in late 2009 I was 18 years old and had been smoking weed daily for a couple of years already, I was also rather experienced with a bunch of other common and not so common drugs. One winter evening I took some alleged MDMA (not the first time) in combination with weed and alcohol, which at the time was just a normal friday evening, but instead of a nice roll my nervous system went nuts, my heart rate become dysregulated, plummeted to 20bpm and momentarily shot back up to 200bpm back and forth, hot and cold sweats, shivering to the point I couldn't control my limbs anymore rapidly oscillated with fever and sweats drenching my sheets, unable to reach the phone to call an ambulance I endured this for hours, thinking I'd die, eventually I passed out.
The next day I woke up, figured I was still alive, thought to myself "damn that was a close one" (not the first), ripped a head from the bong and continued my life as if nothing happened. I was more stressed than usual the days following the event and coped the way I had coped with it the past years, smoked a lot of weed but also added alcohol to enhance the effects, on the fourth day of doing so I remember thinking to myself that I really need to go easy on the alcohol to net become addicted.
The following day was when it hit me, I smoked a head like I always do, I feel weird, break a sweat, intense anxiety sets in, symptoms from the MDMA incident reappear, shivering, heart rate dysregulation, I don't know what the f is happening. From that point on every psychoactive substance triggers it, caffeine, nicotine, thc, alcohol, I withdraw from everything, massively afraid of anything altering my already completely screwed state of consciousness, the withdrawal adds insult to injury and puts me on the edge of the edge.
The coming weeks/months I experience all kinds of psychiatric symptoms:
Watched a movie with some weird fantasy creature in it, somehow tripped me right off, weird thoughts, afraid of loosing my grip, I just leave the room, can't handle it. One day I sit down on the couch, I bite into a cookie and my brain is like "all of this looks real, yet something's off", I try to put my finger on it but I can't, it's just that everything "feels" unreal despite it looking real, my analytical mind knows this has to be reality, yet my subconscious rejects it, meanwhile the sensation of chewing the cookie is extremely present, I feel every crumb in my mouth, the feeling slowly fades after 30 minutes. I had my first derealization. I have weird thoughts about what's real and what isn't, how reality is defined, sometimes I hear distant whispers, not sure if they're real or imagined, when I close my eyes to sleep in the evening I see tribal masks with glowing eyes talking to me, I have trouble articulating myself, it feels like trying to form a sentence while watching horrors beyond ones belief unfolding right in front of me, my brain is kinda stunned. Weeks go by, I attempt to hospitalize myself twice because I think I'm going insane, and I don't know what to do, they send me away, they don't listen properly, they don't understand, no help, I'm on my own. Being alone in my room is not possible anymore as my thoughts easily spiral out of control leading to intense anxiety, I start to sit in the living room with my parents just to have someone around, knowing that if something happens to me somebody will notice helps me feel a bit more secure and makes it a bit more bearable. I have to go to school and work, I barely manage to keep it together, feel completely out of it, I have panic attacks, cold sweats, but I go because I have to. I'm convinced I have either brain damage or the alleged MDMA was some hallucinogen research chemical with a half life of multiple months, I look for answers but don't find any.
Retrospectively when the symptoms hit me, it took me right up to the peak, then for around 6-8 weeks I was straight up peaking, afterwards it took another 2-3 months to get a glimpse of what baseline even was. The (pseudo)hallucinations eventually faded after the initial peak period of 6-8 weeks. I diagnosed and educated myself about panic disorder which allowed me to see it as a false physical reaction and subsequently emotionally detach from it, following that insight the attacks (initially I had multiple a day) became merely annoying and over the following 2-3 years I got less and less attacks until they subsided completely.
Before this I was smoking like 14-20 cigarettes a day, due to my still existing psychological dependence on it, naturally smoking was the first thing I tried to pick back up after around 6 months of initial onset. The first few days it triggered anxiety and dissociation but I remained stubborn and overcame those, after that phase it would occasionally trigger perceptual distortions, namely micropsia
. Around the same time I also tried to reintroduce caffeine to my life but I tried too much too early and got severe anxiety from a cup of coffee, it was only after another 6 months when I started to enjoy black tea as a smoother and better alternative to coffee, after another year or two I was able to reintroduce other caffeinated beverages without worrying about it. This leaves the last of the socially accepted tri-factor of drugs: alcohol. I think it was about a year or two when I first started occasionally drinking alcohol again, I never really liked alcohol that much to begin with and had previously primarily used it as a catalyst for other drugs, so after this I'd maybe drink once every two months and primarily enjoyed the calming after effects the next day (possibly related to what's known as "the hangover effect
"). I didn't touch any other drugs for years to come and that was undoubtedly the right decision, as proven by me being here after another incident half a year ago, but that's another recovery story that's still in the making.
To summarize what helped me back then:
- Stopping all substances altering my brain chemistry, it's stress for my brain
- Learning coping strategies for anxiety and panic, not letting it get the better of me
- Not giving in to avoidant behavior, continuing living my life (granted I didn't really have a choice but I think it was still helpful as otherwise I'd have suffered the same if not more sitting alone at home)
- Meditation and mindfulness approaches in later recovery
Feel free to ask any questions and most importantly never give up hope.