What Are Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms? – Let’s imagine a scenario: You were drinking every day for thirty years, but you decided to get sober. You checked yourself into a local detox center, went through the hell of the detox process, flushed the alcohol from your system, and were released happy, joyous, and sober for the first time in several years. For the first few days and weeks of your newfound sobriety, you might feel great, but before long you notice problems like depression or trouble sleeping. You went through all the difficulty of detox, so why do you still feel awful? Why shouldn’t you just keep using if this is sobriety? Unfortunately, even when you’re over the worst of detox and acute withdrawal symptoms, you still have post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and the symptoms that come with it to contend with. Let’s learn more PAWS including what it is, why it happens, and how to make the most out of your situation.
Why Do We Get PAWS?
We feel the effects of drugs and alcohol thanks to the complex system of neurotransmitters in our brain. These brain signals cause pleasure, pain, and a host of other feelings. Drugs and alcohol can significantly alter our brain’s natural chemistry by releasing or withholding the amount of brain signals we’re used to. This withholding or dramatic release of brain signals is what makes you ‘feel’ the drugs. Here’s the problem, your brain can become adjusted to the release of these chemicals and then become dependent on them. This type of addiction is known as chemical dependency. Your brain or body is dependent on drugs or booze to function normally. Once you cease abusing drugs or alcohol your brain can begin repairing the pathways in your head and other parts of your body that were ravaged during your addiction. The good news is you will heal and recover. The bad news is that is not a quick process. The brain can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple years to slowly repair itself – this is the post-acute period of recovery.
Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal
PAWS can present in several ways but there are symptoms you should expect.
- Insomnia / Trouble Sleeping – You might have used a six-pack or a couple sleeping pills to get yourself to sleep before sobriety.
- Depression – Clinical depression is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters. A brain recovering from addiction will have similar imbalances.
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings
- Low enthusiasm
The ‘Pink Cloud’
The combination of the pink cloud and PAWS is what can send many addicts back to drugs or alcohol. When people initially quit drugs or alcohol many report an almost euphoric feeling of happiness and accomplishment. You’ll feel like everything in the world is peachy and you’ll never go back to drugs or alcohol. Addiction experts have a label for this feeling – ‘the pink cloud.’ Unfortunately, the pink cloud is only temporarily and can be quickly replaced with PAWS. Those riding high on their pink clouds are brought quickly to earth and must make adjustments and be prepared for PAWS or they will turn back to their addiction.
Getting Over Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms of PAWS will slowly diminish over approximately two years as the brain fully heals itself, but multiple years is a long time to live with symptoms and signs that can make your life just as bad as when you were drinking or using. Let’s learn how you can diminish the symptoms of PAWS in your mind, body, and spirit.
PAWS issues from your brain, so you better bet you need to take care of it for healing. Without a healthy and positive state of mind, your recovery will lag. You should exercise your mind with mental activities, hobbies, and other things that get you outside of your head. It’s not uncommon to see jigsaw puzzles in recovery centers for this very reason. Mental health is just as important as mental health – especially for recovery.
The better you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel, and the less aggravating PAWS symptoms will be. Exercise, proper diet, good sleep, and other healthy activities can help the entire person and can diminish depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and more. You can be surprised how much taking care of yourself can help aid in recovery. If you don’t exercise and eat right don’t be surprised if you still feel awful.
No one knows with certainty what lies beyond our world but almost everyone agrees that humans have a spirit or soul that must be nurtured. Addicts and alcoholics need to focus on the spiritual aspect of their recovery on top of body and mind for the best results. Symptoms of PAWS can be calmed with meditation, mindfulness, and other spiritual practices. Some addicts consider activities like hiking or rock-climbing good for their soul. If it makes you feel happy or calm it’s good for the soul and should be practiced to combat PAWS.
PAWS affects most people overcoming an addiction and can drag the person down for weeks and years after they’ve quit drinking or drugging. Though PAWS will eventually fix itself as the brain and body heal, the time before healing is crucial to continue sobriety. Just like you should get help for an addiction, you also need to get to get help for PAWs in both the mind, body, and spirit. You can head online to get more resources on PAWS and how to overcome it or call our local drug treatment facility for advice on moving forward. Recovery is a lifelong experience, you just have to get over PAWS first.