Finding my True Self

#180

Postby Julia Stretton » Sun Dec 04, 2016 12:08 pm

I wasn't really going to write on here so soon after my previous post. But it keeps occurring to me that I was six months free from smoking tobacco three days ago, and as it is an occasion which most people seem to commemorate, I thought I'd do the same. In a way it seems weird to have two different quit dates that are so close together (as I will have been weed-free for six months in another 19 days time), but I guess there is no harm in celebrating both occasions.

So here's a recap of how those six months have been, and how I am currently feeling:

In general, it has been an incredibly positive experience. I haven't really had any really intense cravings for tobacco (or weed), not even at the beginning after the first few days had passed. At the time I had difficulties sleeping; I guess I was feeling quite 'high', and although I've been going to bed at fairly decent times, I often get up very early, and then I find it difficult to go back to sleep again, even if I only slept for a few hours. i was meditating and doing breathing exercises every single evening for several months, and it really helped me, otherwise I would have probably been even more 'hyped up'.

I also made some adjustments to my diet, eating more healthily and adding various supplements whenever I noticed some kind of deficit and I felt that there was something which would benefit me. After about a month, I completely quit energy drinks, after I had reduced them from about three cans to one can a day. At the same time, I started to do something positive for myself every day – at the beginning in the form of tidying up, and later by engaging in my artistic endeavours. I deactivated my Facebook account, which wasn't only a huge distraction, but I also felt disturbed / anxious / jealous etc. about a lot of the posts that I was reading, and after returning for a month and realising that the same symptoms had crept back up on me during that time, I deactivated my account again. For several months I didn't visit any news websites, until the recent US presidential elections. Since then I've been checking the headlines about twice a day, but I never read any of the articles, and I no longer engage in debates in the comments sections, like I used to a lot of the time. But I have nevertheless started reaching out to people, and I have joined a local group of like-minded people. Since then I have been informed via email whenever any activities take place, and I never miss an opportunity to engage and meet people. In fact, December is a very quiet month, and in a way I am missing the usual events that were going on.

Compared with the previous 1½ years (during which I hadn't ventured further than a mile from my home, due to massive anxiety issues), this is a huge step forwards. But despite my social life having improved in this kind of way, not everything is constantly improving. Over the past few days, I have had periods during the daytime when I've suddenly felt really tired and lethargic, and I've used that opportunity to go to sleep for a few hours. As the sun sets really early at this time of year, it means that by the time I get up again, it is dark outside and I feel like I have missed out on most of the day. Then I start getting depressed about all the things in my life that still need rectifying, rather than being happy about what I have achieved. I have tried to pinpoint the cause, and it seems to me that the senation of tiredness (and its subsequent effects) are a result of me having too much sugar. I am not prepared to give up sugar completely. When I feel any cravings for it – e.g. after a meal – and I ignore my desire for something seet, I can easily end up with a migraine. But if I have too much, it will have the kind of effect that I described above, so it is really important to me to have some kind of balance. It is an addiction which seems to have slowly crept up on me again. I have always got plenty of sweet fizzy drinks in my fridge, and although they are of the natural, organic variety, that doesn't mean that the sugar in them is any better for me than the cheap energy drinks that I used to consume. Also, when I order my food every fortnight, I always add five bars of (organic) chocolate to my delivery, along with sweetened soya desserts, cereals, juices etc., and if I run out of any sugary snacks, I will always replace them by getting biscuits or cake from the local supermarket.

When I went to visit my parents last time, I forgot to take my supplements with me, and after I returned I kept forgetting about taking them, so that I discontinued them for about two months. At the beginning I realised that I felt no different than when I had been taking them, and I thought that I had been wasting my money. But after a while I noticed the adverse effects of not taking them, and it has probably affected my immune system so that I'm more likely to catch any virus that might be going around. I had to have my spleen removed after a car crash 23 years ago which affects my immune system, but I have found that if I eat healthily, I can balance out the negative effects of not having a spleen. So for the past week I've got into the habit of supplementing various chemicals again (at least I remembered about them around five days out of seven), and hopefully it shouldn't be long before I notice a difference. I already feel mentally more alert than I had before, and I am sure that there will be further improvements as I continue to help my body to function properly in this way.

Another thing which I stopped about two months ago was meditating. It was another thing which I wasn't doing when I visited my parents for a week, and when I returned back home I didn't get back into the habit again. I realised that I had become incredibly busy, and I was extremely enthusiastic about the things that I was doing, so that I found it difficult (if not impossible) to set aside a task which I was engaged in to just take a break and unwind. But although meditation takes up some amount of time, I actually seem to be getting less done since I've quit my daily practice. Until about a week ago, I was engaged in doing some artwork every day, and I used that as a justification to tell myself that everything was going the right way, and that I didn't need to make any further adjustments to my life. But there were other areas that had started to suffer – I have since become aware that there are still corners of my environment which need clearing out, and where all the mess seems to accumulate (after it had almost driven me around the bend on a few occasions trying to find something in what I had believed to be a tidy flat), and I want to at least spend a small amount of time again tidying up each day. My personal hygiene has been suffering as well, and I don't do my laundry as often as I'd like to, so that I wear the same clothes for longer than I feel comfortable with, as there always seems to be something which is 'more important', rather than being able to balance out the different tasks, and fitting everything that's important into my daily schedule. But over the past week I have meditated on two days, and I am feeling confident that it will soon become a daily practice again.

