Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can be an intimidating task. Due to the toxicity of substances, detoxing can also often be a painful and intense experience.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on various factors, such as the type of substance abused, the length of time of the addiction, family history, and underlying mental or physical health conditions, amongst other things.
There is no doubt that withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. However, most symptoms begin to ease after a few weeks. Unfortunately, some people continue to feel withdrawal symptoms for months or even years after taking the drug. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
The good news is that understanding PAWS will help you feel more resilient if faced with it and will give you the tools for dealing with it as best as possible.
What Is PAWS?
PAWS refers to the variety of symptoms that someone may experience after the acute withdrawal symptoms have alleviated.
The acute symptoms are largely physical. However, PAWS is generally psychological, affecting the stability of someone’s mood and emotional behavior.
Our Four Tips For Dealing With PAWS
Understanding that PAWS can impair an individual’s recovery, we have shared four tips for dealing with PAWS below.
Tip #1 – Build A Strong Support System
If you experience PAWS, building a strong support system can be exceptionally beneficial. Not only will a support system help you cope with any emotions or systems you experience, but it will encourage you to maintain your recovery.
When considering who to include in your support system, we recommend turning to your friends, family, or a sober support group who can form a network of motivation and comfort.
Attending meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) may also help you feel more connected to others that know exactly what you are going through.
Feeling a lack of connection and isolation can be detrimental to someone’s well-being, whether going through recovery or not. Therefore, it is vital to stay connected to people to keep on track if you are experiencing PAWS.
Tip #2 – Talk To Someone
Like many others in recovery, you may not want to express your feelings to a loved one or friend. You may worry that doing so will do more harm than good and cause them to worry. However, talking to someone about how you feel can help improve the turbulent emotional time you may be going through with PAWS.
This could be with a therapist, who will give you support and practical tips for coping, or with a friend or family member who you trust to listen to you without judgment.
Opening up can feel extremely difficult but is one of the most rewarding things you can do if experiencing PAWS. It will help you to feel supported and will aid you in understanding your emotions better.
Tip #3 – Avoid Triggers
Throughout the recovery journey, triggers are almost inevitable. However, during your time in rehab, you will have likely devised various coping strategies that can help you avoid triggers.
Unfortunately, if you are affected by PAWS, you will likely be especially sensitive to any triggers that could hinder your sobriety. It is therefore of utmost importance to try and avoid these as much as possible.
Triggers could include social events, people you used to take drugs or alcohol with, or drug dealers. They could also encompass environmental triggers such as a place, smell, or object that reminds you of the time you were abusing substances.
It can be difficult to cut these things out of your life, but the less contact you have with them, the easier it will be to manage PAWS and stay on track.
Tip #4 – Create A Daily Routine
During your recovery, establishing a healthy daily routine is recommended. Having some structure in your life will help alleviate feelings, such as boredom, that often push people towards relapse.
A daily routine could involve meditation, doing some form of exercise, cooking a healthy meal, or meeting a friend for a walk. It could also involve incorporating a stress-reducing hobby such as yoga, painting, dancing, or listening to music, for example. This will help to soothe your mind and will enable you to take each day as it comes.
Having a routine can additionally help you feel like you have accomplished something small each day. In turn, you will feel encouraged and motivated, and you will find that the severity of some of the PAWS symptoms you experience will reduce.
Going through PAWS can feel like the recovery process is being undermined – but don’t give up.
By surrounding yourself with support and engaging in things that reduce the risk of encountering triggers, you will likely be motivated to beat PAWS, which will reduce the risk of relapse.