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Thread: 5 weeks in, 35 yrs old, 17 years smoking

  1. #1
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    Default 5 weeks in, 35 yrs old, 17 years smoking

    Hello, I've been reading through this forum quite a bit and I thought I would post to contribute in the hopes it might help others and also be therapeutic. Thanks to the admins and others who have made this site possible and who contribute to it.

    I started smoking regularly my freshman year of college, and other than one period of a few months when I had no hookup, I made no attempts to quit. I assumed I would "someday", and over the past few years thought that I should really scale back my usage, but was never able to do that significantly or for any sustained period of time. I have a successful career, I am a lawyer and have done well at my job, despite my drug use, and so I figured I was nowhere near my rock bottom, whatever that was. I had been switching over to vaporizing pens as they became more common in my area, thinking that it was better for my lung health, but also the ease and convenience meant that in addition to spliffs I was doing more and more, together with the increased potency of better weed that has become so common.

    In July a relationship that was important to me ended, in part over my emotional unavailability and choice, at the time, to be a pot smoker instead of a committed partner. Like any relationship there were other issues but this was a big one, she was not into my habit and I was resistant to change, couldn't at the time admit that it was a problem for me. In addition, I began to have panic attacks after smoking and decided I had to cut it out for good, both because I wasn't getting any relief from using it (the opposite actually) and I am blaming it in part for making me feel comfortable despite lack of progress in some areas of my life that are very important to me. The relationship was long distance, so if I wasn't visiting her I would basically come home from work, smoke a spliff, read news and internet forums, smoke another spliff, order delivery dinner, eat that, smoke another spliff, watch youtube videos and go to bed. I would occasionally go out and see friends, but they would be the ones doing the inviting and I was content to just let life float by indefinitely. If I woke up sad in the morning I would hit the vape pen, as well as bring it with me during walks, and on any other activity outside the house. I didn't smoke 24/7, but I was getting close. I felt very lonely but wasn't admitting it to myself. Now it is clear as day.

    Since quitting I have had all the withdrawal symptoms discussed by others on this site, including insomnia, lack of appetite, depression, anxiety, anhedonia, feelings of extreme boredom and feeling like I have nothing to do. Because my decision to quit also came right after a difficult breakup, it is hard to tell where one cause ends and the other begins. My sleep has improved, although my dreams are now very intense and vivid and unfortunately mostly anxiety based dreams. Still, I'm glad to feel more rested during the day. My appetite has also returned, but not before I lost 12 pounds in a month, and I was in good shape before so now I am skinnier than I would like.

    I have been cooking again for myself and my roommate, I can enjoy reading (although so far mostly these forums, books about mindfulness, eastern philosophy, reducing anxiety, and about dealing with grief in life, but not much of anything with a plot), I have been able to exercise, although not at the level I was at before I lost the weight. I can play cards, when I have a playing partner (definitely NOT alone), and I can do my duloingo spanish, which occupies maybe 30 mins a day. I'm hoping that as I am able to eat more and more regularly I can start to work out harder again and hopefully gain some weight back. I can sit in the steam room. I have tried meditation but I am scared of being alone with my own thoughts, although that is how I spend most of my time anyway. I've been able to go to work, but my concentration and motivation are shot.

    I haven't been able to enjoy watching tv, although that was never my favorite activity. I have deep feelings of regret for waiting so long to quit and the cost I feel that it has taken from my life because of my decisions. I also started therapy and anti-depressants (lexapro) because I was scared about what would happen if I felt any worse and more hopeless. I am not suicidal, I don't think I could ever do that to myself or to my friends or family, giving up feels like the only way to ensure that I fail in my quest to find a happier and more satisfying and engaged life free of drugs and unhealthy escapes. On the other hand, I wonder whether I will be able to rebuild a life that feels worth living, given my lack of interest right now in doing much of anything.

