The Rewiring Project: Dealing with PAWS

Postby Foggy Noggin » Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:23 pm

First off, thank you for this forum, and thank you for all the excellent posts it contains. It has been an invaluable source of information and inspiration for me during this incredibly tough time.

I am in my late 40's and I've been using MJ for over 30 years without much of an issue. My use has gradually increased, culminating with a habit of about an OZ a month. I smoked both flower and vape concentrate every day, mornings and night, and aside from a lack of productivity, I felt fine most of the time. I have abstained for 1-2 months a couple of times during that period to be able to pass UA's and after the first couple days of insomnia, really didn't have any issues with withdrawal.

Earlier this year, I got a promotion at work, so I made the decision to 'dry out' for 2-3 months with the belief it would make me sharper and more productive. I thought it would also 'reset' my tolerance so I wouldn't have to smoke as much when I returned to using. My plan was to abstain for a while, then return to using on weekends only. PAWS has derailed my plan and has derailed my mental state.

I've been off MJ now for about 2.5 months. As with previous periods of abstinence, after the first couple days of insomnia, I wasn't having any issues. In fact, I did feel more energized and productive and more outgoing than when I was using daily. But, as with a lot of folks on this site, the subsequent days and weeks have been increasingly difficult.

I don't have cravings to use again, which I am thankful for. I have the typical symptoms of FATIGUE, LOW ENERGY, DEPRESSION and ANXIETY. But what has been the most difficult symptom for me to handle is my COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION. I've always considered myself to be fairly smart, able to figure stuff out, able to make a plan, etc. PAWS has taken all that away from me.

What I really struggle with is the CATCH 22 of how DEPRESSION and ANXIETY can lead to COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION and how the reverse is also true. My lack of ability to think clearly, recall things I know I should know, and be able to problem solve, etc has really got me anxious and depressed, especially since I know it is affecting my job performance and day to day living. I can go through the motions of day to day life, but if anything out of the ordinary were to crop up and need to be addressed, I feel like I wouldn't have a clue how to resolve it.

My job requires me to compare and resolve discrepancies with data and I have been demonstrably slower in my performance than my peers, and that worries me. I feel like it will only be a matter of time before my boss starts the process of demoting me, or worse, letting me go. And to try to get another job, and learn something completely new, with my current mental state seems like an impossible task. This scenario is a great example of how my cognitive dysfunction is resulting in increased depression and anxiety. Historically, I am at my most serene and happy when I am secure in my job and life.

I'm glad my MJ use is behind me, but I find it a tad ironic that I decided to abstain to make my head more clear and job more secure, as quite the opposite has happened. I'm taking fish oil, magnesium, and B vitamins in addition to trying to excercise more. But it seems like all I want to do is sleep. And, yeah, I've been having the crazy dreams that make sleep less satifsying than it should be. I am seeing a doctor soon to discuss any tests he might want to run and review my options for a speedier recovery. I've taken zoloft in the past for depression, but found in creates the kind of brain fog I am currently experiencing, and like others here, I don't want to replace one psychoactive chemical with another.

I wish I could hit 'pause' on my life until my head is right again. I also wish I knew what the years of constantly flooding my brain with dopamine was doing to my brain wiring. I'll check in from time to time to let the group know know how I am doing. Comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated. To everyone dealing with PAWS: Stay strong and know each wave will eventually pass, and a better mental state is on the horizon. Thanks for reading.
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#1

Postby Bagobones » Sun Apr 29, 2018 6:05 pm

Foggy Noggin wrote:But what has been the most difficult symptom for me to handle is my COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION. I've always considered myself to be fairly smart, able to figure stuff out, able to make a plan, etc. PAWS has taken all that away from me.

What I really struggle with is the CATCH 22 of how DEPRESSION and ANXIETY can lead to COGNITIVE DYSFUNCTION and how the reverse is also true. My lack of ability to think clearly, recall things I know I should know, and be able to problem solve, etc has really got me anxious and depressed, especially since I know it is affecting my job performance and day to day living. I can go through the motions of day to day life, but if anything out of the ordinary were to crop up and need to be addressed, I feel like I wouldn't have a clue how to resolve it.