What has really astonished me is how much better off I am financially. Saving £300 a month makes a huge difference, and that is only for weed and not counting tobacco and other paraphernalia. I have also been doing well by selling my father's old Open University courses on eBay, which he passed on to me so that I would be able to invest in the tools and materials which will help me with my artwork. As he has been diagnosed with dementia and he can no longer remember any of his mathematics, physics or programming skills, he decided to clear out his office and now my sister and my nephew are living there. My sister had separated from her partner after a violent argument, and as a result her son had been taken into foster care while she spent several months in rehab. Now both she and her son have come back to England, and I have been invited to my parents' place over Christmas, so it will be the first time for years that the family I grew up in will be reunited for the Winter holidays (as my sister had been spending Christmas in Germany the past few years, and my parents said they would only be celebrating Christmas if everyone would be able to make it). Last week I bought a large 4K TV to use as a monitor, I bought a powerful graphics card to drive it, and two weeks before I treated myself to a large H-frame easel. Every month I've been ordering at least half a dozen new books, and whenever I go out to meet friends I never have to worry about what I am able to spend on food or drinks. Next week I've got my last counselling session, and as the sessions have been very cheap, I've been happy to pay twice the required amount most of the time. Next week I'll be selling the last two of my father's courses on eBay, and in a way I will be missing having that extra income. But on the other hand I have now invested in the things which will make it easier for me to get on with my artwork, and I feel that it is time to move on. It can be pretty stressful having to photograph and list items, eagerly waiting for an auction to end without knowing how successful (if at all) it will be, having to package everything and having to make sure that the items are sent off in time (and then still worrying whether people will give positive feedback, or whether they'll find a reason to complain). At least now I will have more time for my artwork, and I have got the necessary tools that will help me with the process,

So I can say that I'm pretty happy with how things are going, and I am feeling confident that I will soon be back on track in those areas where I have been slacking (meditating, supplements, eating healthily, tidying up etc.). Although I was once weed-free for nearly a year in the past (2006), I have never made it beyond just over five months without tobacco in the past. At that point, some amount of cravings would usually return, and I would get that 'just-a-few-tokes-won't-hurt-me' attitude. This time I was getting (and I am continuing to get) similar thoughts about once or twice a day, possibly due to not paying as much attention as I'd like to to those areas of my life that I've previously described, and as a result feeling some sense of failure, and as if there is something missing in my life. But I am very aware of the pitfalls, and I am determined not to fall for the promise of any short-term relief from unpleasant emotions, instead of working on long-term solutions. In a way I am entering new territory as I've not been without nicotine for this long since I started smoking in '89, but on the other hand everything that I have experienced over the past six months has been pretty new to me, as I have constantly been evaluating my life and I have made many adjustments which would have been unimaginable to me in the past – including during previous phases of being clean, while to a large extent retaining old behaviour patterns. This time I often feel that I am truly turning things inside out and renewing everything which no longer has its place in my life.

I wish good luck and plenty of encouragement to everyone else on this journey.
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#181

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Sun Dec 04, 2016 1:05 pm

Hi Julia!
It's asthonishing how much you changed in these months. Being more focused and finding what one is passionate about is a key element in changing lifestyle.
I'm sorry about your father and dementia... my grandpa has been diagnosed with it and sometimes it's just sad to see him compared to who he was before.
But life goes on, and I try to help as much as I can.
You have been an inspiration for me and I bet many others on this forum. I also have close quit date for weed and cigs (despite the fact that I vape now, but I won't consider it an addiction... especially since I managed to lower my nicotine a lot!)
Have you noticed how much better your body feels since quitting smoking? I'm talking about cigs especially, I used to be a pack a day smoker and now I breathe better, flavors are enhanced, I have more stamina... it's really a nice sensation. Plus all the money that you save (part of which I'm now spending on vaping but it's cheaper so I'm happy with that).
About blood sugar levels, my persobal opinion is that sugar addiction is a bit too emphasized, of course it's important to maintain a balance but I don't think it's necessary to completely cut it out. I feel that moderation is key in everything, but of course everyone is different so if you feel that cutting sugar is what's best for you - go for it! Certainly it won't be harmful :D

About cravings, well, I still experience them both for weed and cigs but I managed to stay clear from tobacco, unfortunately I took a hit fron a joint a couple of times and it made me realize that I need to keep my guard up.

Which GPU did you buy? I'm pretty into computer stuff... just curious ahah

Good luck for your art projects, maybe you could post something on here, I would be happy to see it. Only if you feel like it of course, no pressure.
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#182

Postby Julia Stretton » Sun Dec 04, 2016 1:59 pm

As always, thanks for your input and kind words! :) I do read other people's posts (including yours), but on a number of occasions people have taken offence to my replies even though I've only commented with good intentions, and I don't need the kind of friction that has occasionally ensued as a result, so personally I don't really engage a lot when it comes to other threads. But of course feedback on here is always welcome! :)

Yes, I respect it if other people decide to completely cut out sugar (or caffeine, or other substances), but for me I would like to learn moderation in that respect, and I believe that it is something which is possible. Although I eat more healthily than I used to, things still aren't perfect – e.g. I definitely don't get my '5-a-day', and I often choose foods that I can just quickly pop into the oven rather than cooking from scratch. But I find that if I do make an effort, and I cook my meals myself with plenty of vegetables, that it is something which makes me more satisfied, and as a result my cravings for sugar go down. So I just need to be a bit more disciplined and better at planning meals, rather than just taking the lazy route most of the time. Once again, it is something which meditation will probably help me with, as daily meditation exercises seem to make it easier to have ordered thoughts, and to fit everything in rather than leaving things such as meals to the last minute, and then just yearning for quick results.

