PAWS, 7 months in

Postby Bombadil » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:45 pm

First of all, a very big thank you to all who have contributed and participated in this forum. I know it's been said many times, but this really is the best source of information I have been able to find regarding marijuana PAWS. Hearing about your symptoms, experiences and milestones have given me strength and reassurance that I am not going crazy and that there has been a reason for feeling the symptoms I have been experiencing.

As of the new year, I am 7 months clean from smoking weed and THC concentrates. Like many of you, this habit started with social and moderate use at first, probably 4-5 years ago. However, when I gave up Alcohol almost 2 years ago, that's when I progressed to daily use and from flower to more oils/concentrates. I had no idea how physically dependent my body and mind had become. For reference, I am Male/early 30s. Towards the end of my usage, I was smoking daily, typically high as soon as i got home from work and then high 24/7 on weekends and holidays, and I would have to smoke myself back to sleep in the middle of the night, just to sleep though the night. I ignored the warning signs and continued to use, despite the increasing anxiety, depression and insomnia, which I was medicating away with the THC. It wasn't until things progressed with my now girlfriend, and I experienced some libido/ED issues, that I knew I had to quit.

At first, I was anticipating some increased anxiety and maybe a week or so of sleep disturbance. I was so wrong.

Immediately after quitting, I couldn't sleep (at all), I couldn't eat, was on the constant edge of panic attack, terrible anxiety, terrible headache, constant nausea, shakiness, morning sickness/vomiting, obsessive/racing negative thoughts and my libido flat-lined. Progress was slow and out of desperation I started various medications to get even a little bit of sleep. At first I thought maybe this would last a month, then 3, then 6, but now, who knows.

Month 1: Symptoms above with high intensity, this was agony

Month 2: Started taking temazepam for sleep but only average 3-4 hours with some sleepless nights, appetite slowly returned, anxiety still high, headache still high, low libido

Month 3: Now taking Doxepin for sleep, avg. 4-5 hours still with some sleepless nights, appetite returned, anxiety now in waves instead of constant dread, low libido

Month 4-5: Doxepin usage ramps up, now taking at antidepressant dosages rather than dosage for insomnia. Still only average 5-6 hours sleep. Some libido improvements but seems to be tied to sleep quality and anxiety. Intermittent waves of anxiety and now depression creeps in. Still waves of racing thoughts, low energy, low motivation etc.

Things seemed to worsen in Month 6 due to a number of factors and changes. There were some side effects from the doxepin, plus I thought it was time to ween off the medication, but as soon as I stopped, sleep, anxiety and depression worsened. I moved apartments in the beginning of December and it took quite the toll on me physically and emotionally (being out of routine etc.). I have been relying on Ambien to get some sleep this past month, and i am stiill being crushed by depression and worsened anxiety. Not sure if this is a wave of PAWS, doxepin withdrawal, or just the addition of seasonal depression (SAD), but my work and relationship have been suffering massively as I can't focus on any tasks. I have very low motivation/energy and everyday is a struggle.

Despite all of the negative aspects I listed above, I recognize how much progress I have made. There are increasing moments of time in the day or week where I feel somewhat normal and can function normally. I've learned to be grateful for those periods and enjoy them while they last. Most importantly, I recognize the importance of this period of time in my life to re-wire my reward pathways after so much instant-gratification dopamine from the THC over the years. This has been and continues to be the biggest test of my life.

I am going to a psychiatrist tomorrow morning to discuss antidepressants. I would prefer not to take any AD's but I can't take another soul crushing month like December. Deep sadness and crying spells during the holidays were not fun.

If anyone has any thoughts on taking antidepressants during PAWS or any advice in general, I would greatly appreciate it. I hope to only take them for say 12 months and then come off but who knows.

Bless you all and thanks again.
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Postby InkChalk » Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:25 pm

Hi Bombadil,

Do you have any hobbies/passions?

Holidays suck, and winter depression is pretty natural. Congrats on 7 months. I find 6 is the hardest. SO REALLY great job! I appreciate your optimism in your post despite the hardship you've been in experiencing.

As far as age, and thc use I relate a lot to your experience.

I have not had AD's, or prescribed sleep meds.
I have used some sleep aids, but i get scared of becoming reliant on them. But PAWS for sleep and Emotional thoughts are the hardest, which is prob why we used weed for so long.

Reading your post, i think the AD's and sleep meds have essentially replaced your THC. Not a bad thing, perhaps just a stepping stone.

