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I went to Crystal Hot Springs this weekend again. When the body aches because of the benzo withdrawal, all I can think of is hot water. And long car rides where the children sleep that beautiful, slumped sleep that only children can find. It’s a refuge, and refuge is what I need daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute.

A young man knocked on my door just now. He was thin, probably 19, loose pants, arms awkward. He started his script. He’s in a program to keep kids like him away from drugs. He had a bottle of some cleaner tucked into his pocket. My head hurt. I looked at his young face, his face that held a thousand secrets, none of which I knew. I pulled up my sweater to show him my new t-shirt. It took him a minute to mouth the words.

“Do you know what Ativan is?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m in detox. Don’t ever use them.”

“Yes, maam,” he said. And his face broke. Something unexpected. He rocked back and forth on his shoes. Something circled, huge and dark, in his eyes.

“I’m sorry to bother you, maam. Good luck.”

“Thank you,” I said.

And that was it. I wanted to say, yes, wash my windows and I will pay you and support whatever program may actually be offering you a new life. But I couldn’t The vice around my head was too tight. The vision, blurred. I could only show him. Look. Here. And here. Light and dark exist where you least expect them.


At the Hot Springs: my two-and-a-half year old daughter begins a game. Run around the small, circular islands that are scattered throughout the large pool. The ones with a ledge for people to sit on. The ones that come just up to her little chest. Run. Chase me, Mama, chase me. And so I do. And we’re laughing, and she’s several feet ahead of me pushing her small body through the water when it happens. Her foot slips. I am five feet away and I see my daughter sink into the hot water. I lunge. My heart sends out a siren  scream to the muscles. I see the crown of her head float, begin to sink. This took seconds, but enough to flood my body with a thrum of fear that pulsed my entire body. For that moment, I too stopped breathing.

I pull her up and she coughs. Her eyes were so wide, she hadn’t even had time to register fear. I press her to my chest to feel her heart. No smaller than her fist, it beats hard. She is my daughter, but she is more than that. She is my body. She is revelatory, the love opaque and burning continuously. It is for my daughter and my son that I am detoxing from Ativan with a wide lens. Benzodiazepines are the most dangerous pills in America and they’re dispensed with reckless abandon. We are creating an anxiety nation and the path to research their long-term use (suspected of causing brain damage, long-term anxiety disorders and symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc.), has been blocked. In 1982, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) Medical Research Council (MRC) agreed that there should be large-scale studies to examine the impact of benzodiazepines after research by a leading psychiatrist showed brain shrinkage in some patients. Recommendations for these studies were accepted by the MRC Neurosciences Board in January 1982.

No studies were ever carried out. The MRC documents that surround this issue are marked “closed until 2014.” I’m still searching for research done in the United States. So far, nada. Closed. No research means no one knows how deadly they can be. SHhhhh.

There’s silence. There’s permission for profligate dispensation. Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Klonapin. Shhhh. They calm. And, after long term use, they cause mysterious, undiagnosable digestive, cardiac, muscle and joint disfunction. I will steal a term from a psychiatrist friend who is as enraged as I am about their dangers and the silence that surrounds them, “Occupy your Medicine.” Do your research. The water may be warm but before you know it, you’re sinking and you may never know why.