What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?
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What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

You’re probably familiar with the concept of withdrawal. It’s an umbrella term for the numerous, often intense physical and psychological effects that arise when a person stops using addictive substances. Once your body has grown used to the presence of drugs, alcohol, or other addictive inputs, the transition back to a life without them can result in painful symptoms like nausea, depression, aches, and trouble sleeping.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is the lingering presence of specific withdrawal symptoms even once the acute stage of withdrawal has passed. These symptoms can come and go unexpectedly, lasting for hours or days at a time before vanishing, leaving you wondering whether you imagined the whole thing. In the weeks, months, and years after starting your recovery journey, it’s crucial to maintain a connection to the personal support and professional guidance that you’ve come to trust. Going through recovery and Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome alone opens the door to isolation and regression.

Identifying Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Like addiction itself, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) can look different in everyone. It may present with physical problems like cramps, shakes, exhaustion, and chronic pain. It can also appear in mental and emotional turbulence: anxiety and depression are two of its most common effects. It will likely include the reemergence of long-term cravings for the substances you’ve quit, even if much time has passed.

Steven Samra, the deputy director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), describes his post-acute withdrawal symptoms in detail:

“[PAWS] involves longer-term mental health symptoms, along with some minor but irritating and stressful physical symptoms. I am in the post-acute phase. I move from very low energy states to severe anxiety to hypomania. Sometimes I am too tired and/or overwhelmed with even the relatively simple task of fixing lunch. Other times, my low self-confidence evokes strong anxiety. Still other times, I have so much energy, I can’t sleep or stop working.”

Coping With the Changes

So you’ve moved past the acute stage of withdrawal - now what? First off, congratulations - you’ve made it through the most challenging part. Now you have a profound chance to rebuild your life. Just because you’re out of the darkest parts of the woods doesn’t mean your addiction has simply disappeared. It may linger in the form of post-acute withdrawal symptoms and mental roadblocks formed by your destructive habits. While much progress has been made, there are always opportunities to learn and grow even more.

The best thing you can do for yourself is by placing yourself in a supportive environment designed to help you navigate this period of essential changes in your life. Maintain your relationship with your sponsor or other members of your support system, and turn to them during symptomatic episodes. Take advantage of 12-Step programs, transformational living centers, and recovery resources to create and stick to a recovery plan. Lean on your family, talk to your friends, and don’t hesitate to contact professional help. Recovery guidance doesn’t only come in the form of therapy or medication. It can also include a peer group that encourages you to find healthier outlets, a circle of professionals who advise you on rebuilding your career, or a stable and supportive environment to spend time in while you figure out your next steps.

Making the Most Out of Your Time in Recovery

Addiction is a disease, and the time and energy you invest in getting well will yield direct benefits to your future stability. Take this opportunity to deeply self-assess, pivot, and reform your life. Whether you plan to return to your previous career, living situation, or goals or decide to change how you want to move forward, making an intentional and informed decision is the key.

Approach the possibilities for your new life from all angles. Consider exploring resources for mindfulness, spirituality, and self-care practices to ensure you’re not missing out on any crucial sources of psychological nourishment. Analyze your relationships with sponsors and mentors, and make sure you’re getting out what you put in. If you’re struggling with lingering physical symptoms, look at your options for physical therapy, exercise, yoga, or pain management. Be open to medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Find new ways to deal with stress and anxiety, and develop a plan for sticking to them when the temptation to relapse might appear. Most of all, be honest with yourself about what you need to succeed - there’s no worthier investment you could make.

No two journeys of recovery are the same, so getting help for reforming your life post-addiction means taking a personalized approach. At START UP RECOVERY, we deliver inspirational entrepreneurial resources in a safe and structured luxury recovery environment. We are designed to transform lives, starting with rebuilding one's relationship with self. We know that addiction can derail your life, and our mission is to help manage the fallout so you can get back to the things you care about most. We work closely with our residents and their employers, assuring them of a “soft landing” back to their job or transitioning to a new career. We help you manage the prolonged symptoms of addiction and you will learn to rebuild your life by your design. You deserve to succeed in recovery and access your full potential. START UP RECOVERY is here to help you get back on track. Call us at (310) 773-3809 to get started.

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