What's post-acute withdrawl? Part 2
Nov 5, 2013 / 5:00 am
In part one of this series, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) was described as consisting of withdrawal symptoms that occur after the acute (detox) phase of withdrawal. And these symptoms were identified as possibly lasting six months to two years, depending on how much damage was done to the nervous system by alcohol and drug misuse. It is during this period that people often say things like, “If this is recovery, I may as well go back to using.” Lapses and relapses may be frequent during this period if you don’t manage your PAW symptoms well.
PAWS is a sign of the body and mind healing itself. You can support this healing by giving them what they need. There are many strategies that you can use to facilitate the process:
1. Stress Management: The decision to recover is a courageous act because you will have to deal not only with the stresses of everyday life but also with the stresses of PAWS. Stress during this period may escalate and you may be tempted increase your use of nicotine, caffeine and the addicting trio of sugar, fat and salt (found in junk food). There are many stress reduction techniques that you can find on the Internet. These may include approaches like yoga and progressive muscle relaxation.
2. Communication: Talk about not only your PAW symptoms but also the thoughts and feelings that accompany them! Submerging them causes more stress and is akin to stuffing a beach ball with your uncomfortable emotions. Beach balls have a tendency to push back when you submerge them, and they often have a habit of exploding to the surface. Stuffing is a sure route to lapse and relapse. The trick is in letting the air out of the ball. This is called the talking cure. Find a counsellor or a person you trust and share with them; at the very least, write it in your journal.
3. Education & Practice: Keep PAWS in perspective by learning about all aspects of recovery. Learn how to manage the inevitable cravings you will get. Learn about the anxiety and depression that may accompany PAWS. Do the homework the counsellor gives you; it is between sessions that most of the changes occur – not during. Remember…knowledge is power – the power to change your life and achieve your dreams.
4. Nutrition: During PAWS your body (especially brain and nervous system) demands the necessary vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates to heal. Avoid processed foods (i.e. baloney, pre-cooked foods, etc.), eat freshly made food you’ve cooked yourself. In particular, eat foods with strong concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. fish) – “brain food.”
5. Exercise: It is not enough to eat well; exercise is essential – in particular, aerobics (running, biking, swimming, fast walking, etc.). Without a strong aerobics base, weight lifting is useless. Aerobics will address not only your body’s but also your mind’s (anxiety, depression) through the release of endorphins (mood elevators). Besides, it’s a great way to meet new sober-minded people who can support your recovery.
6. Have fun: Compared to the thrills, spills and chills of an edgy, drug-impelled life, recovery may seem boring. Learn how to have fun by resurrecting passions that you allowed to languish (i.e. sports, collecting, arts, etc.). These will be little impellers that will help you along the road to recovery. Having healthy fun is often one of the challenges of a good recovery.
7. Spirituality: Explore the eternal questions that everyone asks over the course of his life-span: 1/ Who am I? 2/ Where did I come from? 3/ Where am I going? These questions will take the rest of your life to examine, and may change during various life stages. The answers you give will create your view of the world and help you find your place in it.
8. Balanced Living: Do not overdo some things and neglect others. Nurture the six dimensions of life: body, mind, heart, spirit, occupation. Neglecting one because you think it is not important is like the gardener who said he loves his plants but is not into weeding. His garden will soon be choked to death. Do everything in moderation!
If you are suffering and are tempted to go back to using because recovery is uncomfortable, think of it this way: suffering is your body’s way of saying that you are healing; besides, who said you are not supposed to suffer? You have two choices: you can suffer the pain that causes more suffering, or you can suffer the pain that causes healing. Persevere! The discomfort you feel is temporary and your investment in recovery will accrue huge returns for both yourself and your loved ones.
Read more Breaking Through! articles
- Driving under the influence Dec 3
- Triggers & cravings: Part 1 Nov 19
- What's post-acute withdrawl? Part 2 Nov 5
- What's post-acute withdrawl? Part 1 Oct 22
- What causes addiction? Part 2 of 2 Oct 8
- What causes addiction? Part 1 of 2 Sep 24
- I wanna be a social drinker! Sep 10
- Why women get drunker, faster Aug 27
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