7 Month Update: PAWS gradually getting better. (Long detaile

Postby PAWSsurvivor » Fri Mar 27, 2020 9:06 pm

Hey Everyone.

Celebrations! I’ve made it to 7 months sober. It’s been a pretty rough ride for me. I’ve endured the full brutality of PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawl Syndrome). I’m very happy to say I keep improving, though I’m not out of the woods yet. I write this post for my own self therapy, and documentation, but also to spread awareness of this condition, and to foster hope for others and myself if you are suffering through this. PAWS has been absolutely and unequivocally the most hellish thing I’ve ever been through. Yet it seems that this too shall pass. Just need to give it time. You can search my posts for more, but here is a brief synopsis.


I’m a 37 year old Male in excellent health. I have run multiple marathons, earned a Yoga Certification, and Strength Train. I focus on my nutrition, and value being fit. For the past 10 years I have been in very good health. I never even smoked before last summer.

I decided to use weed recreationally last summer with my vaporizer. I was looking for a replacement for alcohol (thinking it might be more fun and healthy…I never drank much anyways...and I was curious) I used Cannabis for about 3 months. I started slow, and then ramped up my use, using it first only on the weekends, and then every few days. I finished on my birthday, having about a gram’s worth of higher potency THC weed. Right after that I went cold-turkey off weed. 3 days later I awoke in the middle of the night with a massive panic attack, thinking I was going to die.

Month 1: Voyage into Hell

The ensuing weeks I suffered massive brain fog, dizzyness, anxiety, and strong disassociation. I could barely walk around my kitchen. And looking at the world was like seeing the world as a video game. Things seemed unreal. It was like my head was floating on my body and I was completely disconnected from reality. Even time seemed to move faster than usual. For just one day, I had a difficult time speaking. My ability to speak words just didn’t seem to work. Scary stuff. I went jogging once and had 15 seconds of double vision. I thought I had a brain tumour or schizophrenia.

Month 2: Worse before it gets better

I kept getting worse and more erratic. So much anxiety, but also add the disassociation, panic attacks, anhedonia, brain fog, nausea, dizzyness, nerve tingles. I’m sure there is more I am forgetting. My brain seemed to get more numb and foggy. I had hard times concentrating and even following conversations. Watching a moving screen made me dizzy as well. My symptoms were so erratic, that every day felt like a nightmare of unknown symptoms waiting to surprise me and torture me.

Month 3 - The turnaround begins…slowly.

All of the above continued to happen, though something awful also began. I began to get huge electrical zaps in my head at night. They are called brain zaps. It felt like a rush of electrical energy, and sometimes it felt like a Christmas tree lighting up inside my head. One scared me so much I had a second panic attack and went to my Doctor. He gave me an Ativan but I turned it down. I did not want to add any more neurological variables to my situation, and I did not want to become dependent on a new drug, one I never needed before.

I started to have some moments of recovery though. Little spots in my numb head began to tingle and slightly clear up. This month I had some major mood swings, and my nauseousness and dizziness began to disappear. I had some very minor moments of being able to feel some emotion; those moments made me cry in despair and relief.

Month 4: Disassociation starts to fade.

My recovery was more consistent this month, if slow. I got more of the zaps. I always felt a bit more recovered after I received one. They began to calm down in intensity fortunately. The biggest moment this month was starting to come out of my disassociation. I was at the gym , and I put on my glasses, took them off, and put them on again, and realized reality seemed so much more normal. It seemed my proprioception improved. I had a better sense of where my head was in space; it felt more connected to my body than just floating on top of it. I also had some strange albeit brief symptoms. One morning I had a ringing in my ears, like tinnitus, but it went away quick. I also had a brief few seconds of visual snow, which also never returned.

Month 5: Less fog and better hearing. More stable symptoms.

In this month I got quite depressed, feeling like I wasn’t improving much more. My biggest fear is that my healing would stop and that I would be stuck to returning to normal. I was still somewhat disassociated, still foggy, still very numb and anhedonic. The dissociation was mild though, and would come and go sometimes. There was one day though I went for lunch with my folks, and I noticed how crisp and clear everything sounded. I don’t think I even realized how foggy my hearing was. Everything just seemed so much more clear in that moment. That leads us to Month 6.

Month 6: Another strong improvement - Can feel small amounts of emotion.

Month 6 was a much stronger month of change. Parts of my head seemed to improve considerably. I used to smile and feel nothing positive in my head. Slowly my emotional fog started to lift. I enjoyed smiling again. As well, I continued to have tingles in my head that seemed to eventually feel nice. Like electrical work was getting sorted out. A lot of brain fog cleared up, and the world just seemed clearer.

Month 7: Gradual Process. Anhedonia slowly lifting.