As far as depression/racing thought, and what goes on your mind, you'll need to one day ween off those drugs that block out your thoughts and learn to deal with your natural brain. It's so hard and scary.
I would suggest seeking a physiologist rather than a psychiatrist. Our brains are natural, its the way we live/our surroundings that affect us most. Drugs are a modern thing, and i don't think they do us much good in the long-run. Sometimes you just gotta think your way out.
Also reading books on the topic.
If you look around the forum you'll find suggestions
One that has changed my life is :
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

There are some more natural supplements that some people on this forum swear by. Maybe someone can chime in and drop the name of them. i can't remember what they are.

There are so many people that suffer sleep problems that don't use Weed or drugs too. Sleep is a difficult topic, I feel lucky on this issue. For me its all to do with daily exercise, diet, and hydration, and entering a meditating state when i lay down. I would suggest reading, or even looking up sleep classes at yoga studios.
I made an effort to find new friends to find outdoorsy people, that i can go on long hikes/activities on weekends so i get so burned out, that when i get home i just CRASH.

What is your daily life like? Do you spend times outdoors, in the parks? explore new places, beaches, Sports, Diet, hydration, sugar intake, cooking new recipes.

What are your passion? Something to dedicate your mind to, and maybe become 'obsess' and focus your mind and energy on.
There are so many facets ways to live that we are so unaware of in our bubbles. I suggest reading lots. Or even be daring and sign up for some crazy hippie retreat, or trying new things. Sports, hobbies, boxing, climbing, running, knitting. Stay away from screens.

My intention of this post is just to throw ideas out there. I wish you the best in the journey. And your post is really great, and i really enjoyed reading what you had to say.
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Postby Bombadil » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:14 pm

Hi InkChalk, thank you for the reply, I really appreciate you reaching out.

As far as lifestyle and hobbies, I'd say I live a pretty active life despite working a typical 9-5 desk job. I enjoy working out whether it be running, weights or martial arts. Between weight and cardio workouts, I probably exercise 5-6x per week and have a pretty good diet. I love the outdoors and hiking/camping, although I have not been very active on that front in the recent months. I do have a camping trip planned for the end of the month though. I am trying to challenge myself to read and meditate more, rather than spend time in front of screens as much. When the motivation and energy decreases from a PAWS wave, I really slack in this department. Social media and screen time can be a negative feedback loop for energy/motivation along with anxiety and depression. I definitely feel like I need to cultivate new hobbies/passions and have been eyeing rock climbing.

Sleep continues to be a struggle for me, which makes sense considering a major part of my usage was for sleep in the first place. I've found that with the right combination of proper diet, exercise (not too little or too much), meditation, sunlight and sticking to a routine, sleep improves. I think where I recently go caught was getting so far out of my routine after moving apartments and being off of work for Christmas and New Years. I also let my diet/exercise regimen slack with the thought I would pick it back up in the new year. Add in a lack of sunlight from the winter months and rebound insomnia/withdrawal symptoms from discontinuing Doexpin and my system went haywire with a new wave of PAWS. After re-establishing some normalcy and getting some sun, I have felt much better the past few days.

Thanks again. I will update soon with my progress.

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Postby SparkleFly12 » Sun Jan 05, 2020 4:49 pm

Hi @bonbadil,

Wow, your story is almost the exact same as mine. I used weed, and concentrates/oils for about 5 years...decided I had to give it up for the same reason as you; intermittent libido issues with my then gf. Same age too.

My symptoms werent as mental as yours - I had depression and anxiety but they werent THE worst; just enough to make me sit in bed a lot depressed. I did have a headahe that was debilitating for 3 months then unbearable for the next 6, but got slightly better eaach month and now it is almost gone. Libido also flatlined during this. It was a miserable 8 months, and its still going on.

Now, at 10.5 months, my libido seems about the same as where I was using weed; up and down but still low (not normal) most every day. Its been normal on a few days but it went down again soon after; now its not flatlined but its not normal either. I also get mild headaches, swollen lymph nodes in jaw, muscle ache / fatigue, and just generally feeling drowsy (and eye pressure). To be honest, the symptoms I have now seem like symptoms I had when I was smoking regularly.