    Evenings and weekends are very, very hard. Between the anhedonia and feelings of intense loneliness I am having a lot of trouble filling my time. I then have anxiety about what I'm going to do, and it feeds on itself. My doctor prescribed me some ativans for panic attacks, which I am no longer having, and I am very wary about taking benzos as a replacement escape for the weed, so I haven't really touched them much, in part because when I have I felt a lot calmer and better about things, but that was what got me on the continual weed for so long.

    I have also gone on a few online dates, they have been a pleasant distraction when I'm on them but I haven't felt much if any attraction, my libido was gone for a while, maybe slowly returning, and afterwards I fall into a deeper depression when I think about missing my ex and unfortunately comparing a first date with an established and in hindsight very supportive and satisfying relationship. I have a hard time not thinking obsessively about how things might have been different if I had quit sooner.

    Anyway, thanks for reading all this, I am well aware that it may take 6 months, a year, or more for my brain chemistry to return to a new normal after missing the dopamine from the weed. The good news (if there is any) is that I have no urge whatsoever to return to smoking. The whole idea of it makes me sick now. Also I now associate it with panic attacks, which I very much do not want to cause. I tell myself job #1 is just to not smoke weed and to get through each day, and I can see small signs of progress, but I also am having trouble turning that into hope for the future.

    For assistance with finding a reputable and accredited Marijuana Rehab Service Provider in the USA you can call the US Government’s FREE SAMHSA’s National Helpline on:

    1-800-662-HELP (4357)



    Good luck to everyone else on this difficult journey. The only advice I can offer to anyone else right now is that if you're thinking about cutting back or quitting, just do it now, it never gets easier and neither does life. I am thinking of joining a local marijuana anonymous group, if for no other reason than to give me another activity.

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  2. #2
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    hi there DazedNoMore,

    Despite the fact that you are obviously facing some challenges at the moment, you sound really strong and emotionally fluent.

    You said that you are finding that you can read at the moment, I wonder if this book would interest you. https://www.actmindfully.com.au/book...d=855&catid=61 I thought of it for you because you said that you are feeling frightened of being alone with your thoughts at the moment. It is a great book for learning to live with some of your more challenging emotions and thoughts. It is evidence based psychology and it is the business.

    I noticed that things started to get better around the six week mark, however, as I am sure you are aware everyone is different. I was also noticing improvements in my cognition, social skills and mood up to 15 months quit. I hope that you start to feel a lot better soon.

    Once you are committed to quitting there is no looking back. I know it is challenging, but things are likely to look a lot better in a month or so's time. I am so excited for you, because you have your whole life in front of you, and it is very exciting.

    Little rewards can help to get those dopamine circuits firing naturally again. For me little rewards such as a nice meal out, a stick of incense, a warm shower, a cup of tea, learning to make a new meal etc were so important to feeling good again. The good feelings will come back. It will just feel a bit clunky for a while. It can be good to practice the activities that you used to love.

    Good luck! Keep us posted
    Alice

    PS. 17 years is quite a whack of time to be flooding your mind with dopamine artificially. It is understandable that it would take some time for your brain to rewire itself. The brain is an amazing organ and its plasticity is inspiring. I think you know this. I just think that it should be acknowledged. You are doing great!
    Last edited by Alice; 09-02-2017 at 12:06 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Alice, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I don't have an e-reader, but I bought that book on Amazon. It should be arriving tomorrow or Tuesday. I have also been reading up on "radical acceptance" as a way to try to accept my current reality and to move forward. It sounds similar to mindfulness and living in the moment techniques, I suppose there aren't too many other ways to deal with reality. I'm committed to not giving in to other forms of escape. It is what it is. I tried playing video games yesterday for the first time in a couple months, which was an activity (like almost all the others) that I used to do and enjoy stoned, and I found I enjoyed it equally as well sober. So that's something!