Yes, my health certainly has improved. But at the same time I must admit that I do get concerned that I might have caused irreparable damage to myself. Although I can breathe more easily than when I was smoking, I can tell that my lung capacity has been diminished, compared to how it used to be, and even small amounts of exercise can make me feel very exhausted. I'm not sure whether I will ever completely recover, but maybe I just need to give it more time. After all I was smoking for 27 years, and I've only been six months clean, which is obviously a relatively short time when looking at the big picture, When I was smoking I always had problems with my lymph glands. When I applied the slightest bit of pressure to them it made me gag, and they would swell up really easily. Nowadays I don't have those problems anymore, but they still feel quite sensitive. Although I was smoking like a trooper last Winter, it was somehow the first time in ages that I managed not to end up with the flu (which might have been due to the fact that I was pretty much keeping to myself, with hardly any social contacts). This year I am very much hoping that I will once again be spared from catching any infectious disease going around, and I guess the secret lies in keeping my immune system healthy – with plenty of fresh veg, immune-boosting teas and supplements, and with at least a little bit of exercise. Stress-relieving tactics such as meditating and doing the things which I enjoy should also help. I've still got about half a kilo of vitamin C powder, and some multi-vitamins which need topping up soon. In the late 90s I had a girlfriend who was really into mixing orange juice with carrot juice, and I did the same. It was the first Winter since '93 that I didn't end up with flu or a chest infection, and although I don't drink orange juice anymore (I find it too sweet, so nowadays I only drink apple juice), I might give carrot juice a go again – or at least supplementing B-vitamins.

As to your tech-related questions – I got myself a 43" LG Smart TV to use as a monitor, and I'm pretty impressed with it. My graphics card is a GTX 1050 Ti 4GB. I found out that the GTX 1050 is the cheapest card that will power a 4K display at 60Hz (using HDMI 2.0), and someone told me on Tom's Hardware forum that it is worth paying a bit extra for the Ti version, which I did. Originally I planned on saving up enough to be able to buy the display mid-December and the graphics card around the middle of January. But a lot of the time things seem to work out better than I expect, and I was able to afford both last week, way ahead of schedule. Now I feel like I've suddenly arrived in the future, and my living room has morphed into the control room of a spaceship floating through the vast expanse of space! :lol:


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#183

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Sun Dec 04, 2016 3:14 pm

I do read other people's posts (including yours), but on a number of occasions people have taken offence to my replies even though I've only commented with good intentions, and I don't need the kind of friction that has occasionally ensued as a result, so personally I don't really engage a lot when it comes to other threads.

Well if you feel like giving input they are always welcomed! I'm not someone who enjoys flaming, and I respect all opinions, even if I disagree with them :D

I must admit that I do get concerned that I might have caused irreparable damage to myself

Well, research supports that most of the damage from smoking can be reversed in time. Of course 6 months may be a bit too soon to notice great improvements, but even little ones are a sign that the body is capable of healing. They say it may take up to 2 years to reverse the majority of the damage, and after 10 years or so the health risks are pretty much the same as someone who has never smoked.
Of course I'm younger than you, and I smoked for a far less amount of time, so my healing process is probably proceeding faster. Still, the human body is capable of great feats. I'm sure that with light exercise and an healthy lifestyle your lungs will eventually heal a lot!

I had a girlfriend who was really into mixing orange juice with carrot juice

That is a very nice cocktail to improve energy and efficiency of the immune system. Top it off with some orange juice and it's pretty much the best beverage one could drink. I have one of those machines that are able to squeeze out the juice from the fruits at a slow rate, separating fibers from the good stuff, and I usually mix a lemon, couple of big oranges and three carrots to obtain more or less a liter of juice which is fresh, tastes good and can last up to two days in the fridge, especially if you use a ceramic blade to cut the fruits to prevent oxidation. It's really healthy and I enjoy the whole squeezing process ahahah

That setup that you got there is amazing! Now I'm envious :lol: I only have a GTX 660 Ti (albeit liquid cooled and overclocked a bit). Very nice wallpaper too. Netflix would look awesome on that screen :)
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#184

Postby Bagobones » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:11 am

Wooooow, 43" 4k as a monitor? that's awesome.. Care to share your reasons for going that big? I thought me planning to buy the 34 inch lg monitors was overkill, but you just showed me who is the boss... :D

I enjoy reading your quitting journey here. Inspiring.
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#185

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:44 pm

HikerOfTheSoul wrote:I have one of those machines that are able to squeeze out the juice from the fruits at a slow rate, separating fibers from the good stuff, and I usually mix a lemon, couple of big oranges and three carrots to obtain more or less a liter of juice which is fresh, tastes good and can last up to two days in the fridge, especially if you use a ceramic blade to cut the fruits to prevent oxidation. It's really healthy and I enjoy the whole squeezing process ahahah


Now it's me who's jealous – that sounds like a really nice little machine to have! But to be honest, my nutrition still falls far short from the ideal, and a juicer is probably not my main priority before I sort out some of the basics. When I finally got a new cooker a few months ago (after eight years of living with one that didn't have a working oven compartment), I was thinking how nice it would be to be able to bake my own pizzas, make myself some pies etc. But those are things which still haven't materialised (rather, it has given me a further excuse to be lazy), and without the necessary discipline to cook myself healthy meals on a regular basis, I probably can't commit myself to making the most out of a juicer, and to actually use it to make myself healthy drinks more than once in a blue moon. But once I have managed to create the proverbial cake (in the form of nutritious meals), the means to make my own juices would probably provide the metaphorical icing on the aforementioned! :)

Bagobones wrote:Wooooow, 43" 4k as a monitor? that's awesome.. Care to share your reasons for going that big?