I still have sleep issues - it was almost normal 2 months ago, then stress in my life came about and it got worse; a couple weeks later it got better but along with a return of many other symptoms (low libido, scary/negative dreams). Now I sleep 6-7 hrs, only wake up once or twice during the night. Its been like this for 3 weeks or so and its really frustrating; I just want to be better; but then I remember it took me 9 months to get to this point; so it will likely be a slow process to get fully recovered.

I have had a couple days in the past where I felt normal; and I forgot I had PAWS; which makes me think that something else is wrong with me. But Im just giving it time because it is all most likely paws still.

Ive made it pretty far now and hope that I am still feeling the effect of PAWS and not actuaally sick with something. Hope you continue to progress too; Im curious to hear how you do since your story seems so familiar to me. Cheers
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Postby Bombadil » Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:36 pm

Checking in at 8 months. This past month was by far better overall than the previous month. I began taking Mirtazapine at night to help with the anxiety, insomnia and depression. For the first two weeks, there was intense drowsiness and brain fog, but now those side effects have disappeared. On the whole, I would say that the medication takes a lot of the bite out of PAWS, but I can definitely still feel waves when they come.

For instance, I had to travel internationally for work two weeks ago, and the stress from traveling and being so far out of routine sent me into a PAWS wave, mainly anxiety, racing negative thoughts and insomnia. On good days, I feel relatively normal with a bit of low energy as I still struggle with sleep. At 8 months, I sleep anywhere from 4-6 hours per night, but I still feel tired and burnt out most days. At least it is now rare for me to get no sleep or a truly bad night which is progress. This has been the most frustrating symptom because if I have a string of bad nights, all other symptoms are aggravated and there is just no energy/motivation for life when this happens. However, when I do get a couple of good nights rest, my attitude and mood will be perfectly normal and somewhat happy, but I just can't seem to get good consistent sleep most nights.

Has anyone else taken this long to recover good sleep habits?

I know I still have a ways to go in terms of complete recovery and I truly sympathize with all of you who are experiencing this brain reset. This has been the hardest test of my life by far, and I carry this burden alone and in silence for the most part. To everyone out there struggling, keep moving and try to stay positive. I know how hopeless it can seem in the middle of a PAWS wave so I encourage you to remind yourself that it is temporary and that it will pass. Enjoy the moments where you feel at peace and be grateful for those moments of happiness. In then end, you will be so much stronger because of climbing this mountain. If you can maintain a healthy and positive routine in your life during the grip of PAWS, imagine how easy it will be when the storm passes and you already have those good habits.

If anyone was tracking similar recovery progress to me, I'd really appreciate your feedback on how things went over months 9-12.

Bless you all.
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Postby SparkleFly12 » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:24 pm

Approaching a year in a couple weeks for me, and poor sleep is my biggest remaining symptom.

Get ~6 hrs of sleep a day which is a lot better than before; but it is still really poor sleep - I wake up still feeling tired and with achy eyes.
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Postby Bombadil » Tue Mar 03, 2020 12:29 am

Checking in here at 9 months.

This past month has been a roller coaster with both some of the lowest lows and the highest highs experienced to date throughout this recovery/PAWS process. Relationship issues and a brief separation with my gf toward the beginning of the month triggered a particularly intense PAWS wave with severe insomnia, anxiety, brain fog, headache and depression symptoms. Granted, many of these issues would be present with most people during a rocky period in a relationship, but combined with a PAWS wave, it was almost more than I could handle to be honest. It's remarkable to look back at even 2-3 weeks ago and remembering how hopeless I felt and how pointless I thought this fight was.

Even after the relationship issues were resolved, the PAWS symptoms persisted for a week or so. Things had never been better or or more committed with my gf, I should have been happy and thrilled to grow in that regard, but a PAWS cloud lingered. No motivation, no pleasure from activities, heightened anxiety, depressive symptoms, trouble sleeping, bad brain fog and difficulty thinking, the persisting headache that has been a nuisance since the start was noticeably worse during this period and it was difficult to get any work done.

Then, about a week and a half ago, something changed. Getting some sunlight, socializing more and working on reducing stress started giving me momentum until one night, I slept like I hadn't slept since before smoking regularly. I slept 9+ hours hard and felt great relief. Then it happened again the next night, and the next night. Suddenly, the headache was gone, my baseline attitude and mood was positive and upbeat, My mind was calm and I had command over my focus and attention. I was tapping my fingers and nodding my head to music again, I could think quickly without brain fog, I had more motivation than ever before at work and energy was almost back to normal in the gym.

