Again. At least I think so. Or hope so ? Because if it’s not …. .
I’d never really heard of PAWS before I became a non drinker; when after the initial difficulties and emotional roller coaster of withdrawal, I didn’t exactly enter the happy calm space I was anticipating … No, I found myself still subject to mood swings, unexpected bouts of depression, sudden onset of anxiety symptoms, insomnia, and emotional uncertainty …
Then kind members of the sober community enlightened me, and I started reading about PAWS.
After acute withdrawal, the next stage of sobriety includes symptoms known as the Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This stage has fewer physical symptoms, the manifestations are more emotional and psychological.
As I understand it, Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain recovers from being regularly poisoned, the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new normal equilibrium, and this fluctuation causes PAWS.
Over the past decades, much has come to be known about the long-term effects of drugs of addiction, especially on the neurobiology of the brain. Most substances of addiction, like alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, and stimulants lead to lasting changes in the brains handling of learning, motivation, and pleasure. Primarily, these drugs hijack the brain’s “reward” circuits, a critical part of which is dopamine. In the case of alcohol (and drug) abuse and dopamine, the brain not only becomes tolerant, but it also gets used to, and “expects” an excess of dopamine, meaning the newly sober user experiences a simultaneous lack of dopamine (which is unpleasant) AND increased brain craving for the trigger that provides dopamine. In other words, not only does an addict feel bad without the drug, his focus turns solely to it to make him feel good again. Great ! Cravings explained in one easy sentence ….
There are several other key neurotransmitters involved, as well as dopamine, including serotonin ( mentioned here https://wordpress.com/post/alcoholfree2016.com/2097 )
While different drugs of abuse seem to lead to different sub-sets of PAWS symptoms, PAWS that occur from alcohol and benzodiazepines are generally more similar because they’re pharmacologically more similar in mode of action – key things are irritability, anxiety, and sleep difficulties. I have read that how long people experience these paws symptoms is typically a reflection of how long they were using the drugs as opposed to how much. great . So my 30 odd years of alcohol excess is definitely going to come back and haunt me here ….
The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:
Mood swings (triple tick)
Tiredness. Double tick
Variable energy, double tick
Low enthusiasm. Triple tick
Variable concentration double tick
Disturbed sleep tick
Im utterly fed up right now. I’m stressed , fighting with Mr Lily over problems that are insoluble, anxious about the responsibility I’m taking on in our upcoming holiday, worried about no 1 son – and totally alone with no support in this one, I feel fat, sluggish, lazy and unmotivated. So unmotivated I even missed my favourite yoga class this evening.
This feels like a total rollercoaster of symptoms. At the beginning; the first two weeks were really tough – my symptoms would change minute to minute and hour to hour. Then I had a period of pink cloud – when I felt AWESOME …. I enjoyed that 🙂 But in the last 3 months of so, I don’t feel I’ve made any significant progress . I get these awful low moods, then they will disappear for a few days / a week , only to return again. I hoped that the good stretches would get longer and longer, I’m not sure that’s happening and the bad periods of post-acute withdrawal are just as intense and last just as long.
Thank goodness I’m not craving alcohol right now, as I’m feeling so very vulnerable ….