As I often use photoshopped images as templates for my paintings, I was finding it very tedious to sit in front of my desk with a canvas on my lap (especially as I like working on a large scale), so a few weeks ago I bought myself a large H-frame easel (which should be big enough for accommodating canvasses or wooden boards up to 2A0 size in landscape format). I realised that with a 4K monitor, I would be able to display pictures up to 8MP without having to downsize them, and obviously with large paintings it makes sense to display them in a decent size, so that I can make out all the detail. Not that long ago, the monitor that I got cost nearly twice as much as I paid for it taking into account the 'Black Friday' offer, so although I hadn't plan to buy one for another few weeks, I realised that I'd just about be able to afford it, and I went for it ahead of my original schedule.

Unfortunately, I've still been having a problem with bed bugs. In Summer I was bitten on two occasions, and both times I assumed that I had been bitten by mosquitoes, and that after twenty years of leaving me alone they had suddenly taken a liking to my blood again, after I had previously quit smoking. But about six weeks ago I got bitten pretty badly, and both the itch and the swelling that ensued as a result of scratching were really bad, and I realised the true cause of the bites. Two years ago I became freaked out by the idea of dust mites, so I bought myself a waterproof (and dust mite proof) mattress cover, and I replaced my duvet with a hypoallergenic one, so I thought that the mattress couldn't be the cause of the infestation. I had stored loads of textiles under my bed, and I used that occasion to throw them all out. But I continued to get bitten, and when I went to sleep for a few hours on Monday afternoon, I realised after waking up that I had three bites on my fingers! I decided that I had to figure out where they were hiding, so I pulled the mattress from my bed, in order to look underneath. That's when I noticed that the zip of my mattress cover had broken, as it was only intended for the size of a mattress, but not for a mattress with an additional memory foam topper, which added several inches to its height, and which must have put too much strain on the zip. I quickly threw the mattress out on the balcony, and for three days I slept on the floor, with only the mattress topper underneath me, and I kept waking up with all my ribs hurting. In the daytime, I felt absolutely knackered, until my new mattress arrived yesterday. At the same time I managed to arrange for the old mattress to be picked up.

Last night I slept like a baby, but when I went out to walk my dog, I discovered four more bites on one wrist and on the other arm! That's when I realised that the bites had started about the same time that a neighbour had given me the jacket that I was wearing, and that things had become a lot worse once it got cold the month before last, and I started wearing it. So as soon as I got home I threw the jacket into a bathtub filled with hot soapy water, but I am thinking about throwing it out completely, even though I've currently not got another winter jacket, and my recent expenses mean that I might not be able to afford another one for the next few weeks. So now I need to be frugal once again and practice stoicism, while I save up the necessary funds.

At the moment I've turned my whole bedroom upside down, so I can get into every corner while I sort out everything that I don't need and which can be thrown away. About two years ago I threw out over 30 bin liners of stuff in just a month, and since then I've regularly cleared out my belongings, but each time I have a tidying up spree it seems that there is still so much left, and that there are pockets of chaos everywhere where I don't want them. So it will do me good to have this clear out, and to move another large step towards my aim of simplifying my life.

Yesterday I had my last counselling session. In a way it was a bit sad, as I really enjoyed the sessions, and I felt that I was able to benefit from them. But on the other hand it will be interesting to see how I get on without. I also found out that I'd be able to re-apply for more sessions with the same organisation after six weeks have passed, so I will probably go back there. Although I realised the benefit of counselling, I didn't use the sessions to go very deeply into any issues that I face and which have affected my life since my childhood. But I have certainly sorted out some of the basics, so that when I see another (or possibly the same) counsellor, I will be able to progress and take things to the next step.

One things that I have been missing is my daily meditation / breathing practice, which I was able to benefit from during the first few months of quitting smoking. I mentioned that to my counsellor yesterday, and when I got home I realised that I had no excuse to postpone it, so I started getting into my practice again. Today – if I conclude my post here – I'll have some time left before I need to walk my dog, so I'll be doing the same, and hopefully I'll soon find myself in the situation once again where I can't imagine going for a single day without my exercise. So ... for now, that's all folks! :arrow:
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#186

Postby Julia Stretton » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:24 pm

Tomorrow is going to be my six month anniversary of coming off weed (and six months plus 22 days without tobacco), but as I will be travelling to see my parents, I might not have time to write on here, so I decided to reflect on the past half year today instead.

Compared with previous attempts at quitting, things have been completely different this time. In the past, I would introduce some minor changes to my life, such as changing my eating habits, taking supplements etc., but to a large extent things stayed the same as they had been when I was smoking (one notable exception being when I decided a few years ago to start studying art at college). This time I realised from the start that I would need to turn my life upside down if I wanted to stand any chance at being successful. So almost from day one I started clearing out my flat, and the vision of having a minimum of clutter in my surroundings kept me going. I hardly ever felt like drowning out any unpleasant feelings by going to sleep in the daytime (like I had in the past), and seeing my living environment being transformed felt very uplifting. But I realised that that wasn't everything. I thought about what had caused me to relapse in the past, and I realised that to a large extent it had been loneliness which made me go back to my smoking buddies, where the first thing I did would always be to smoke a large joint, and within a day it had always become a regular habit again. This time I made an effort to get in touch with like-minded people, and I have found a group of people with whom I share a lot in common, although it is something that I prefer not to write about on here, so that I know I have a retreat where nobody else can find me, and I can completely cut myself off from the outside world if I want to while being able to enjoy pleasant company.