I got chills from music for the first time since before this whole PAWS mess. I felt epiphanies again that were not induced by blasting off with THC. I don't know why 8-9 months is an important milestone for some people, but I can say without a doubt that a turning point has been reached.

After those few days where I felt almost 100% normal, my baseline has come down a bit, but the level of intensity for the PAWS symptoms is nowhere near how it was before. A mini wave has come back over the past few days, but its strange because If i am preoccupied with something, I don't even notice the symptoms, when previously, it was all I could think about. Its like the intensity was turned down from a 7 or 8 to a 3 or 4, and all of the sudden, I can function just fine even when PAWS is present, and when it's not, I feel almost back to normal.

I'm not naive enough to think I am out of the woods yet. I know progress is not linear, but I now truly know that I can overcome this mountain, when previously, I was desperately reading trough every success story I could find on here trying to convince myself that I would be normal some day. I'm not 100% yet, but I feel like I have reached a point where I am beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I am confident I will regain what I have lost and be a better and more accomplished person because of it.

To anyone still struggling and fighting this fight, keep pushing. Read the success stories on this site, and reassure yourself that this fight is winnable and people can return to baselines similar to before regular smoking. But most of all, take this time to develop as a person. Cultivate good habits, coping mechanisms and tools for reducing stress. Read things that broaden your perspective, journal some and try to meditate. I know that it's often the last thing you will want to do after a long hard day with symptoms, but if you can maintain discipline during PAWS (even if its just some of the time), imagine how easy it will be once the resistance is lessened. It's like right now you are running uphill with as heavy backpack, imagine how capable you will be when you drop the load and hit level ground. I can already see the benefits of having to work on myself throughout this hell.

Thanks to all who share their stories and experiences on this site, you have helped me more than you know. I will keep checking in here to update on my progress.
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Postby Bombadil » Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:02 pm

Checking in at 10 months.

After experiencing a PAWS wave while traveling toward the beginning of the month, this past 2 to 2.5 weeks has been the most normal I have felt for a consistent period of time since this whole process began. While I am still not near 100%, PAWS was not on the forefront of my mind during this time whereas previously, I was consumed with health anxiety and wanting to be rid of this monster was all I could think about night and day. This has also been the most consistent I have been sleeping somewhat normally (7+ hours). Also, the headache that has been plaguing me for over 9 months seems to have finally dissipated. I know that there is a lot fear and uncertainty going on in the world right now, but I am feeling truly grateful to finally be at a point where I can function somewhat normally on a consistent basis.

Traveling at the beginning of the month and being out of routine/sleeping in a new environment, threw me into a PAWS wave which lasted until Mid march. Although lack of sleep was the most problematic, I felt increased anxiety, depression, headache and general lack of energy/motivation as well as decreased libido. However, the severity of these symptoms was nowhere near what they were 1-2 months ago.

The only major change I made in the past few weeks as far as healthcare/diet/workout routine was the addition of some very high quality collagen supplements. I had read anecdotes from a few people on this site and elsewhere that claimed this seemed to help alleviate some of the symptoms. I am not claiming that a high quality collagen supplement has cured me of PAWS, I am simply observing that my symptom severity has noticeably declined since starting, and that the past 2.5 weeks have been the best so far in the whole process. Whether that is due to a collagen supplement being of some benefit, or simply the fact that the 9-10 month mark is a big turning point in the general recovery, I don't know for sure.

To anyone who is still recovering and struggling with the painful experience of PAWS, my heart goes out to you. Please keep fighting and take it from this internet stranger that it will get better. I have had the dark thoughts and I stand here now telling you not to believe your own mind, and to find the strength and resolve to better yourself during this terrifying dark night of the soul. Many thanks to those that have come before me and shared their experience.

Much love to you all.
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Postby biohack9 » Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:28 pm

SparkleFly12 wrote:Approaching a year in a couple weeks for me, and poor sleep is my biggest remaining symptom.

Get ~6 hrs of sleep a day which is a lot better than before; but it is still really poor sleep - I wake up still feeling tired and with achy eyes.

Holy sh** man, that's crazy..... never heard of poor sleep being an issue after a year, but when was the last time you inhaled ANY THC?
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Postby Bombadil » Thu Jun 11, 2020 7:48 pm

Checking in again at just over the 1 year mark! I can't believe I have made it this far, and I can confidently say that the worst of this whole ordeal is behind me. Since the last check in, I'm not sure I would say I experienced a set back, but I had several mild back to back PAWS waves that made things just so-so. The pink haze from month 9-10 was gone and although I continued to make progress, overall energy, motivation and zest for life was low again. With that said, toward the end of month 12 and since passing the one year mark, things have improved significantly.

