2.16.2011

Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

The following is an excellent article that addresses Post-Acute Withdrawal.  Whatever your drug of choice may be, this article gives us all hope. After reading this, it's much easier to recognize what is happening. When you want to charge the credit card after months of staying in the budget, when you want to throw out the fruit and eat the donuts till you pass out, or when you see the pretty girl on the computer screen begging you to click the mouse when you know that's not really what you want at all, it's likely you're going through another PAW moment.

Addiction is real. The physical hold it has on the body is real. To ignore or deny that is like disarming the soldier. He will still have to fight the fight, but will be greatly handicapped. However, armed with education and support, it is possible to beat the beast. I hope this article is as helpful to you as it's been to me.

Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAWS)

There are two stages of withdrawal. The first stage is the acute stage, which usually lasts at most a few weeks. During this stage, you may experience physical withdrawal symptoms. But every drug is different, and every person is different.

 The second stage of withdrawal is called the Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). During this stage you'll have fewer physical symptoms, but more emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
 
Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain improves the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new equilibrium causing post-acute withdrawal symptoms. 
 
Most people experience some post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Whereas in the acute stage of withdrawal every person is different, in post-acute withdrawal most people have the same symptoms.

The Symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal

The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Variable energy
  • Low enthusiasm
  • Variable concentration
  • Disturbed sleep
Post-acute withdrawal feels like a rollercoaster of symptoms. In the beginning, your symptoms will change minute to minute and hour to hour. Later as you recover further they will disappear for a few weeks or months only to return again. As you continue to recover the good stretches will get longer and longer. But the bad periods of post-acute withdrawal can be just as intense and last just as long.

Each post-acute withdrawal episode usually last for a few days. Once you've been in recovery for a while, you will find that each post-acute withdrawal episode usually lasts for a few days. There is no obvious trigger for most episodes. You will wake up one day feeling irritable and have low energy. If you hang on for just a few days, it will lift just as quickly as it started. After a while you'll develop confidence that you can get through post-acute withdrawal, because you'll know that each episode is time limited. 

Post-acute withdrawal usually lasts for 2 years. This is one of the most important things you need to remember. If you're up for the challenge you can get though this. But if you think that post-acute withdrawal will only last for a few months, then you'll get caught off guard, and when you're disappointed you're more likely to relapse. (Reference: www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)

How to Survive Post-Acute Withdrawal

Be patient. Two years can feel like a long time if you're in a rush to get through it. You can't hurry recovery. But you can get through it one day at a time. 

If you try to rush your recovery, or resent post-acute withdrawal, or try to bulldoze your way through, you'll become exhausted. And when you're exhausted you'll think of using to escape.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are a sign that your brain is recovering. They are the result of your brain chemistry gradually going back to normal. Therefore don't resent them. But remember, even after one year, you are still only half way there.

Go with the flow. Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable. But the more you resent them the worse they'll seem. You'll have lots of good days over the next two years. Enjoy them. You'll also have lots of bad days. On those days, don't try to do too much. Take care of yourself, focus on your recovery, and you'll get through this.

Practice self-care. Give yourself lots of little breaks over the next two years. Tell yourself "what I am doing is enough." Be good to yourself. That is what most addicts can't do, and that's what you must learn in recovery. Recovery is the opposite of addiction. 

Sometimes you'll have little energy or enthusiasm for anything. Understand this and don't over book your life. Give yourself permission to focus on your recovery.

Post-acute withdrawal can be a trigger for relapse. You'll go for weeks without any withdrawal symptoms, and then one day you'll wake up and your withdrawal will hit you like a ton of bricks. You'll have slept badly. You'll be in a bad mood. Your energy will be low. And if you're not prepared for it, if you think that post-acute withdrawal only lasts for a few months, or if you think that you'll be different and it won't be as bad for you, then you'll get caught off guard. But if you know what to expect you can do this.

Being able to relax will help you through post-acute withdrawal. When you're tense you tend to dwell on your symptoms and make them worse. When you're relaxed it's easier to not get caught up in them. You aren't as triggered by your symptoms which means you're less likely to relapse. 

Remember, every relapse, no matter how small undoes the gains your brain has made during recovery. Without abstinence everything will fall apart. With abstinence everything is possible. (Reference: www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)

1 comment:

Mamma said...

Your comments about addiction struck me with great interest. For others reading it's important to remember that as mentioned drugs and alcohol are not the only forms of addiction. Do you know anyone with a sugar addiction? Not just eating too many candy bars from your kids Halloween bag put really physical addiction that gives your body all sorts of nasty symptoms - such a contradiction to a "sweet treat" - It's also important (my opinion) to remember that addiction runs in the family. See below: 50% genetic and 50% poor coping skills (MOO: 25% of which are learned from living with the people with the genetic part)
Great thoughts - thanks for sharing

The Role of Family History

Addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills. This has been confirmed by numerous studies. One study looked at 861 identical twin pairs and 653 fraternal (non-identical) twin pairs. When one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of being addicted. But when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not necessarily have an addiction. Based on the differences between the identical and non-identical twins, the study showed 50-60% of addiction is due to genetic factors.(1) Those numbers have been confirmed by other studies.(2)

The children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction. One study looked at 231 people who were diagnosed with drug or alcohol addiction, and compared them to 61 people who did not have an addiction. Then it looked at the first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) of those people. It discovered that if a parent has a drug or alcohol addiction, the child had an 8 times greater chance of developing an addiction.(3)

Why are there genes for addiction? We all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to that. When an animal eats a certain food that it likes, there is an advantage to associating pleasure with that food so that the animal will look for that food in the future. In other words the potential for addiction is hardwired into our brain. Everyone has eaten too much of their favorite food even though they knew it wasn't good for them.

Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others. Some people drink alcoholically from the beginning. Other people start out as a moderate drinker and then become alcoholics later on. How does that happen?

Repeatedly abusing drugs or alcohol permanently rewires your brain. If you start out with a low genetic predisposition for addiction, you can still end up with an addiction. If you repeatedly abuse drugs or alcohol because of poor coping skills, then you'll permanently rewire your brain. Every time you abuse alcohol, you'll strengthen the wiring associated with drinking, and you'll chase that buzz even more. The more you chase the effect of alcohol, the greater your chance of eventually developing an addiction.

Your genes are not your destiny. The 50% of addiction that is caused by poor coping skills is where you can make a difference. Lots of people have come from addicted families but managed to overcome their family history and live happy lives. You can use this opportunity to change your life. (Reference: www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)

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What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.