Foggy Noggin.. hehe.. Sorry for laughing, but you just put my struggles in words I could never come up with. I feel you. I have been in your shoes. I wrote about this here a couple of years ago, about my struggles with strategic thinking and planning and how i got low self esteem and anxiety from it...
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#2

Postby Bagobones » Sun Apr 29, 2018 6:15 pm

Foggy Noggin wrote:My job requires me to compare and resolve discrepancies with data and I have been demonstrably slower in my performance than my peers, and that worries me. I feel like it will only be a matter of time before my boss starts the process of demoting me, or worse, letting me go. And to try to get another job, and learn something completely new, with my current mental state seems like an impossible task. This scenario is a great example of how my cognitive dysfunction is resulting in increased depression and anxiety. Historically, I am at my most serene and happy when I am secure in my job and life.


What drove me to this forum was this. I have a job that requires a violence alarm in my pocket, and a mindfull attitude. So I dont have to compare and resolve discrepancies with data, but I have to make sure that the dude with big muscles and a 5 pages long criminal record full of violence dont get to rip out my neck...

I also wrote about how it affected my job, and how my co workers noticed it.. Hell, even my "users" as we call my clients, noticed it too. As I wrote here some years ago, I ended up a big liar to them. How are you dealing with it?
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#3

Postby Foggy Noggin » Sun Apr 29, 2018 6:53 pm

Hi Bagobones, thanks for the replies. I have read your posts and they were very informative for me, thank you.

You hit the nail on the head with the low self esteem and anxiety component of PAWS.

My confidence is shot and I am struggling to regain it. What am I doing about it? At this point, taking it one day at a time, but that doesn't seem to be working too well. I'm the kind of guy who gets my peace of mind by knowing things are going to be okay next month, next year, and thereafter... and from where I sit today, I just don't know.

I try to visualize myself doing a good job, reviewing times in the past when I was much more competent and confident, but those things only provide a temporary respite. Baby steps, I guess.

I'm thankful my job is not dangerous like yours. My dad was a parole officer who had to arrest people with only handcuffs, so I can relate, if not personally. What were some of the things you found most helpful to regain your cognitive function?

I do believe the issues I am experiencing with depression and anxiety will be greatly reduced when I am able to think more clearly and problem solve like I use to be able to. I'm a bit surprised there are not more posts here that talk about work insecurity. For me, that is the scariest part of what I am going through. If I somehow knew everything with work was going to be 'okay' I would immediately feel some measure of relief.

In the meantime, I am taking my supplements, being more physically active, reading this forum, doing my level best at work to the best of my (current) ability, and trying to stay positive. All that is easier said than done when all I feel like doing is staying in bed and letting time pass. That's a pathetic thing to acknowledge, but it needs to be acknowledged nonetheless.
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#4

Postby Bagobones » Sun Apr 29, 2018 10:56 pm

Foggy Noggin wrote:What were some of the things you found most helpful to regain your cognitive function?


I ask google! He always has a answer for me. So I google "Improve Cognitive Function", "strengthen Cognitive Function".

And here is me. Unlike alot of people I actually DO what comes up.

Very short, and from my head, not google this time, google will come up with suggestions like this for you:

1. New experiences! So I traveled...
2. Be Creative So I remodeled my apartment, and played Ukulele...
3. Be social So I started hanging out with yoga teachers, fighters, people abroad, and most importantly "No BS people"...
4. Mindfulness Meditation so I spent some time every day in lotus position breathing and letting go...
5. Brain-Training Games So I picked up duolingo as my go to gaming app.. Language learning.. Jeg lærte et nytt språk.. hehehe.. That was I learned a new language in Norwegian...
6. Reduce Stress so with mindfullness I was able to get to what was stressing me most, and did something about it.
8. work out So I did Yoga and Thai Boxing, running and snowboarding, surfing and biking to mention a few...

¿Es posible aprender un nuevo idioma en 90 días? I would say yes, even when getting sober. Of those tips I think duolingo and learning language was best for answering your question. And in the long run, when your "on the other side" you will be so much better by following those tips and others you find.

