@Gingerninja - Yes, on and off - funds permitting. I still speak to a lot of artists I came up with and even the ones I worked with. My start was very much less than ideal - but I've worked on my art a lot while I've been out of shop work.
@Hands On - I don't see it as seven years of practice that I've lost out on, I see it as more time away from an industry where (at the time) there was nothing positive keeping me there. I needed some time out, so I took it and it made me a better person and allowed me to view this all with a renewed perspective.