PAWS still has claws out

A well recognised phenomenon when giving up the booze is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and I wrote about it initially here.

At coming up 11 months not every day is rainbows and unicorns and pink clouds and I decided to revisit the subject to check if it was me who was just being funky or if there was something else afoot (excuse the pun!).

Turns out PAWS can last 2 years which I find ever so slightly depressing if I’m honest.Β  One of the good people at BFB on Yahoo shared a link to an article on Addictions and and this is what it says:

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.

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.

So having read this I’ve been wondering if the periods of funkiness I’ve been experiencing have just been PAWS after all and revisiting this has made me go easier on myself as it is just my brain still trying to equalise out.Β  The article goes on to say don’t resent them but remember, even after one year, you are still only half way there’. The piece goes on to offer some hints and tips to help, and to summarise they are:

  1. Be patient
  2. Go with the flow
  3. Practice self-care
  4. Remember they can be a trigger for relapse, so proceed with caution
  5. Being able to relax will helpΒ  you through

So big deep breath in and out I have to just keep trucking on and be mindful that this will be part of the process for the foreseeable future even when all those firsts are done.

42 days to go






22 thoughts on “PAWS still has claws out

  1. firstly Lucy am sorry you are having a bit of a funky time. hope it passes quickly and sending you lots of hugs and virtual cake in the meantime xxx

    I grinned when I read the first few words of that article because I could probably quote it word for word from my obsessive internet trawling about ‘how bloody long does PAWS last anyway?’ and so would second your feelings of fedupness that this doesn’t go away as quickly as we would like! but well done you for researching it so you are informed and can know how to deal with it.

    wonder how often we can expect to hit these rough patches? I might try and keep a record of them so I can tell when they (hopefully!!!!) stop… it can be difficult to separate them out from the normal ups and downs caused by life transitions. if only there were a control Lucy/Primrose who weren’t going through any lifecrap, we could check with them as to whether they were turning into Marvin the Paranoid Android and if not, aha, it’s PAWS πŸ™‚

    chin up, girlie. good times around the corner! lots of love, P xxx

    1. Thanks Prim πŸ™‚ Keeping a record sounds a good idea and I like the sound of the control me – but how do I switch to be that Lucy not me? πŸ˜‰ Urgh – I’m my own worst bloody enemy that’s the problem. The recommended advice about recovery is don’t make any major life changes in the first year but terminal uniqueness strikes again – I’m different somehow – except I’m not. Just have to suck up my own misery seeing as I made it worse than it needed to be πŸ™ xx

      1. (I love it when I can comment on your blog- when I’m on a proper computer)

        ‘Terminal uniqueness’ or ‘fragile little snowflake syndrome’ as I suffer from is a tricky one. We soak up all the advice, but don’t necessarily bloody act on it.

        I too found the idea of 2 years terrifying, but what I do find comforting is the knowledge from experience that it gets really bad and then passes. Just knowing I have to cling on is enough these days.

        This is why continuous sobriety is so important eh? Yet another reason not to be tempted back to day 1 πŸ™‚

        x x x

      2. Flippin’ WordPress was playing up on me today and wouldn’t let me comment on your or Paul (Message in a bottle’s) posts – would only let me like Grrr! I know I need to start actively listening to this stuff and learning from those who come before and know better than me. It’s come and go today in waves but right now I’m okay and have no desire to go back to day 1. Coffee soon would be good lovely xx

  2. Although this is daunting it is the kind of information it is important to know. Thanks Lucy xx

  3. Glad you posted this today; we had a very rainy day here yesterday and it seemed very challenging. It is a little depressing to know PAWS can linger for up to 2 years but also reassuring to know it is part of the process.

    1. Hey lori We have the remains of hurricane Bertha blowing through today too! Just have to accept the things we cannot change huh? πŸ™‚ xx

  4. trying to use this knowledge as motivation to keep going for year two, when at times i feel like throwing in the towel in the desperate need to find some fun (which i know is bs but ..) – only 9 days shy of a year, and honestly at times it feels just as hard – have also goggled paws looking for answers. need more tips for getting through the second year – though have not goggle that yet! on that note, must get to the gym and try to work it out that way. thanks for post. helped me feel not alone – also have been down but too much life stress/hard to sort what is what really.

    1. I know what you mean atg. Wow 9 days to go – such an achievement! Guess we have to consult the sober blogs of those beyond year one and two for the answers don’t we? You are definitely not alone πŸ™‚

  5. This is good to know for the days I get up and say to myself, “Why is my house so cluttered? Why is my dog so hairy? Why do I feel so lazy?” I’ll just ride it out and try not be too hard on myself. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  6. It is kind of depressing, but I find it comforting, too, especially when I am not going through an episode! When I am, I find everything depressing. I am starting to get glimpses of really good times, too….like clear thinking, happy, and full of vision. So there will eventually be more of those and less PAWS stuff. We did a number on our poor brains, didn’t we? Sending hugs your way. I am glad you share when you feel this way. xo

    1. Absolutely right Jen – I stop being able to see the positives in anything, it’s like someone turns the light out at the end of the tunnel. God if only people knew what they were doing to themselves when they drank excessively and the effort that’s required to recover xx

  7. Thanks for this very informative blog. I am 17 months off benzos (12 years) and 8 months alcohol free. I have had a rollercoaster of symptoms, both physical and mental. This article has given me hope that some day I will feel stable and feel more in control. Thank you.

    1. Hi Suzy Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog πŸ™‚ Plus huge congratulations on 17 months + 8 months clean and sober!! At just over 2 1/2 years I can promise you that these symptoms do ease with time and that I now very rarely struggle with them and when I do they are less intense and last less often. You are most welome.

      1. hi im at 2 1/2 years sober from alcohol also, and i can agree that my brain has almost healed from 20 year history of abuse

      2. Hey king πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. Congrats on 2 1/2 year sober too!

      3. hi suzy this is king how long did u have withdrawals was they totally gone by the 3 year mark .

      4. Hey King, I can’t answer for Suzy but in my experience they were all but gone by 3 years or so. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

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