Gusto nimo ang kalig-on? You like stability? How far are you willing to go to get it? I have the cure for you, but humans in general and stoners especially is not very open to work their a*s off for a solution. And as a dude that was a Green Beret paratrooper (in my countrys army) for 2 years, I must say its the toughest I have done since special ops army boot camp:

Mysore style Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga before going to work, 6 days a week. Treat it like something you need like food and water. Its takes away the paws completely while your at work.. And you come inn to work sooooo fresh and awake. That will cure you for the rest of the work day. That is VERY hard... 5 am to 7am for example. I did that. One of the big benefits is that you get to hang out with awesome beautiful ladies like this woman every morning. :D :D

But in my experience, people in general will skip Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga before going to work. Instead they will search desperately for the magic pill shaped like moms boobs when you where a kid, that will come and take all the badness away... hehe.. :)

I did go to a city with war last year. I saw a lot of really bad things. I did not struggle with PAWS while watching planes on bomb runs, listening to mortar rounds, assault rifles and hearing scared shitless children screaming and crying. But that I do not recommend you, if you dont have experience with the dark side of planet earth. But you will forget your first world PAWS problems in a second.. :wink:
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#5

Postby Foggy Noggin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:06 am

Thanks again for the reply Bagobones and thanks for the suggestions!

I've found a lot of the advice on this forum falls into one of two extremes:

Go easy on yourself, give yourself time, only do what you are ready to do, etc

and

Try harder, push through, work your backside off, don't give up, etc

Although I think part of the secret is knowing when each approach is appropriate, I am definitely finding value in the latter.

I think the oversleeping is really taking a toll on me. Sleep, in general is good for the brain, but oversleeping during PAWS just allows your brain to rest unchallenged in a state that isn't helping it rewire new neuropathways.

Similarly, if thinking and challenging your brain is uncomfortable and painful, then that's likely what needs to occur to build the new roads in your brain without the benefit of being flooded with dopamine.

Diet / Supplements, Excercise, Mental Challenge, Meditation, and Positive Thinking is what I'll be using to overcome PAWS.

Although visiting a war zone sounds like it would definitely work to get someone out of their own head, I'm hoping I can avoid such measures. :shock:
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#6

Postby Foggy Noggin » Wed May 16, 2018 2:37 am

UPDATE: Almost 90 Days Off THC

My 3 month anniversary will be in a few days, but I thought I'd post today since I've been struggling. I had a pretty good week last week, but the last few days have been a dark wave. From what I've read here, 3 months seems to be a real struggle for a lot of folks.

My main issues are the combination of depression, anxiety, and cognitive dysfunction. Those three things alone are bad enough, but with waves of depersonalization and anhedonia, it really makes me feel like an empty shell or 'unperson.' I would say zombie-like, but I'm pretty sure zombies have more fun than this.

With the sun out and spring flowers blooming, I feel like a shadow walking amongst the living world. My daughter turns 16 next week, my son is graduating high school a few weeks after that, and dad can barely manage to make it through the day. Yesterday I stayed home from work and could barely move. A lack of motivation combined with being anxious and not really knowing what to do kept me paralyzed. I don't think I've ever felt more worthless.

Work is still a concern, as my thought processes and memory /recall are pretty shot right now. That noticably comes and goes... I have hours and days of pretty good clarity and recall and then, it's gone as quick as it came. That doesn't make for a secure employment situation.

I can be thankful that my physical symptoms are minimal. No headaches. I have fatigue off and on and although I can fall asleep pretty easy, I always seem to wake up about 2 hours before I need to and can't fall back asleep. So I peek at the clock about every 20 minutes until it's time to get up. Anxiety is especially bad in the morning.

I've tried and will continue to use CBD.
See post here: viewtopic.php?t=107004

But it is not a cure-all and I've noticed diminishing returns of late. I will continue to use it for 'breakthrough' anxiety as it has a calming effect. I'm also taking Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Vitamin D, and Fish Oil. Sometimes I'll take melatonin at night or L-Theanine during the day. Honestly, I don't know if any of the supplements are helping. So hard to really know.

Something else I've read recently suggests that with THC withdrawal, it isn't just a lack of dopamine in the brain, but it's the inability of the receptors to normally process any dopamine that may be there. So, even if you are able to produce dopamine naturally, or possibly taking supplements that are supposed to increase dopamine production, your receptors may not be in a state to make much use of it.

I have started exercising more and meditating, both make me feel good for a time, but like the CBD, they seem to have a short-lived effect. I believe both are more long-term solutions, so I will keep at it. As it's been pointed out on other posts, time is really the best cure, all the other measures are just to help the time pass easier. There are some great guided meditations on youtube for beginners like me.

I had hoped to feel much better at this point, but since I was a heavy user (oz/mo) and had 30 years of using under my belt by the time I quit, I'm likely on the 1-2 year plan. But I'll gladly take the good waves when they come and work my way through the bad waves as they will inevitably come too.