    I have a lot to untangle emotionally, because I was suppressing a lot over the 17 years, so it's kind of tricky for me to sort out what is causing various amounts of anxiety and depression, but I am in therapy and hopefully that will also help. I'm thinking of going to a local marijuana anonymous meeting this week, really to be around other people who will understand the kinds of issues I am having with myself and may be able to talk me through some of my more serious regrets.

    I want to enjoy my vivid dreams, not wake up with a sore jaw because of multiple vivid anxiety dreams and dreams of loss. I haven't had a smoking weed dream yet. I think it's because I've fully accepted that that part of my life is over, but there are other things I have yet to fully accept.

    I'll continue to post (hopefully with positive progress).

  4. #4
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    Hey Dazed(NoMore),

    So glad you bought the book. People say that it is life changing. You are probably in exactly the right situation for it to really help you. I am up to the values section right now. Helpful!!

    It is also great to hear that you got some enjoyment out of playing video games. It is always great to try those activities that we used to enjoy stoned. For so long, I thought that I couldn't write if I was withdrawing, but when I finally did quit, I found that I enjoyed it just as much. Now you have real experience with an activity that you can use as a reward. That really is something!

    In terms of untangling emotional stuff, I have heard it said that smoking cannabis can keep us at the emotional age that we were at when we started smoking. I am not sure if that is completely true, but I think it is definitely true that we did not process stuff emotionally much when we were stoned. People do report that their emotions can be so much more raw when they quit. That was certainly my experience. It is completely normal if this is happening for you.

    Even now, I am processing emotions from stuff that happened eight or nine years ago (which was incidentally the same time I started smoking regularly). It is quite confronting to realise that I didn't process those emotions at all, and have to face them now. But I am just glad for the opportunity to do so. It is exciting, because I think that we can really grow as people when we quit cannabis.

    It is so good to hear that you are in therapy and thinking of going to a cannabis anonymous group. For one, I think it will really help you to focus on recovery and get some good support (especially to engage with others who are going through the same things), but also it means that you have so much more potential to grow as a person. Even though you have written a couple of posts, you seem like the person who is interested in personal development. Hats off to you!

    I know what you mean about a sore jaw. I used to wake up with an ache at the top of my spine, just at the base of my skull. It is probably just your body's way of healing. Sleep was the last thing to get back to normal for me, and it did take a few months, but things did improve in that time. Hopefully the sore jaw thing won't last too much longer and you can enjoy our vivid dreams. I had so many nightmares when I was recovering, so I could hardly enjoy the vivid dreams thing either. I think it is normal.

    I think that posting here can have such a positive effect on your mindset. It is hard to really seriously consider relapsing when you are consistently posting about your progress.

    Good luck this week. I hope that things continue to improve I love the fact that you are so committed. The battle is half won when you have that mindset.

    Alice
    Last edited by Alice; 09-04-2017 at 06:54 AM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks Alice. The book arrived last night, so I'm looking forward to reading it tonight and over this weekend. I have been pretty hard on myself for past decisions and regrets, so this and therapy will hopefully help me forgive myself and work on moving forward instead of dwelling on things I can't change. Yesterday I was finally able to let go of a fantasy I was clinging to about reconciling with my ex, which I needed to do. Unfortunately, letting go of that has set me back a little motivationally and emotionally at the moment, because I was using that fantasy as part of my reasoning to work on improving myself and as something to hope for.

    The good news is it won't affect my progress on staying pot sober. I have had no interest in relapsing, in part because the last few times I smoked it heightened my anxiety, including a panic attack at the grocery store, so that's not something I ever want to experience again. Maybe it would be more difficult for me if I had always had pleasurable experiences from being high right up until the end.

    It worries me that I really don't look forward to anything at all at the moment. Right now I'm just trying to maintain my focus at work so I don't slip professionally, try as best I can to eat well, sleep as best I can, and trust that I'll be able to make further improvements and changes as time goes by. I have a few voids right now that my mind is urging me to fill as quickly as possible (void from not smoking pot) (void from lack of relationship and loss of intimacy), but I am trying to be patient and build slowly. I lost my 55 day streak on duolingo spanish lessons on sunday and I'm bummed about that but I need to just pick it back up again and keep moving.