A few weeks ago I finished counselling, and those twelve weeks were an experience that I cherish. I didn't address any really difficult topics, and I just talked about general issues that were going on for me at the time, rather than any deep-rooted problems – however, in a few weeks time I will be able to re-apply for more counselling sessions, which will give me the opportunity to talk more about specific topics that I would like to solve, rather than the very basic issues which I was talking about during the previous set of twelve sessions.

A huge change after I stopped smoking was that I noticed how much my anxiety had subsided. For nearly two years, I hadn't ventured more than a mile from my flat, and the only times that I had left the house was to walk my dog and to go shopping – and even then, I would procrastinate for as long as possible, dreading the thought of being around other people rather than in my own environment. Now I have got a social life, and if anything needs doing – including anything which involves having to leave my flat – I will do it without hesitating. Most of the time I feel very comfortable in the fresh air, and although I will occasionally still feel a slight feeling of dread when I need to go out, it always turns out to be more enjoyable than my mind had previously made me believe. I still spend the majority of my time indoors, but I simply don't like to be outside just for the sake of it, and I am sure that as I increase my social activities, and I engage more in my interests, I will find more things which are worth leaving the house for.

At the beginning I was surprised how few side effects I had as a result of withdrawing from both tobacco and weed. Compared to what I saw most other people describe on here, I felt very fortunate. The worst feeling was the sensation of feeling hot most of the time, and feeling as if I was burning out from the inside. I still don't know what caused it, but as soon as the weather started getting cooler, it subsided. Bloods pressure? Thyroid? Diabetes? Or simply PAWS? I am not sure, but at the moment I have got no physical complaints other than still feeling short of breath a lot of the time, and occasionally a bit of tension in my chest.

One thing which has become stronger during the past month has been thoughts about wanting to smoke, thinking how relaxing it would be just to have a joint, and then just lean back on my sofa and close my eyes, and relax. I get those thoughts at least once a day, and in the past it was also something which tended to happen around the five-month mark of being clean. As i already mentioned, in the past the feelings of loneliness as well as the feeling that nothing was really moving forward in my life always made me give in to those thoughts. But nowadays I know that – despite the fact that those thoughts are currently returning on a daily basis – they never last long. And smoking has never solved anything for me, but rather, after a brief honeymoon period whenever I picked it up again after being abstinent for a while, it always started to turn my life into a hellish nightmare, which I was only able to (kind of) forget about whenever I spent huge amounts of money on weed, while I was damaging my health by inhaling toxic fumes all day long.

About ten days ago I started feeling particularly low, and for about a week I kept finding myself caught up in depressive thoughts. I also spent most of the time in bed during that period. But a few days ago I realised that I had driven myself crazy by deciding to create some art for my parents, and what I had had in mind soon turned out not to be achievable – I had soaked some fabric in PVA so it would stiffen and I would be able to make a 3D collage, but it soon turned out that the individual pieces wouldn't be dry in time. As a result, I became more and more panicky, until I decided to abandon the project in favour of something else. I realised that I had loads of unused work in my portfolios, so over the past two days I just cut out some pieces of old artwork which seemed visually appealing to me, and I stuck them all onto a canvas .... and voilà, with very little effort I created some recycled artwork to give to my parents as a Christmas present. The whole experience showed me how easy it still is for me to get stuck in routines, even if I find myself heading towards a dead end, rather than finding new ways of solving a problem. Last week I met some friends in a pub to celebrate someone's birthday, and I mentioned to someone that I have been suffering a lot from a lack of creativity, so he suggested Julia Cameron's book 'The Artist's Way' to me. About eight years ago I had bought her book 'Vein of Gold' (which I believe she wrote after 'The Artist's Way'), but I had never read it, after realising that it was a follow-up book to the other one. But I ordered her first book (the one that had been recommended to me) and it arrived in the post today, just in time to take with me to my parents, whom I am going to see for Christmas.

It has been several years since I have spent Christmas with my parents. For the past few years, when my sister was living in Germany, she had always decided not to travel over here, as she said it would be too much hassle to travel with a young child (my nephew is now four years old), and my parents said they would only celebrate Christmas if the whole family was able to make it. But two months ago, my sister came from Germany to live with my parents here in the UK, after she had split up with her husband a few months beforehand. So it is going to be a completely new situation for her to be there – last time she lived with my parents was in the nineties, when she still went to college (and then uni), and she came to live there during the term holidays. In any case, it will be nice to get some fresh country air, and to be in a place where I can take my dog for long walks. Unlike those two years when I always stayed close to my home, I now enjoy travelling out of town and having a change from the usual city life.

I am looking forward to the ongoing changes that I will be making in order to improve my life over the next six months ... watch this space!
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Julia Stretton
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#187

Postby Julia Stretton » Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:18 pm

I just had the worst Christmas of my life. My father had been ill for some time, and on the day that I arrived my mother complained that she was feeling very unwell. The next day my sister - who had moved in two months earlier, after she had split up with her husband in a violent argument, and then agreed to several months therapy in a psychiatric institution in order to get her son out of foster care - and my nephew had both come down with flu-type symptoms. I was still feeling fairly alright at that point, although I hadn't slept very well, which I put down to the fact that I had to sleep on a single bed with standard bedding, rather than the considerably more luxurious arrangement with hypoallergenic bedding that I was used to from at home. But by Christmas Day, it was obvious that I had been affected by the same bug, as well.

