to be found in my body, but I knew that she was concerned and that she loved me very much. I had to at least stay alive for her.