  6. #6
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    No worries DNM,

    It is so true that when we focus on unhelpful thoughts, particularly those about the past, we can waste a lot of time and energy. I think that the Happiness Trap will really help you. Try to take your time with it though. It does help straight away, but you need time to practice defusion and all the other strategies.

    I can relate to letting go of the fantasy of getting back with your ex. I am going through a similar process at the moment, with what was pretty much a fantasy relationship. It was real to me though, on some level, and where I can relate specifically, is the grieving process. Grieving can be complex and it can take time. Give yourself some time. It is understandable that you feel a bit crap.

    It is so amazing that you are keeping your work together professionally, while all this is going on. That is really foundation stuff, and means that you can get on with the business of what is important to you, no matter how crappy life gets. Hats off to you

    Your mindset where cannabis is concerned sounds strong. It is a little plant that needs to be watered and nourished, I think. The more sure you are about your reasons for quitting and the more you focus on and process the positives, the easier it will be to stay true to your goal. We are all rooting for you.

    Because, yes, it can be a bit crap for a while. Your dopamine system is still needing to work naturally, so all that 'reward' system is not working as well as it did. Things like duolingo Spanish and work are great.

    I know exactly what you mean about 'filling the void'. I have exactly the same problem at the moment, but I have done this before, both with cannabis and cigarettes. I know from experience that while there can be a sensation of a huge void to fill and all this TIME to fill, as well, this actually fills up after a while, so that I don't notice where the substance / relationship / addiction went!

    It is hard that you are dealing with a relationship break up at the same time as cessation from an addiction, but you sound to me like you really have your head on your shoulders and that you are both patient and willing to put in the work to make your life better.

    I hope you have a great day / evening / night. Let me know what you think of the book!

    Cheers,
    Alice

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    Alice, I want to say first of all that I really appreciate you responding to my thread. I can see how supportive you are of me and others on this forum. It means a lot to me. I haven't gone to the Marijuana Anonymous support meeting yet here where I live, but that's a commitment I am making for this week.

    I had my first dream that involved smoking pot last night. I was riding in a van in the passenger seat, it was late afternoon and the light coming through the trees was beautiful. I was trying to roll a joint and the weed kept falling out into my lap and disappearing. Then I realized, why am I rolling a joint!? I quit pot, and I laughed. Glad that my commitment carried through to my dream, although it is still a variation on an anxiety dream... right now I'm happy if I get one non anxiety dream a night, which I have occasionally "achieved."

    The book is helpful. I have some familiarity with the techniques described, but it's good to reinforce them and try to practice them. It's a beautiful day today here so I'm going to try some meditation later. I hope you have a great day too.

    By the way, my name is Dan

  8. #8
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    Hey Dan!

    No worries at all, I am so glad that you find it helpful in some way. My motives are not entirely selfless. I am toying with the idea of becoming a psychologist as a career and I find this forum gives me some real life practice.

    It is so nice to hear that you were having a sunny day. I always feel so happy when it is a sunny Saturday morning Whereabouts in the world are you located?

    Your dream sounds funny. Lately I have been having inspiring dreams that leave me feeling excited and happy when I wake up, so there is hope. How many hours sleep are you averaging a night?

    I hope you are having a great weekend! I am trying a cafe in my local neighbourhood that I have never tried before. I am in Melbourne, Australia. So lucky!

    You seem quite emotionally mature so I think it is understandable that some of The Happiness Trap is revision. I think you will find the section on values particularly helpful, as you seem to want to find more purpose in your life?

    Enjoy your day!
    Alice

  9. #9
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    Alice, I live in a city in the northeastern united states. I have never been to Australia, but I would love to go someday. It's great that you are exploring the idea of being a psychologist and helping people, in the meantime I'll give you all the real life practice you can handle.

