Sorry for the long post - anyone who takes the time to read it has my sincere appreciation. I'm in a pretty difficult situation and could use your thoughts.
I decided to write this post because most of the useful information I've used over the years about what to expect with withdrawal came from reading discussion forums. However, a lot of the topics are written by people who have been smoking large amounts for years, and their stories tend to be different. That isn't my situation - it's much more subtle.
My experiences with weed tend to be long periods of constant or regular use. From January-March 2010, June-September 2010, and April-September 2011, I smoked all day, every day. Each time, the withdrawal was bad. That first time, I was up for three days straight. From September 2011 - June 2012, I never smoked more than once every 2 months, as I'd moved home to somewhere that I was afraid to buy in.
I took a month long trip in June 2012, to a place where I'd done all of my previous smoking. For almost all of that, I was having several joints per day, of very strong stuff, enough that long before my trip ended it wasn't having much effect. In essence my receptors were shot. When I came back to where I live now, I smoked for another week or so before a trip somewhere else forced me to stop for 5 days. I had mild-moderate withdrawals, couldn't finish meals but no trouble keeping them down, needed trazodone to sleep, and felt a bit out of sorts. When that trip ended, I took those 5 days and continued on not smoking in advance of a job interview, for 3 weeks. By the end of that (mid-late August), I was sleeping 7.5 hours a night on just melatonin.
(The job was actually training as a lawyer. So in other words, not an ordinary job - a competitive, life changing opportunity).
I didn't get it (they had no space but had interviewed me anyway), so just decided if I was going to lie about, might as well be high. So I started smoking again. To earn money while I looked for other positions, I took up my previous employment at, let's say a cosy place to work. I got into an interview process somewhere that ended up taking 10 weeks, and would smoke pretty much every evening, as there were long periods where there was nothing for me to do at work, and no progress to be made with the firm I was interviewing for. It was the only thing keeping me out of depression.
During that period, I tried to stop several times, but by the end of the week I'd always had such a poor quality of sleep on trazodone that I needed to smoke to recover over the weekend. This happened at least 5 times.
At the start of December, I got the position, and gave myself 2 weeks to recover. It was hard, and caused a massive amount of fighting in the house. I was putting myself under so much pressure to get better immediately, to enjoy the Christmas season, to be ready for my training, and had just as much pressure coming from parents, who had no idea why I'd suddenly become basically useless. Eventually, exactly 2 weeks after I'd stopped, on New Years Eve, when I was so tired I could barely smile, my brother convinced me just to smoke and get rested again. It was brilliant advice. I caught up completely and started work in pretty decent shape, feeling better each day. I hadn't set myself back - that was the important thing.
The stress of work got to me pretty quickly though, and drinking in the evening meant that I wasn't getting the sleep I could have been. So I smoked in the hopes of a nice long sleep. Bad idea. Somehow, that set me back. From then until relatively recently, I did not manage to go more than two weeks before feeling overconfident in my recovery and smoking again, usually over a weekend, which would start me right back at the beginning. This also happened at least 5 times. Each time, I got more desperate. Eventually, I was doing things like drinking a bottle of wine at lunch in the hope of a nap, and using all sorts of combinations of pills.
Fast forward to March 9th. This is the day I realised I had basically been poisoning myself, and the last day that I smoked. The night of March 10th, I went cold turkey on everything, and did not sleep at all. I decided not to drink during the week and used various things - doxepin, trazodone, melatonin and zopiclone - to have enough sleep to function, but always chasing that unaided 8 hour beauty.
Almost a month after stopping (Saturday 6th April), I was in the middle of a pretty wild weekend and was looking forward to a session with an ex-girlfriend. We smoked together beforehand just to make it that much more amazing. I also smoked the following day. Monday and Tuesday, I watched for any withdrawal symptoms. The week prior, I'd been sleeping pretty damn well - 7-8 hours total split into 2 or 3 periods of 2-3 hours. I was getting tired at precisely 11:30pm and wide awake for the 2 hours before, tired in the mid-afternoon and early evening - all the hallmarks of a proper circadian rhythm. Obviously I didn't want to lose that progress. What happened? No symptoms at all - nothing. So I thought for the first time, I hadn't been overconfident - but confident. That week, I actually slept *better* than I had the week before. So I figured I hadn't set myself back.
That was last week. Over the weekend, I smoked Saturday night and Sunday during the day (but not at night), figuring that if smoking the weekend before had no impact, how could doing it again a whole week later. By Monday afternoon, I was feeling a little bit restless, and had the slightest reduction in appetite. By Tuesday night, sleep wasn't as easy as it had been the week before, or the week before that. I needed 10mg doxepin, 3.75mg zopiclone and a glass of wine to get to sleep, where the week before, I didn't need anything at all! The tiredness in mid afternoon and early evening are gone, which suggests I've screwed the whole thing up again. Appetite is normal by the way.
So now it's Thursday. Last night, I had quite a lot to drink at a birthday dinner and got 5 hours of pretty poor sleep. I called in sick, and I'm here at home.
That's a long narration of things, but it leads to these questions: how does smoking ON TOP OF withdrawal symptoms that haven't fully abated yet, affect further withdrawal symptoms? Does it turn the whole recovery process into a tangled mess, rather than a linear path back to normality? Has the relatively small amount (1 1/2 joints) that I had last weekend sent me back to the start? You know, where sleep problems peak at 3 days, get noticeably better at 7, then again at 14 and so on?
I remember reading someone on another forum saying that for them, the severity of symptoms would vary with amount and length of smoking period, but the duration and the pattern never changed. I've found this to be true. Does it mean that the whole month of abstinence, in terms of getting totally back to normal, has been wasted, because the counter has started back at zero? If so, how the hell is that possible?
I haven't mentioned the role of stress in all of this. Being in a position where I'm being trained in a profession, everything I do every day is new to me. I'm supposed to be learning, building, putting one block on top of another, then reflecting on how they fit together, pushing myself, saying yes to everything and never having a hair out of place. It's a hard enough line to walk in perfect health. Previous attempts - after those long periods of smoking described at the beginning - were relatively easy. Ginseng and 5-HTP during the day, exercise and good spirits, and I'd be back in top form within 2 weeks, sleeping with relative ease. Is it perhaps that I've been blaming stress-related trouble sleeping on withdrawal that isn't really happening or is only playing a minor role? I find that hard to believe because periods of abstinence (like that month) DO cause very gradual improvement...but it's so gradual that I wonder if its all in my head, or if, alternatively, the road ahead is just that much longer as a result of repeated failures to stop that have messed up my neurochemistry.
I hope that makes some sense...just trying to understand what I may or may not have done to myself as a result of this saga (particularly smoking this past weekend) and where the hell things are actually at right now. Ultimately, I have a sleep debt that's probably into the hundreds of hours now, as a result of all those weeks spent in the teeth of the worst days of withdrawal, and the goal is to resume normal, unaided 8-9 hour nights that will, in time, restore the balance.