3.5 years Marijuana PAWS Update

Postby OutOfComission » Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:15 pm

Hey guys, you can look at my post history to see what i was going through with PAWS back in 2017 if you like, but I thought I would come back to give a final update since this forum gave me the support I needed to get through the darkest time of my life. I hope i can pass on a little bit of the hope i received to someone who feels like their world is ending like I did. Please know that your experience may differ from mine, as i had one of the most severe cases of PAWS that i had seen on this forum, and you may recover far quicker than i did.

First Year

The first year of PAWS was truly hell for me. I was 21 years old and felt like my life was coming to an end. I had severe DP/DR, depression, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, ego loss, and hyper divergent thinking. I felt like my brain was broken, and that I experienced some kind of "awakening" that I lacked the philosophical and spiritual structure to sustain. I felt like I had taken a bite out of a forbidden fruit containing an awareness that i never wanted nor desired. It was a burden that was incomprehensible to someone not experiencing it. It didn't take long before I desperately wanted to just be a normal guy again. I couldn't stand being conscious and wished I could just go into a coma for a year. I obsessively did research into what was happening and found this forum. I realized after reading these forums that time was the best cure. So I began living moment to moment, just trying to get through the day without suffering as much as i could help it. My memory of this time is honestly pretty poor. My brain fog was extremely bad in 2017, and my personality was largely non-existent so it almost feels like that year happened to a different person. I had a ray of hope after about 6 months when i found that I could sustain living on a daily basis without weighing the idea of killing myself. My greatest fear early on was that my symptoms would become worse, in which case i would have had no choice but to end my own life. Along with this fear, I was absolutely terrified of ingesting marijuana and I became extremely paranoid about consuming ANYTHING. To this day I have anxiety about eating or drinking anything that has been left out in my house or has been prepared by someone that I do not know. Marijuana is such a non issue to other people that I worry they do not realize it could cause me great harm.

Second Year

My one year anniversary was a HUGE milestone for me. It served as a badge of survival, and proof that I was strong enough to keep living despite suffering from PAWS. Once I realized that my symptoms were slowly improving after all, my mindset improved considerably. It gave me the confidence to have faith that things would get better with time. When I would be having a panic attack, this knowledge gave me a great deal of comfort. That faith has been the most important part of my recovery. It was a solid object to cling onto when I was struggling to stay above water. Once I reached one year, I was comfortable enough to begin challenging myself. I enrolled in university as a junior and attended classes part time. This was EXTREMELY challenging. I had a severe panic attack almost every time i drove to school, and often had to leave class because i felt like i couldn't breath or was going to pass out. But I got through it. I took it one day at a time, focusing on each immediate hurdle in front of me. As difficult as school was, it was extremely important to me because it was the best way that i would be able to continue moving forward in life despite my psychological problems. I lived with my parents throughout this time and their support was invaluable in my recovery. They gave my sympathy even though they didn't understand what was happening, and took care of me when i could barely function.

Seeing friends was difficult for me. I wasn't able to be completely normal around them, and I felt a bit embarrassed that they had to hang out with me when i was mentally ill. But even though i was pretty weird and awkward, my friends continued to treat me normally and i will be forever grateful to them. They helped me check back in to the world socially and remember how it felt to be engaged with reality when i spent so much time trapped in my head battling with myself.

My PAWS symptoms came in waves. I would have a couple good weeks followed by a couple bad weeks. But every cycle i got through through the bad waves were a little less bad and the good waves were a little better. For the next year I just focused on school and kept grinding. I made the mistake of going on vacation with my family in 2018, which I was NOT ready for. I knew I wasn't ready and i should have put my foot down with my family. I was completely overwhelmed and ended up being a burden during that trip. I totally regretted going. That was probably the biggest hiccup in my recovery. Otherwise, I just kept living day to day, working on my degree, and trying to let time take me to a better place. In 2018 my brain fog finally started to improve. It was really only present during panic attacks or when I was lacking in water or sleep. I even reached a point where i was able to start going places with my friends. (Hiking, golfing, etc) By the end of 2018, I was feeling pretty decent! My personality was starting to come back, along with my sense of humor. I still struggled to go outside and couldn't spend much time in a car, but i was comfortable enough in my house that I was no longer suffering on a daily basis.I felt like I could finally let my mind and soul rest after everything I went through, so this was a time of great relief. By this time, I knew I was going to be okay.

Third year

My 2 year anniversary in 2019 from quitting smoking weed was bittersweet honestly. I was disappointed that I was still having problems, but at the same time I was glad that I had improved so much that i was able to hang out with friends and go to school again. I felt like working a regular job was still something out of my reach, but i decided to save that challenge for after i graduated (I was extremely aware of how lucky and privileged I was to have parents who afforded me such a luxury, and intend to return the favor for them in the future). 2019 turned out to be an excellent year for me! This was probably the time when i improved the most. I was doing school full time and started to get out of my head more. My personality completely returned and i was finally able to feel like myself again, albeit damaged. This was once again bittersweet. By the end of 2019, i realized that during my PAWS phase i had developed some psychological and social issues that would last longer than PAWS itself. I self isolated a lot during the first year, and became somewhat socially avoidant. I already felt socially awkward before i had PAWS, so this was an unwelcome problem to say the least. While 2019 was probably one of my best years since I quit smoking, it is also the year i became somewhat complacent. I managed to convince myself that going to school was enough of a challenge for me, and that I would continue to improve with time. In hindsight, i think my third year of PAWS is when my symptoms became largely nonexistent, but my psychological problems i had developed became my primary problems. I didn't really have brain fog anymore, panic attacks became rare and mostly manageable (with some rare hiccups), My thought patterns became more normal, my perception of reality was largely normal, and I had mental energy to spare.