My mother was in an extremely bad mood, and it wasn't possible to say anything without her lashing out, even if it was just something harmless such as asking where to find something. At the same time, if I was hungry and I took something without asking - even something as simple as a slice of toast - it would prompt the same angry reaction. I would go to the utility room to throw some rubbish into the recycling container that was there, and if I happened to cross her path on the way out, she would ask me angrily what I had been doing in there. The whole time it seemed that most of her frustration was directed towards me which made my stay extremely unpleasant, but at the same time I couldn't help feeling sorry for her and everyone else. It also transpired that she had hardly eaten anything for the past week. She seemed to be heading towards a mental breakdown, and the only person capable of calming her down was my father, who kept intervening and telling her not to get so worked up about nothing. He also told me to ignore her, as she was obviously not well, and encouraged me to sit downstairs in the living room with the rest of the family (at least in the evening of the last day, when I was well enough to do so).

On Boxing Day morning I woke up and I felt worse than I ever had in my life. At the same time I had to walk my dog, and I was only able to walk extremely slowly while I was very wobbly, and the whole time I was just able to think about sitting down on the ground so I wouldn't have to walk any further. We only walked half as far as we normally do, and probably took at least twice as long. When I got back I measured my temperature, and I found out that I had 40° fever. My mother - who was clearly losing her mind - said that was 'nothing'. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on here before, but I had to have my spleen removed after a car crash that I had in the nineties. After that, I was admitted to hospital twice after my leukocytes had gone through the roof on both occasions (24,000 and 21,000, which is about three times the normal amount), and I had to be treated intravenously with antibiotics for about four weeks on both occasions, until my values had settled at an acceptable level again, so feeling like I did is something that I take very seriously.

On the same day, my mother called an ambulance due to the fact that she had hardly eaten for a week (except for a slice of toast on a few days). I got out of bed when I heard the paramedic arrive, so I could ask him whether he thought I should get my leuko levels checked. While he was examining my mother, he came to the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with her other than anxiety, and he persuaded her to eat some toast. When he asked her what made her feel anxious, she mentioned that my four year old nephew was there for the first time, so 'things had to be perfect', and he obviously explained to her that that was not the case, and that a small child would enjoy himself anyhow. I also noticed when she engaged with my nephew, that her behaviour would appear very forced, rather than natural. She has always appeared to others as what most people would call a 'control freak', trying to influence everyone and everything in her environment to behave in a certain kind of way - which is of course impossible and which will only lead to a build up of frustration. Although she has always had times when she has been very controlling and hysterical when things don't go her way, in recent months she has appeared like a caricature of her former self, especially when faced with her in person. I do believe that she would massively benefit from therapy, but I'm probably not the person who would have a chance of conveying that to her, and persuade her to temporarily give up control over her household. It has always appeared to me that for my parents - especially my mother - outward appearances and 'what others think' have always been more important than their own emotional life, and I can imagine that seeing me freely express myself and living my life in an increasing state of happiness, could have increased that dichotomy and sense of inner schism between real self and perceived self. While I was still a messed up druggie, my parents would have been able to tell themselves that they were heading down the right path while I had taken a wrong turn. But since I have been working hard on turning my life around, it must appear pretty clear to a lot of people that I am not as deluded as they would have previously thought I was. This becomes very obvious to me in all kinds of everyday situations which involve social encounters with others.

Unfortunately, my relationship with my sister wasn't great, either. At times she would try to give the impression that she was in control of everything, and she would start on some pseudo-philosophical discourse while committing the most basic logical fallacies in her reasoning, or just saying things that made no sense at all. At other times she would complain what a mess her life was in, while blaming others for everything that happened to her. At some point she became very agitated and aggressive towards me, and she said that after her husband had gone out to drink and take drugs while leaving her alone with her child, nobody was helping her, including me. She never mentioned once that she had had a serious drug and alcohol problem herself (when she came to visit me before, she had just been awake on speed for two weeks, and I have witnessed her drink herself into oblivion on a large numbers of occasions, becoming highly irrational each time), but instead everything was always someone else's fault. The fact that her Internet connection had broken down (which I wasn't able to fix, despite trying for hours) and the issue of her toilet being blocked probably put her even more on edge, and after she became abusive and threatening towards me when I refused to lend her my 4G tablet overnight, I was glad that I was able to enjoy my own company (as much as it is possible to do so while feeling ill), rather than constantly feeling the need to be around others.

When the paramedic came to see my mother (a few hours after I had measured my temperature at 40° C), he measured it again and it had gone down to 39°. I always thought that fever meant having to wrap up warm, but he said that I was wearing too many clothes, and that I should strip off some layers, even if it meant that I would be shivering a bit. I did that, and in the evening my temperature was back to normal. The next morning it was up again and since then it has been undulating, but the peaks seem to be getting lower each time.

When I got the train to London, and from London to where I live, I was feeling quite alright, and I struck up a conversation with a Canadian tourist who repeatedly commented on how lovely my dog was. I asked her where she was staying, and it turned out that her hotel is close to where I live, so we got the same bus. As soon as I stepped out of the station, I realised how much I love this town, and while we were travelling on the bus I pointed out various landmarks to her until she got off two stops before me.