Over the past couple of months, I've noticed the following:

-PAWS headache has finally dissipated completely. If you've experienced this, you now how frustrating and demoralizing this constant pain and pressure can be.

-Tinnitus has cleared up completely. This was more annoying and a constant reminder of PAWS, rather than a discomfort.

-Sleep quality has improved drastically. This continues to be the symptom that has been the slowest to improve. I'm still not back to baseline, but I can consistently get 6-7 hours of sleep, and 8+ on a good night. With that said, I still feel tired and under rested most mornings, but I will take what I can get here.

-Motivation and concentration have improved significantly and have been much more consistent.

-Physical and mental energy have also improved significantly and have been much more consistent.

-Anxiety and depressive symptoms have declined, and most days I don't notice theses symptoms much.

Overall, I am so happy to make it to this benchmark, but I think it's apparent I still have a ways to go before reaching what I consider baseline.The biggest improvement to me is the ability to get back to living my life instead of constantly taking note of my symptoms and thinking about my PAWS journey in general. Lately I have been able to get back to focusing on work and my relationships, even in these crazy times. To anyone still battling, it does get better, even if progress is slower than you would like. For the first 9 months, I felt crazy and wondered if I would truly ever be normal again. Have faith and keep making progress in whatever way you can.

Be good to yourself and to each other.
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Postby Chap_85 » Sat Jun 27, 2020 6:12 pm

Glad you are feeling better bombadil :).

I find your monthly diary updates useful. I have PAWS from alcohol not weed but it’s probably caused by the same neurotransmitters being totally imbalanced. GABA and glutamate.

I have had a terrible time with it. Sensitivity to stress, OCD type symptoms, panic, irritability. I too have to travel with work and that is a major trigger for PAWS. I don’t think it helped that the first time I experienced acute withdrawal after a binge was on the eve I had to travel to Russia. Somehow I managed to white knuckle through it but it was a awful experience.

Coming up to 8 months and I have now gone 2 weeks where I felt almost normal with a tiny wobble. Obviously PAWS is back in full swing right now again but it is gradually easing.
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Postby katok » Fri Oct 16, 2020 9:53 pm


Did you stop taking the SSRI's...

I've been on a low dose of lexapro (5mg ) for about 2 months now...i wan't to get off them...
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Postby Bombadil » Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:17 pm

Checking in here as it has been a while, I am now at 16.5 months!

I can't believe how far I have come in this fight, and yet I write this update now on the tail end of the most significant PAWS wave I have had since month 10-12. I will say that months 13-15 were truly amazing in how productive, normal and happy I felt. My relationship flourished to new heights and work had been the best it's even been. In that time, I forgot to come visit this board and give an update because PAWS symptoms (except for sleep) were just not on my radar. However, a few weeks ago, constant traveling began to take a toll on my system and then a fight with my girlfriend created significant anxiety, which then cascaded into a full blown PAWS wave. I'm talking pounding chest and gasping for air as I tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep. Anxiety, depressive symptoms, lack of motivation or focus, and severe insomnia were the flavors this time around. I know some people have different philosophies with medication, but Mirtazapine and Ambien have been significant tools in working through these symptoms. After over 2 weeks of these symptoms, the fever finally broke last night and today I feel much better and tired like my mind and body have been through the ringer. It's a good exhaustion though, not a wired and tired feeling. Let this be a reminder to not let your guard down and always continue to do the self care routine necessary to be your best self. I am going to readjust my work/life balance, meditate more and do the little things like limiting social media, more books and less TV, and no screens after dark etc.

Katok, to answer your question, I try to take as little Ambien as possible, and prior to this latest wave, I had successfully tapered myself to 1/4 of a Mirtazapine every 3 days, although this past week I have taken 1/4 - 1/2 a dose every night.

I wish you all much success and love in your roads to recovery. Reading some recent posts such as thegreatdane's update has given me renewed hope and motivation to continue healing.

Much love
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Postby Prycejosh1987 » Sun Dec 13, 2020 5:03 pm

Antidepressants are half the job, the other half is steps you take to solving the issues that cause you to be depressed. All the best.
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