    I'm glad your dreams have been inspiring! I believe I am averaging about 6-7 hours of sleep a night now and am waking up twice during the night before being able to fall back asleep. When i was smoking heavily I was closer to 8-9 and I usually would not wake up during the night unless I had to use the bathroom or something like that.

    You're absolutely right that I want to find more purpose in my life, or for now at least work towards it. Smoking was one of the ways that I coped with feelings of lack of purpose and with that gone I am really feeling it full force. I am trying to be optimistic that this is a positive thing and will help push me forward, but other times I feel like I am dealing with too much emotionally all at once. Hence the need and desire to be more present in the moment. The periods of time when I wake up in the middle of the night have been the most cognitively and emotionally difficult times for me. At those times I am reminded of how alone I feel and I compare myself to this imagined self that should have made different and better choices. I know it's an unhealthy and unproductive story I'm telling myself, but it's hard to shake in the dark of night with nothing to do and no one to talk to.

    The urge to retreat within myself and close my world off further has been a big one lately. So far I have managed to avoid calling in sick to work, and I haven't cancelled any plans that I've made, but I am also having trouble making new plans to get out of the house and/or try to meet and make new friends. I have been a person who has often chosen to push things off until tomorrow or to hope for an external change in circumstances that would force me to change for the better. I have some deep seated fears and self doubts that I am hoping I will be able to work through or reduce the impact of with my therapist and also by changing behaviors, but in the meantime I have been frustrated with my lack of ability to make progress on much other than not smoking. Even that feels like somewhat of a hollow accomplishment right now because I also have had no interest in smoking, so I don't feel like I'm having to exercise willpower. But maybe that is also just a negative way of looking at the experience.

    I've been in "full on crisis" mode for two months now (although I certainly had some unacknowledged and untreated depression for a while before). That's not a lot of time in the big scheme of things, and I do feel better now than I did in July. It's hard to keep perspective. I'm fortunate that I have a roommate that cares and that my parents are supportive, because when I have felt at my lowest points I've been able to think about my relationships with them and other friends and think about how important it is to them that I stay in the game and get to a place where I am comfortable with my life and my internal experience.

  10. #10
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    Hi Dan,

    I hope that you will try to make it to Australia one day. I know it is a long way, but the natural landscapes here are really unique and beautiful. I have only been to the US once, and only went to NYC. I absolutely loved it. What an amazing city!!

    It is good to hear that you are getting a bit more sleep. I can relate to the stress and loneliness in the middle of the night when you wake up. Especially when you have been having vivid dreams, so perhaps you are a bit amped? I used to find that when I was recovering, I would find myself alone in the middle of the night with some kind of crazy nightmare on the top of my mind and it was stressful sometimes. Some things that I found helpful was moving to another room in the house, putting on some gentle and happy, gentle music and sipping on a glass of water.

    I guess the main aim of your actions during that time is to calm down? If you feel you have nothing to do, then perhaps you could read a chapter of one of your self-help books? It might be calming enough to get back to sleep.

    I can also relate to all those regrets that can come flooding into my mind when I am laying in bed, trying to sleep. I think defusion can be very helpful here - 'thanks mind' and 'I am having the thought that . . . ' etc. I also think that getting up and moving into the lounge room for a song or two can be very helpful. Sometimes I find it can be solved with something as simple as some protein (like a boiled egg). Rest and digest and all that.

    It should improve with time.

    When you really work out what your values are, you can turn these into specific goals and then you will know what you need to work towards. Also, if you find that you value connection and friendship, then perhaps you will be able to overcome the urge to isolate and stay at home alone, because you want to live towards your values!

    It is so good to hear that you have some good support in your housemate and parents. That kind of support is priceless!

    Keep going, because I think you are going to learn so much about yourself and really grow as a person. You are doing great

    Alice

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