Once I opened the door to my flat, I noticed that there was still plenty of work that I need to do in here, to make it into a home that I truly feel comfortable in. But at the same time, I realised how easy the individual tasks will be compared to the ordeal that I've just been through. I'll obviously be taking things easy while I'm still recovering from my illness, but I'm prepared to do whatever needs doing. I definitely can't think of many occasions when I've been so happy to be home again!
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#188

Postby JoeBloggs » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:12 pm

Julia Stretton wrote:Tomorrow is going to be my six month anniversary of coming off weed (and six months plus 22 days without tobacco)


that's great.
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#189

Postby Julia Stretton » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:54 pm

Until a few days ago, I was seriously depressed. It had started sometime in December, and was made worse when I visited my parents over the Christmas period, where I became very ill and everyone was in an incredibly bad mood, although the root causes obviously lie further back in the past. Once I got back home, I recovered from my physical ailments pretty quickly, although I continued to feel very weak and tired, and by the end of last week I only spent about three hours a day outside my bed. I realised that it must be mainly due to psychological causes, and I kept asking myself 'WHY?', rather than the more useful question 'HOW do I get out of this state?'

Three days ago I read an article about an author who had overcome her depression by microdosing on LSD for a month ('How dropping acid saved my life'). It made me think of a tab of acid that I had stored in my fridge from over a year ago, and I decided to take a small amount of it. In the past, I have often taken dozens of strong tabs in a single night, so despite the fact that I hadn't had any for over a year (which always creates a completely new experience), I didn't think that it would have much of an effect on me, other than maybe slightly enhancing my cognitive abilities. While I was aware that the 'set' (current mindset) and 'setting' (the environment that it is taken in) are incredibly important, I have also realised in the past that it can make it easier to identify problems in one's life, so that it can be very beneficial to take it during a low point in life (which is also proven by various studies from the 1960s, when it was successfully being used in therapeutic settings before being outlawed).

When I opened the bottle, I realised that it also contained a small amount of MDMA, which I had completely forgotten about, so I decided to take just 1/6 of the tab (a smaller amount than I had ever taken before), and 1/3 of the Mandy, after spending about 45 minutes meditating first, and then ritualistically banishing any negative energies in my environment. It didn't take long for both substances to kick in, and I was starting to think that I wouldn't be able to bear the experience without getting in touch with a friend of mine to get some weed, but then I became aware that there was no logical reason for that statement to be true, and that I had everything in my environment that I needed for a good time. At some point I realised how much my depression had taken a toll on the tidiness of my flat, which was in a state of disarray. I spent most of the night tidying up, and the process actually sent me into a state of ecstasy, rather than appearing as a chore. During that time I had another 1/3 of the tab, and another 1/3 of the MDMA. Sometime before sunrise I walked me dog up the hill through the woods, and there was a thick fog which hardly made it possible to see further than about 100m. I was soaking in the atmosphere, and it filled me with a lot of joy. Once I got back I tried sleeping, but although it was about 10 hours since I had dropped the first dose of acid, I was still tripping like mad, and I realised that I needed to carry on keeping myself busy before my mind would be at enough rest for me to be able to sleep. I finally dropped off into some light sleep at around 10am, and got up again about three hours later.

Although I felt quite tired, I decided to finish off what I had started that evening, and I dropped the remaining half tab as well as the MDMA that was left. That night, I got into the tidying and cleaning process even more after I had achieved some first results the previous night, and by the end of the night I was absolutely astonished how much I had got done. Once again I only got a few hours sleep before getting up again, and soon afterwards I had a phone call from a friend who lives outside town, and who had announced a few days earlier that he would be coming that day. I was about to walk my dog, so we met outside my flat and went for a walk before coming back here, listening to some music and have some deep conversations about all kinds of stuff (we are on a similar wavelength, and he doesn't smoke either while sharing plenty of interests with me). By the time he left I felt extremely tired, and I thought I'd be heading back to bed before getting up again at night, when it would be time to walk my dog. But he recommended that I should keep myself awake until after I had walked my dog, and it seemed like a sensible idea. I had a few hours left, so I did my laundry, but apart from that I was too knackered to do anything other than just sit on the sofa. After I walked my dog around midnight – which once again showed me how much I enjoyed being alone in the woods at night – I went to bed, and I got a sensible amount of sleep last night. Today I am feeling very relaxed and positive, and I noticed like on many occasions in the past how the feelings that are experienced during a trip are carried over into everyday life, affecting my mood and overall wellbeing for a long time.

When I had last been tripping before, last Winter, it had been with my friend 'Mr. Dopeman', whose mental health has sadly deteriorated over the past two years or so, and it had left me inhibited while we were taking acid together, as I felt that I needed to be careful what I said and did around him, rather than just being myself and saying whatever popped into my mind, as I usually do. At the same time, I had probably become very aware that smoking had become the main problem in my life, and with that issue being unresolved, the whole experience was a whole lot less enjoyable than it could have been, and the whole uncertainty, confusion, feelings of helplessness etc. carried on affecting my life a long time after I had taken that last trip just over a year ago. While I have been working on solving my problems since then, I can't say the same about 'Mr. Dopeman', who was in a pretty bad state when I last saw him several months ago. When he becomes very ill he always throws his phone away and he lives about 50 miles away from here, so there is no way I can get in touch with him. But those who know him believe that he is probably either in prison or in a psychiatric institution. There have been times when he has been able to snap out his unhealthy mindset to a large extent (even when I was still able to detect some of his deluded thought patterns), and at times that has also been after he went home and took some acid on his own, although as with me at the time, he was often taking it undiscerningly, simply to get 'out of his head' (mixed with loads of weed and some amount of alcohol), rather than to get inside it. Personally, I'm happy to go without any psychedelics for a while, and to live with the positive feelings that my recent experience has caused me. There is always a chance that a subsequent experience will be more difficult, leading to those complications being carried over into the period following the trip, and I'd rather quit for some time while I am feeling that I am very much in control of my life again. It has also become more difficult for me to get anything, as the person whom I was previously buying it off no longer sells it, but it seems to be one of those things which enter my life when I most need it, so I won't be forcing anything, but I'd rather let it find me instead of me going out of my way to look for it.