Well, that's my update, hope everyone is staying on a healing track and can find something in my post helpful. Thanks for reading.
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#7

Postby Foggy Noggin » Wed May 23, 2018 2:35 am

Hey everyone!

I've had a stretch of about 5 good days in a row and wanted to report it. I think folks here dealing with PAWS have the urge to post when things are bad and perhaps not so much when things are good, which is understandable, but it gives readers a bit of a skewed perspective on what's actually going on with their recoveries.

So, I'm a little over 3 months off THC and currently feel better than I have in a couple months. I had acute withdrawal for a few days (bad insomnia, etc), then felt pretty good for a few weeks, then about a month in I hit the PAWS WALL you all know so well and have been dealing with it ever since.

While I don't want to overstate my current state, I have a much improved outlook, less anxiety, and am sleeping better. Interestingly, I am now mostly just depressed about stuff I would occasionally get depressed about while using, such as stuff piling up and not getting done because I was high all the time. I feel like being depressed about tangible things is an improvement over being depressed about everything and nothing at the same time, which is where my head has been at for the last couple months.

My biggest improvement has been in the area of mental clarity. It feels like I am returning to something resembling a fully functioning human being, and that, in turn has greatly reduced my anxiety. Especially as it relates to my job.

One recurring theme I see on this forum is folks trying to determine what is PAWS related psychological problems and what might be issues that pre-dated marijuana use or perhaps issues created or made worse by marijuana use. It seems that chronic users like I was (30+ years) use MJ as a masking agent that prevents them from being able to deal with issues both internal and external. I always told myself that my marijuana use was an 'enhancement' to my life, but with chronic use, it quickly becomes a crutch that prevents any true growth or healing to occur.

PAWS symptoms make it difficult to even function normally on a day to day basis, so being able to use the time to self evaluate, learn, and grow seems like a tall order... but that is what we are all tasked with during this formidable time.

Take advantage and enjoy the good days and hang on tight and persevere through the bad days and know that, in time, you will be in a much better place. Congratulations to you, whatever day you might be on. Stay strong!
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#8

Postby Backatit » Wed May 23, 2018 4:56 am

Hi Foggy, sounds like you’re doing great and you have the right perspective. I also didn’t notice much with supplements but trying different things is good, you never know. Top things that work for me are:

Meditation
Exercise, brisk walking and lifting weights
Socializing
Trying new things
Eating very healthy, for me it’s WFPB (whole food plant based) or healthy whole foods vegan
Setting and accomplishing goals no matter how small
Getting plenty of rest, relaxation
Going easy on yourself, not trying to change too much at once/patience
Allowing yourself to feel good about the accomplishments you’ve made to date, like quitting the weed and anything else

I’m now at 18.5 months and thinking I’m a 2-year case. My improvements have been extremely slow but steady. They’re so incremental I can only see them over the long term.
It’s great you’re on a good run and you decided to post. Here’s hoping that sustains and improves. Keep it up!
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#9

Postby Foggy Noggin » Thu May 24, 2018 2:24 am

Thanks Backatit, and congrats on your quit. A year and a half is incredible!

"Setting and accomplishing goals no matter how small"

This is huge. With receptors that are struggling without Dopamine, reward seeking behavior is is so hard to do. And it figures, since there is very little reward in it. But that is exactly where the brain healing needs to occur. Bit by bit and little by little, we need to retrain our brain to produce and be able to use it's own dopamine.

I know for me, getting started is the hardest part. But it is so very important.

Steady progress.
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#10

Postby Bagobones » Thu May 24, 2018 4:46 pm

Backatit wrote:I also didn’t notice much with supplements but trying different things is good, you never know. Top things that work for me are:

Eating very healthy, for me it’s WFPB (whole food plant based) or healthy whole foods vegan


Are you supprised? hehe. Its food supplements. Its in the name. You suppliment if you are lacking something in your food. They are not working because you are already eating healthy and getting what your body needs.. :)
Where I come from there its no daylight in the winters, you have to take it, because you cant eat yourself out of not getting enough sun..

I think the suppliment and eating healthy thats being talked alot about is because a lot of people have been eating unhealthy for a long time while being addicts. So if you have been an addict that has had a healthy relationship with food and nutrition, those tips are not for you. You are already doing it...
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#11

Postby Anxious_mary_420 » Sat May 26, 2018 7:49 am

Well done foggy, your doing really well. So glad you are feeling better. Hope it continues you got this, keep it up. Xx
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