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Newly Sober? PAWS Still Has You In Its Claws!

Early recovery can have its rough spots. If you've been having more bad days than good, you might want to take a look at this article. It could make things a lot easier. (Hint: You're not going nuts!)


Tellin’ It Like It Is

From a reader on another site (used with permission).  No comment required.

I was addicted to Crystal Meth for a solid six months – That may not sound like much, but it only takes a little to hurt you. At the time it seemed like fun and just something to do but it was so much more then that. It consumed my entire life and turned me into someone/something I didn't want to be. I would look at myself in the mirror and just hate the person looking back at me with every fiber of my being. I knew I needed to quit but I just couldn't deal with the withdrawals.

I reached my peak of use on October 27th of this year. I was celebrating my birthday with a few buddies and what went from a round of use turned into a 13 hour binge. It ended with me lying on the couch for the next 48 hours writhing in pain. I felt like my body was contorted; my heart was racing, everything looked off-balance, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and I literally felt like I was dying. And that was the last time I used.

I've been clean ever since and it has been rough. A couple weeks after that PAWS [Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome] started setting in and it has been hellish to say the least. I have my good days and my miserable ones, but I just keep looking at the future and remembering it will get better. And to top this all off… I'm only 19.

Another Letter From A Suffering Alcoholic

“Sunrise” just wrote:

I am 2 1/2 months sober from alcohol. I found this article after sitting here at the computer, feeling horrible for my over reactions . I was sitting down crying feeling like a drink and scared I was actually going to go and get some wine. I was so shocked at my over reaction towards my husband being late taking my daughter to soccer practice , that I stood in stunned silence when they left the house. I prayed, and started to search the web and found this article about PAWS. I am a 44 year old women who is also dealing with early menopause, so I am not sure what is happening to me. my brain seams to be all jumbled and I cannot remember things. I get stressed over really anything extra in my life. So thank you for this article….I will continue to reread it and most importantly reach out to people and not isolate myself. I do not want to drink!
I guess this must be my “peak” time between the 3-6 month period?

I replied: [Read more…]

The Effects Of Pot Can Linger A Long Time After Getting Clean

I get a lot of letters on a personal site regarding an article I wrote about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).  It’s one of the primary causes of relapse, and a subject that is poorly-covered in a lot of treatment facilities.  Because there's also very little about it on the Internet, the article gets a lot of traffic.

PAWS refers to a collection of symptoms, related to the use of alcohol and other drugs, that continue for quite some time after we get clean and sober.  It’s too complex to go into in detail here, but suffice it to say that it can be the cause of a lot of discomfort and — if not dealt with constructively — can often lead to circumstances where it seems as though we might as well use, since we’re so miserable anyway.

I bring this up because I ran across another article, rhapsodizing about the benefits of smoking marijuana, that totally ignored the downside.  I find that extremely annoying.  While it may be true that it is no more harmful than alcohol, that’s begging the issue since alcohol can be horribly destructive.  So I offer the following letter for your consideration, along with my reply. [Read more…]

PAWS Can Smack You Upside The Head If You’re Not Ready For It

You can hang around recovery groups for a long time without hearing people mention PAWS, or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.  That's too bad, because it is one of the major causes (if not the major cause) of relapse in the first couple of years. Without getting into a lot of detail here, let's talk about PAWS for a little bit.

Addiction occurs because physical changes take place in our brains when we use drugs.  They cause us not only to crave greater amounts of drugs, but also to need the presence of the drug to keep from getting sick (withdrawal). The symptoms of withdrawal vary, depending on the drug, but they are generally comprised of feelings and physical symptoms that are more-or-less the opposite of those caused by the drugs themselves.

These symptoms begin within a few hours of quitting the drug, and last for several days to about three weeks, depending on the specific drug or drugs that were used. Taken together, they make up acute withdrawal. That's what we deal with in detox.

Post Acute Withdrawal occurs after the acute phase and can last for up to two years, off and on, in “waves.” Why so long? Well, we exposed our brains to drugs for a long time, and it took quite a while for our brains to become completely used to them. Doesn't it make sense that it takes our brains quite some time to recover?

The difficulty is that we addicts have taught ourselves that it's not OK to be uncomfortable. We know just how to deal with unwanted emotions and physical discomfort: we use drugs. The discomfort of PAWS can lead us to make some bad decisions, because much of it occurs in parts of the brain where we can't just “think” it away. That's why “Just Say No”…Just Doesn't Work, and it's the reason for a lot of relapses.

It's also the reason that long-term maintenance with Methadone or Suboxone is problematic.  Since the addiction is constantly fed, and since physical recovery never really begins, we still have months of PAWS to deal with when we finally do try to get off the maintenance.  Without proper support, we may find that to be more than we can handle.

PAWS is best dealt with by getting plenty of rest, eating well, watching our intake of sweets, taking a couple of multivitamins a day, exercising, going to meetings, and hanging out with our supports. It doesn't have to be the end of our sobriety, especially if we know it's coming and are prepared to accept it and get through to the other side.

If you're interested, you'll find more information about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome here.