There are so many more thoughts that I could share, but I feel like having lunch now. Eating healthy food is also something that has suddenly become a lot more enjoyable (rather than just eating anything that doesn't need a lot of effort to prepare), and I have become very aware of how much the things that I eat affect my overall health, so I'm not going to waste any time to get something nice into my stomach ... :D
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#190

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:14 pm

Well, it's funny to me that you write on an Addiction forum talking about how you took illegal drugs :lol:

But who am I to talk, I just relapsed on weed and I use benzos daily so whatever.

I guess the most important thing in life is finding balance, and whatever means you use to find it, that's good.
Balance is a tricky issue and sometimes you slip, sometimes you don't.

Keep up with the good work and pay attention to lsd and especially MDMA, they are know to permanently alter the brain (that's why you say that the mindset lasts beyond the trip). It's a big gamble, it could be good, it could be bad.
I was tempted myself when I was in my darkest days but I managed to find some amount of balance thanks to medication, so I will keep riding that train.
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#191

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:01 am

HikerOfTheSoul wrote:[...] lsd and especially MDMA, they are know to permanently alter the brain (that's why you say that the mindset lasts beyond the trip). [...]


Well hopefully, I wouldn't want the effect to wear off again too quickly! :lol:

HikerOfTheSoul wrote:[...] It's a big gamble [...]


I would probably say that most things in life are a gamble, with experience adding to the chances of success - as with e.g. poker, where you can significantly increase your probability of ending up with a good result by possessing the right kind of knowledge in topics such as mathematics and psychology. I'm very aware of the circumstances that are required in order for me to have a good time, and the more I mature, the more that awareness increases. There are definitely substances that I need to stay away from - a few years ago, when I still went clubbing quite regularly, a lot of the people whom I met would be taking benzos to help them with their comedown after a night out, and I know from past experience that taking diazepam isn't a good idea for me. When I was still taking them, I always ended up on edge and really aggressive for at least several days afterwards, so that I haven't had any for quite a few years, and I've never been tempted since whenever I've been offered some. If I've been partying all night and I don't feel calm enough to go to sleep yet, I analyse carefully what it is that I need in order to find the right kind of peace of mind, rather than suppressing any anxiety with tranquilisers. Equally, a lot of the time alcohol doesn't go down too well with me. I did have half a beer the day after my second half-trip, when my friend came around, and as it's something that I rarely do (over the past ten years, I've had about one drink per month on average), I was able to really enjoy it. But when I'm tripping, I become super-aware of how it affects my coordination, and as I always like to be 'with it', rather than 'out of my head', I've not had any drink for years whenever I've taken psychedelics.

Another thing that I noticed in my enhanced state of consciousness is that I had very little appetite for anything sweet (being very aware at the time of what my body and my soul needed in order to feel at ease), and I got by just fine without any sugar (other than a few sips of juice). So now I have seriously reduced my intake of sugary snacks, and I am not missing it one single bit - in fact, I am noticing how much better I am feeling now, and my previous sugar levels were probably adding towards me feeling tired and depressed all the time. I'm not going to cut out sugar completely, but I've definitely become a lot more conscious of what is good for me and what isn't, so I'm cherishing that awareness and listening carefully to what my body tells me.
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#192

Postby Hopefulforchange » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:11 am

Based on personal experience, LSD and especially MDMA is a terrible and misguided way of getting over addiction. In my opinion.
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#193

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:39 am

Hopefulforchange wrote:Based on personal experience, LSD and especially MDMA is a terrible and misguided way of getting over addiction. In my opinion.


I'm sorry to hear about your experience, and I hope it all works out for you. We are all individuals, and one person's medicine is another's poison. There is no need for anyone to blindly follow another one's path; rather we all need to find out ourselves what works best for us. Just reading through other people's posts shows how different people are, and if I did some of the things that other people on here have found beneficial, I know that I'd be relapsing pretty much straight away – but that doesn't mean that those activities are wrong, only that they are more suited to some than to others.

On another note, I just realised how much I'd like to get back into doing some artwork again. I started this A1 collage several years ago before abandoning it in its nearly finished state ... so I've decided that I'll be completing it by the end of the week. That seems to be the best way to get on with things - just make a decision, and then follow through with it.

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#194

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:04 am

Oh, and I just realised that it's a new day, so it's my birthday ... and I really want to be very kind to myself, so maybe I can think of something nice that I don't usually do. Whatever my activities for the day are going to be, it won't involve spending any money, as I've already ordered myself loads of birthday presents (including filling my fridge with plenty of tasty food), so I'm skint for the next two weeks. But some of the best things in life are free! :D
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