Alcohol and drug withdrawal: Acute and Post-Acute.
The acute symptoms are what you feel immediately after you stop drinking and/or using drugs, commonly referred to as detox or withdrawal. This is considered to be the first two weeks after someone stops drinking or using drugs. What most people are not aware of, is what comes next.
Post Acute Withdrawal symptoms are present up to two years into active recovery. Symptoms can last from a few days to a few months, and they come and go as they please. This is a time when your brain and your body are trying to heal from the damage of alcohol and drugs. We are mixed up emotionally, but sometimes we forget that we are mixed up chemically, also. Our brains are trying to figure out what ‘normal’ is and how to get back there.
All of our systems are affected by addiction and all of our systems have to heal.
Typically, the more substance one consumes, and the longer the period of addiction, the longer the PAWS will last. These are lingering symptoms that hang around in early sobriety that make us generally uncomfortable, and often irritated.
I remember, when I was new, wondering if I would ever get my memory back. I felt like everything was fuzzy, my ability to function was limited to the absolute necessities like AA, food, and work, and I wasn’t able to do much more than that for a year. My second year was far more comfortable and I was enjoying myself more, making friends and remaining stable in my sobriety.
Symptoms of PAWS can include:
- Mood Swings
- Trouble getting along with others
- Variable Concentration
- Disturbed Sleep
- Difficulty managing stress
- Tired all the time
- Memory Problems
- Fuzzy Thinking
- Feelings of guilt
This is a great time to remember that people are not aware of what is going on in their insides. As addicted people, we get completely consumed with our feelings and our discomfort and just want to make it stop. This is a good time to practice patience, empathy, and understanding with our fellow addicts as they stumble through this uncomfortable phase they are completely unaware of!
Every piece of us, every organ, every brain cell has to recalibrate to accommodate our sobriety, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, like everything else. And in that process, we are probably going to be a bit lazy, sometimes sad, sometimes silly, sometimes lacking sleep. But we will get through it and we will even out with time and work.