Most addicts continue to use less for the euphoric effect of their drug of choice, but to actually avoid sickness. As some describe opiate withdrawal as akin to “hell”, especially pertaining to the type of opiate one is withdrawaling from and the duration of time the person was using the drug, there is ample reason for addicts to avoid going through withdrawal.
What is often missed out in the conversation is the post acute withdrawal period, or (PAWS), where a certain segment of addicts struggle with lingering effects of their drug addiction. This is the time where the most miserable physical symptoms are over, but emotions such as anxiety, depression, lethargy, moodiness, anger, and insomnia can persist. Regardless of whether or not an ex-addict experiences PAWS in its entirety, most recovering addicts struggle with mixed emotions in early sobriety. How can the addict deal with these newfound emotions, and get through the worst of the next few months in early sobriety? Here are some tips for moving forward.
1.Become educated and know what to expect. According to Drugabuse.com, the best thing an addict can do after the acute withdrawal period is understand what to expect so it isn’t such an emotional shock. The severity of PAWS will depend on the type of drug used, length of use, biological and environmental issues pertaining to the addict, and any predisposition that the addict has for other mental illnesses.
When the addict becomes aware of the physiological changes that will occur in his brain for the next couple of months, it will be less startling to experience them first hand. In other words, what you are experiencing for the first two months in early sobriety is completely normal, and is a temporary feeling. The knowledge that it is temporary makes it much easier for the addict to handle.
2.Avoid stressful, large changes for a while, if possible. Of course, it is not always guaranteed that life will be simple and easy after sobriety. Most of the time, our lives after using are a complete disaster, which is most likely another reason why addicts tend to relapse in those early months. If it is impossible to avoid major stressors in the few months following sobriety, then at least attempt to keep things in stride and take one day at a time.
Exert as much energy into everyday situations as possible, but understand the limitations you may have momentarily. Try to make your life as simple as possible. If there are financial, emotional, or familial stressors at play, do the best you can to mend ties without letting it effect your sobriety and recovery process.
3.Show up for meetings and talk with loved ones even when you don’t feel like it. During these early months, the temptation to isolate will be overpowering. After all, you feel miserable and you don’t want to share your misery with those around you. The world may look like a dark, bleak place. But according to Verywell.com, it’s best to get in touch with your spiritual side during this time, learn more about your addiction, and do so by keeping in contact with people who care about your recovery. Attend meetings, get involved, keep social dates, and stay active in the recovery community even when you don’t feel like it. Learn about your disease; start trying to figure out what your religious or spiritual beliefs are. The more you stay involved with those in the recovery community, the better your chances are for preventing a relapse during PAWS.
4.Take care of your nutritional and physical health. It goes without saying that exercise and eating right are an important part of acute withdrawal recovery (although more difficult to do during that time period), but are much more critical during the PAWS period. This is because though you may feel tired, angry, sad, and empty, your body is now more physically capable of handling small increments of exercise and eating regular food. Take advantage of your newfound health and recognize how important short bursts of exercise and nutritional health can aid your recovery process.
5.Be proud of small achievements. 60 days sober, regardless of how you feel emotionally, is a huge triumphant achievement to celebrate. Regardless of how depressed you feel during this time period, how much you miss your old life at times, and how badly you want to feel better, recognize just how far you’ve come in the past two months.
Throughout the next few months, you will find moments where you suddenly feel naturally relaxed, begin laughing again, enjoy the taste of food, and feel better after a job interview went well. Though these seem like small achievements, recognize their importance in your recovery process immediately after they happen. Journaling can be a valuable method of tracking emotional and physical progress.
Life will continue to improve. The worst physical symptoms are over. Now it’s a battle of emotions. This is where your addictive mindset can really get the best of you if you don’t recognize that the changes going on within your brain chemistry are temporary and the condition is simply a transitional period. Talk with your sponsor, therapist, counselor, or friends in recovery during this time on a frequent basis. Understand how far you’ve come and how much better things will get. Try to be easy on yourself and take one day at a time so you can move forward to a more comfortable time in your sobriety.
Are you suffering from PAWS and are afraid of relapsing? Are you struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, and need someone to talk to? If so, contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health. Call 949-558-4723 today and start your roadmap towards recovery.