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positivethoughts

4 years clean - checking in

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I recently passed 4 years clean of vyvanse and adderall, and had an interaction with some people that compelled me to come back and check in with this wonderful community. 

Quick back story, I took heavy doses of both vyvanse and adderall for 2 years between 2014 and 2016. I started taking ritalin and adderall on and off in college before that time, but didn't feel like I relied on it. Once I started working in Finance, I felt like I could not keep up, be on my game for 10+ hours a day, so I saw a doctor and got a prescription. The prescription eventually got up to 70mg of Vyvanse so I was pretty "on point" for the whole day. I also took it every single day, without fail. Then suddenly came the panic attacks and anxiety. Toward the end of 2016 tried to just reduce my dosage but it felt like it made it worse, I was sure I was experiencing withdrawls so I quit cold turkey, against the advice of my doctor. Those were the worst 6+ months of my life. I went the ER twice with what I had convinced myself were strokes or some kind of heart attack. Had a CT scan of my brain. Nothing. Emptiness is probably the only word to describe that time. If you've seen that movie "Get Out" where the main character gets trapped in his own mind, looking out from afar - it felt like that. 

Fast forward to today. I probably wouldn't have even realized it was my anniversary of being clean had I not got some drinks with old friends. The topic of adderall came up and all three of them revealed they had begun taking it in recent years. One of them were experiencing panic attacks, so she was moving to every other day and not taking it on weekends. They lamented that now they didn't think they could perform their jobs without the drug, and asked me what it was like to just stop using it. I said how horrible it was, like soul crushing, to no longer have that rush of dopamine on a consistent basis, but it does get better. That feeling of being "in it" and being uber-productive does come back, it's just not on demand. When I do find it, that old familar flow, I will try and maximize it in the moment, get everything done that I possibly can. I know that you might not think about it during the withdrawals, but I truly feel you will know yourself and your capabilities, as a result of all of this. 

I'm rambling now, so I'll move onto some things I wish I knew in that first year:

  1. Don't look for a replacement. Caffeine, acetyle-l choline, ginko biloba, huperzine A ... so many supplements. Caffeine is 100% a trigger for anxiety, for me (I now drink 1/2 caffeine coffee 1x in the morning), and the supplements, while helpful perhaps, aren't going to change your life. 
  2. Alcohol is not an escape. This may be indicative of other, more personal problems, but I leaned heavily on alcohol ... for a long time. I honestly still struggle with it. And I am not talking about housing a bottle of vodka or going off the deep end, I'm talking about 2 cocktails a night, or 3 beers, or 2 glasses of wine type of thing. These were enough to numb me and help me sleep. The whole recovery needs to focus on yourself, and you're not yourself when you're buzzed. In fact, I think you lose your sense of self when you're doing it so consistently. I do drink now, but I have rules for myself, never during the week, never more than 4 in a sitting, etc. 
  3. Meditate. For the love of god, meditate. And I don't mean just sit there and think about nothing to quiet your mind - which is good don't get me wrong - but learn about meditation and their techniques. It started with this video for me (I know it's a long one), and now I use the Headspace app on my phone for guided meditations. The best technique I ever heard to describe meditation is going to a place in your mind that is an empty field, looking up and seeing all the "thought clouds". Some are stormy and horrible. But the meditation helps you seperate from the thought, observe it ... but also just rest. Not think about anything in particular. Once you do this, you can do it in real life. In that moment you're having anxiety, you can start to remind yourself, "this is anxiety, I am anxious" ... and then examine the reasons for being anxious. For me, it's driving. I now know that driving is a trigger for me, I don't know why, and I just observe it when it happens. It doesn't make it go away in the moment, but it's more like ... hey screw you driving ... and then don't carry that experience with you the rest of the day. I think it's a vicious cycle when you get anxious, then get worried about why you're anxious, then get more anxious, etc. I sounds pretty dumb as I read back, but I assure you, if you can meditate 10-15 minutes a day, every day, you'll be better off. 
  4. Exercise. I actually did this quite a bit in the first year, and I think it helped a lot. I kind of thought about the recovery like a prison sentence. I had read enough from other people that it would eventually get better, or I'd at least get used to life without stimulants, so I might as well do something productive like exercise while I'm here. 
  5. Have confidence in yourself, even if you don't think it's there. The person that you were on adderall is still you. Continue to put yourself in situations that adderall-you would have volunteered for. Engage with friends, do new projects at work, whatever it takes. 
  6. Talk to someone. Probably the most important. I didn't do this until the end of year 1 I think, but I told a friend that I felt like a shell of my former self, that I couldn't feel anything, I hated myself, I never thought I'd be normal again, and I didn't know if I wanted to go on. He had served a tour in Iraq and had his own struggles, but helped me realize that I'm still me. We are still the people we have always been. These experiences changed us, yes, but we move on to the next experience and the next one, and continue to change. Just focus on what the next change could be, and set yourself up for success. 

I don't know if any of this is helpful. I just remember when I was first getting clean, I searched all over the internet for an answer of "does it ever get better". Looking at me now, 4 years later, yes. I'm still trying to improve myself every day. Some are better than others. I wrestle with self-esteem, confidence, sobriety ... but I just keep working at it. One thing is for sure, I've made hella progress. 

If I could say something to myself when I was first starting, it's probably "you're stronger than you know right now". You'll come out of the other side of this, and you'll have a better idea of who you are. Forgive yourself, love yourself, and then focus on making yourself (and others) happy. 

Keep going. 

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Thanks for checking in and sharing your wisdom.  That was an inspiring post to read!

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I wasn't clinically diagnosed with PAWS, but looking at the symptoms - sleep disruption, low energy, anxiety, mental fog - they definitely describe how I felt for quite a while after I stopped taking stimulants. Sleep was definitely a big issue, as was mental fog. I'm also reading that the PAWS "can last for a few days, and these can continue cyclically for a year" which is interesting because some days and weeks were definitely more difficult than others. It makes sense to think of the withdrawals as rhythmic looking back at that first year. 

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Did you have derealization for over a year too? Did your memory and thinking ever recover? I feel retarded

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12 hours ago, Misanthropissed said:

Did you have derealization for over a year too? Did your memory and thinking ever recover? I feel retarded

i'm not sure about the derealization part, but if by retarded you mean the word soup effect, stuttering and stumbling through your speech - yes it does recover! this was something that worried me greatly early on, but it's well documented (on here) and goes away within the first year i'd say.

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