Learn About PAWS and What to Expect Your First 90 Days
Everything is scarier when it’s unfamiliar. That’s why the earliest part of your recovery, when you’re totally new to the process, can be some of the most nerve-wracking. Maybe you’re already a couple weeks in, or maybe you’re still hesitating on whether or not to get help. Either way, you’re wondering what comes next and what you can expect during this often difficult and confusing time.
Here’s glimpse into your first 90 days, as well as some advice on how to best tackle challenges you’ll face including post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
What Is Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?
When people start the recovery process and go sober, there are often two distinct phases of withdrawal that they go through before they really start healing. The first is acute withdrawal, and the second is post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Acute withdrawal typically features all the worst physical symptoms of withdrawal, depending on the substance that the user was addicted to. It tends to clear up after a few weeks at most.
However, after those couple of weeks are up, there often remains a condition called post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. While not a precise medical diagnosis, PAWS is a widely-reported condition which results from your brain starting to correct its chemical imbalance from the addiction. PAWS will last anywhere from a couple months to as much as two years, and during this time you experience the brunt of the psychological and emotional effects of withdrawal.
At first, PAWS feels like you’re trapped on a roller coaster as you cycle through changing emotions hour by hour and even minute by minute. As you progress, your moods will become longer-lived and your mood swings less rapid. However, the bad will still be just as long and intense as the good. Eventually PAWS will only hit you for a handful of days at a time. It might still hit hard sometimes, but you’ll know that it won’t stay around for long.
Here are some of the symptoms associated with PAWS:
-Lack of enthusiasm
-Energy comes and goes
-Concentration comes and goes
The combination of PAWS and having to build a new sober life for yourself makes this early stage a vulnerable time. Here are some tips on how you can navigate this phase and minimize the impact PAWS can have on your life and your recovery.
Secure a Solid Foundation for Your Recovery
So, what now? You probably weren’t under any impression that it was easy to just up and quit an addiction—otherwise it wouldn’t be an addiction. However, you may have expected that once you remove the substance abuse from your life, everything else will either stay the same or fall into place.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and your recovery will require constant care. That’s why it’s so important that you utilize your first 90 days to their fullest, building yourself a solid foundation for your recovery from the beginning.
In order to do accomplish that, it’s best for you to focus on your recovery and avoid any other life changes or developments.
This means everything personal, professional, and everywhere in between. As you may recall from our piece on the first year of recovery, early on in your recovery isn’t the time to be taking on new work duties, romantic relationships, living arrangements, or other roles or responsibilities.
Those disruptions will only serve to distract and overwhelm you. As you likely know, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted is exactly the type of circumstance where a former substance abuser might relapse. Focus on establishing a stable routine and setting a good precedent for yourself, so you can minimize that pressure and concentrate on your recovery.
Focus on Physical and Mental Self-Care
The best thing you can do to establish that solid foundation is to spend your first 90 days in recovery building a routine of both physical and mental self-care.
Nurture Your Body with Diet and Exercise
The benefits of diet and exercise in early recovery are twofold.
First of all, your body is still in literal recovery from the devastation an addiction causes. For it to be able to repair itself properly and at a reasonable pace, you need lots of nutrition. The same goes for exercise. You likely weren’t very fit during your addiction. Together, a healthy diet and exercise will speed up your detox process and help your body rebuild and regain strength.
Secondly, exercise and food both release dopamine in the pleasure receptors of your brain. The substance you’d been abusing was likely constantly flushing you of your dopamine and leaving nothing left. That’s why nothing else seemed able to produce nearly as much pleasure at the time. Now, when your brain is crying out for the dopamine it’s suddenly deprived of, workouts and snacks can give you a small boost to hold you over. It also helps your brain start relearning healthy chemical cycles and restore a proper balance.
You don’t want to trade one addiction for another in the long run, but early in your recovery, candies and gym visits can be a valuable tool.
Nurture Your Mind with Patience and Understanding
Finally, you also need to practice self-care with your emotional and spiritual side.
As we said earlier, you shouldn’t make large changes in your life. You also should stay patient with yourself. Don’t get frustrated that you aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like. Don’t push yourself to always give the impression that you’re fine. Don’t overcompensate by also throwing yourself into work, and fixing relationships, and making every change you want to make in your life all at once.
Of course, the biggest asset in this step is your support network. Always remember to make full use of your loved ones and the help you’ve received. If you’re wondering where you can get help, or you might be ready to start recovery and want to know the next step, give us a call at The Other Side at (779) 220-0336. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.