However, my depression persisted. Approaching normality brought with it a wave of regrets and a sense of loss regarding my youth. I felt like i had wasted my prime on PAWS, and while my friends were dating and even looking at marriage, i was not functioning well enough for romance. I felt like i had missed out on years of fun with my friend group (they went to school in a different state). 2019 brought a welcome stability to my life, but marked the beginning of a different struggle i would have with myself. Stagnation. After i improved so much i reached a point where i was functioning well enough to become complacent, and I have not challenged myself nearly as much since. As a result, my anxiety and depression have persisted.

At the end of 2019, I finally graduated from university. I was extremely proud to have maintained a 4.0 GPA during the last two years while experiencing PAWS, and was pleasantly surprised to graduate Summa Cum Laude. It was a special feeling because this degree essential marked the day when I felt like my PAWS had ended. I cannot express to you how grateful I am to have been given a second chance at life. I found myself tearing up as i was typing this because i genuinely felt that i would not be able to live through 2017 and 2018. After graduating, I faced my next challenge of getting a job. I had a mental block regarding employment due to my fear of anxiety sabotaging me and making me look like an idiot at work. After about 2 months of job and soul searching I took a leap of faith and took a part time job in an office setting working minimum wage in the late afternoon. I felt incredibly awkward and anxious as i was doing this, but I adapted fairly quickly and was able to cope with my panic attacks and anxiety well enough to get through it without too many issues. It was frustrating that my anxiety was still bad enough to make it impossible to be completely at ease, but at least I was now functioning well enough to make money! Having money gave me a sense of adulthood that i had been missing, and I began to dream about places to move to or careers I could get into. My thoughts and goals had finally returned to normalcy.

Fourth year

In 2020, I was feeling quite accomplished. I was rolling off of the high of graduating with flying colors and gaining employment. I felt like i had made a massive amount of progress since my life fell apart years earlier, but I still struggled with anxiety and depression. The truth of the matter is that time alone was not enough to heal me completely. Time took me 90% of the way there, but the last 10% comes from participating in your community, engaging with friends and family, and working towards self-actualization. My goals then shifted from getting through the day to day, to finding more concrete long term goals. I decided i wanted to become strong and successful enough to take care of myself and others, and stand up for myself when need be. i also decided what kind of career i want, what kind of lifestyle i desire, and what conditions i would need in order to raise a family. Coronavirus caused me to miss about a months worth of work, but then i began working remotely and actually ended up making twice as much money. My mindset continued to shift, as i became focused on how to improve my material conditions via a career, and i became interested in investing the money i was accruing. It is now the tail end of 2020, and I have saved up enough money that i am not only considering entering a masters program, but i am also looking at moving to a city with my friends to begin a new career. I am even looking at getting back into the dating scene.

Looking back at 2020, I can't help but smile at how much i have changed since 2017. I'm finally becoming a man, and have confidence that i can take on life's challenges. I still have pain when i think about all the things i missed out on, but at the same time I have become so much wiser from the entire experience that it may even end up being worth it. It's strange, i feel like an old man. I feel like an old man who thought he was going to die, but then woke up in a young man's body. I was going to die with so many regrets, but I have been given this second chance to become the best person i can be. I take total responsibility for how my life goes, and I choose to make it a beautiful one. I don't think i will ever be completely normal again, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I feel prepared for life's challenges and I look forward to what kind of person they will shape me into.

If you are currently going through PAWS, please keep going. Have faith that time will heal you, and know that things will get better. Take responsibility for the problems that you do have control over, and be meticulous in your solutions. The world is a messy and complex place and you need to have a good head on your shoulders or you will get lost. There is almost always multiple solutions to a problem, and my solution to PAWS happened to not include the use of any medicine or drugs. However, this may not be a part of yours. Don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't do because you should be the one who decides what's best for yourself. Never stop educating yourself and always have an open mind to alternative solutions. There is meaning in struggling, and there is nothing more beautiful in my eyes than overcoming hardship that others take for granted. If someone as weak as myself can do it, then I know you can too.

TL:DR: PAWS symptoms lasted a little over 2 years with slow gradual improvement, now a mostly functioning adult again in 2020.
OutOfComission
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#1

Postby Acliff21 » Sat Nov 14, 2020 12:26 pm

Oh wow, that’s incredible! 3.5 years is such a huge accomplishment. PAWS is definitely a huge battle for us. I’m 7.5 months sober and it’s a struggle. Still get bad anxiety, bad brain fog, memory is crap and cravings here and there. Your story tho gives me hope that I’ll get better.
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#2

Postby Cthompson21 » Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:28 am

Wow! First year of PAWS was the same for me. I felt like I was reading about myself. I remember reaching one year and saying, wow... I did that. Congrats on moving forward and 3.5 years!
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#3

Postby tokes » Fri Nov 27, 2020 12:27 pm

Wonderful story and thank you for the well thought out post. It success stories like these that keep others motivated to see it through. Wishing you all the joy and success in achieving your goals.
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