Coping with Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Not everyone is aware of it, but there is usually more than one stage of withdrawal when a person gets clean and sober. The first stage, which is short-term, is called acute. It usually lasts a few days to a few weeks and it’s often intense. The second stage of withdrawal is referred to as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). During this stage, a person experiences psychological problems and symptoms due to the second stage of withdrawal. PAWS symptoms can include mood swings, trouble sleeping, and anxiety that seems to crop out of nowhere.

Understanding PAWS

So why does this second wave of withdrawal occur?

It has to do with brain chemistry. As your brain chemicals return to normal and shake off the effects of long-term drug or alcohol use, your body will still have imbalances to work out. It doesn’t happen overnight. Using drugs and alcohol causes significant changes in the brain, especially over time.

Most people experience some form of post-acute withdrawal symptoms. They’re not as intensive as acute withdrawals, although they can still be distressing.

PAWS Symptoms Are Common

If you are in recovery from addiction will find that after a few months or even up to two years, you have symptoms of PAWS. You may find yourself more anxious or moody than in the past. You may be tired more often or feel blue. Some people have vivid dreams or insomnia.

PAWS is a symptom of healing, but episodes can be uncomfortable and last for days. Once you know what it is, it’s easier to cope with,.

Coping With PAWS

Learning new coping skills is essential to recovery and can help you get through post-acute withdrawal. During this time period, try to be gentle and patient with yourself. You’re learning new things a day at a time, and not everything will be roses and sunshine.

Ways to cope with post-acute withdrawal symptoms:

  • Let yourself rest sometimes. Being tired is natural and now you’re probably a bit more active than before.
  • Live life a day at a time. You can’t predict your emotions or what will happen tomorrow.
  • When you’re really upset, plug into your support network. Call your sponsor or go to a meeting.
  • Practice self-care. Using methods such as meditation and mindfulness can help you learn to slow down and just take care of your emotional health.
  • Get help if you need it. Sometimes mental health disorders such as depression emerge during post-acute withdrawal. There’s no shame in seeing a psychiatrist or therapist to help yourself.

If you don’t know what’s happening, PAWS can be scary and frustrating. The ups and downs of this time period can set a person up for relapse if they don’t learn to cope with their new life.

Take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. Staying clean is important, and so is your continued recovery.

Getting Help and Getting Clean

If you or somebody you has a drug or alcohol problem, there is hope in recovery for a new way of life. The first step is picking up the phone. You can get ahold of us at 877-228-2401.

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