This month now feels like a continuation of last month. I get head tingles that seem to feel nice later on. It feels like cobwebs are being cleared out of my head. I feel more positive feelings, although I still feel numb as well. It’s like there’s two concurrent feelings, the nice ones that are developing and the old crappy headache feelings intermixed. Yet, I have had days of much better energy. My favourite moment this month was listening to music, on a particular song I enjoyed there was a moment that just seemed to send a wave of endorphins through my head. Haven’t felt like that from music since before this began. My anhedonia seems to be lifting. Anhedonia perhaps was the most scary of all of these conditions. The inability to feel joy, sucks the meaning out of everything in life. I have been so happy to see some improvement.

Summary / Other odd symptoms.

So yes, I have made HUGE improvements from when all this began. I still have problems though. As stated above, I’ve had the occasional wave of PAWS symptoms. Once this month I got chills for no real reason. They went away in a few hours. I didn’t get sick, so I have nothing else to base them on than PAWS. I had one random day where my head had a bunch of micro-headaches and I became briefly disassociated again, just for the day. I have lots of odd weird head sensations that come and go. Sometimes I wake up feeling quite anxious / restless. It seems to go away though on it’s on in a day or so. Also I seem to be noticing / developing eye floaters. Could be unrelated though to PAWS. (UPDATE: I went to my eye doctor about it today and she said my eyes are in excellent health. My thoughts are my brain just isn’t filtering them out as well as it used to. Needs more Dopamine.). And I can’t say I feel fog free or that I feel emotions like I used to. The symptoms I’ve listed are more annoying than anything tough. These are much smaller problems compared to what I used to have. I’ve become much more stable as well, and I can look forward to decent sleep most of the time, and symptoms that don’t make want to go hide in bed.

I think my progress will continue gradually. Probably less dramatically and more slowly, but over a long length of time, I hope to be back to 100% eventually. Maybe at the 1 year mark.


If you are going through PAWS, my deepest most heartfelt sympathies go out to you. I’ve never gone through anything harder than PAWS. Not only dealing with my symptoms, but with all the psychological guilt from causing this to myself through my experimentation with cannabis. I’ve been seeing a counselor. Talking helps considerably as does nutrition, meditation, writing, creative work, and exercise. I’m so grateful nothing in my life has fallen apart.

PAWS from weed is very real. This condition needs to be talked about and established. I never ever would have touched cannabis if I had known this could happen. I researched weed for months before diving in, and no where spoke of a 2 year withdrawal possibility. Most of what I read indicated only a 3 week withdrawl, not unlike giving up caffeine. This is NOT like giving up coffee at all. I got sucked in by the hype. I accept responsibility, but also I’m still angry that nothing and no-one warned me of this. Cannabis has a place medically, but recreationally…it’s a high risk venture it seems. At least for me.

So the good news? If you have PAWS, you don’t have a brain tumour, you don’t have schizophrenia, and you are not going to die. Your brain is simply rewiring and rebalancing its chemicals and neurotransmitters. Healing may take 6 months - 9 months - 12 months - 2 years. I have faith now that I will heal. And my life is liveable now. PAWS is still a burden, but I can manage it. And here’s the wonderful things: My girlfriend still loves me, I still have a job, and everyone thinks I’m healthy. I just have to continue being kind to myself as I heal and become stronger.

If you are going through PAWS, be strong. You will get better as long as you stay sober. Keep living life and don’t let it hold you back (Taking breaks though is ok :>)

To others without this problem, when someone says they have PAWS, please believe them! It’s hard to even muster any sort of self-advocacy for one’s health when suffering from this affliction. If you quit cannabis and only suffer a few weeks of withdrawl, thank the holy creator. PAWS is like a bomb being dropped in your brain. And the hell it creates in your body is unimaginable unless you go through it. I’m fortunate that my personal Doctor had a few cases like mine over the years, and recognized it early. He said 6 months to a year is my rough timeline for recovery. Just be there for whomever is going through it, and assure them they will be ok in time. When going through a wave of PAWS, having someone to give that reminder and just hold space is ever so valuable.

I’m so thankful for everyone who has helped me come this far. At one point my conditions were so chronic and so bad, I even thought about suicide (Just in passing). It happened in Month 3 when my symptoms were the worst. Now I have enough hope to keep going, and am returning to my old self. Suicide is far off the table now.

Remember, if this is you. I’m getting better, and you will too. I’m hoping that this document helps you if you are feeling scared about what you are going through. I have been very scared through all this, and other posts from people on this forum helped me swim my way through my fear and despair. PM me or respond below if you need any advice. You’ll be ok.

Looking forward to more healing in Month 8.
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Postby Cthompson21 » Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:10 am

Omg I agree it is like a bomb being dropped on your brain! Thank you for sharing and hoping you have more healing and success soon!
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Postby PAWSsurvivor » Mon Mar 30, 2020 4:05 am

Thanks, I wrote the above for R/Leaves. I forgot most people know about PAWS here. Also this is my first post. This forum makes me believe I'll get totally better in time.
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Postby uniqueason » Thu Apr 16, 2020 4:12 am

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