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 )

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)
Anxiety. tick
Irritability. 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 ….

What’s next ? 

Since I have been sober lots of things have got better; some were things that I had expected or hoped for, other things have been a surprise. The sobriety itself has been both easier and harder than I expected.

One thing I had really hoped for, once I stopped tipping alcohol down my neck every day, was a bit of weight loss. Just a bit, a reward for the denial, a positive, tangible, physical demonstration of the healthy choice I have made, I felt I DESERVED it. 

So , I am today 144 days sober, And I am three fricking pounds HEAVIER than I was on March 11th.


I’ve got this little app on my phone , called “I’m done drinking” (I found it on the App Store) .. You enter how much of what you were drinking, and how much it cost. The app does the rest. So, I have apparently saved 157,007 kcals. Just from not drinking alcohol….

If I use the well recognised equation which tells us that 3,500 kcals = 1 lb of fat, then I have saved myself a staggering 44.9 lbs of fat. That’s just over THREE STONE’s worth of calories I have not drunk… But , am I lighter. No. I. am. NOT. which in turn means I have eaten , on average 1,163 kcals MORE (EVERY DAY) than I was eating previously, more than I needed to eat, to not only maintain my body weight, but actually increase it.

This really depresses me. But if I’m honest, I have not paid any attention whatsoever to my diet since I quit drinking. I have eaten shed loads of chocolate, cake, sweeties, ice cream, biscuits and pretty much anything sweet, fattening and unhealthy I could find.

It occurred to me today as I glowered at myself in the mirror again that my attitude to this self indulgent food fest is not a great deal different to my attitude to alcohol when I was deep in my petulant alcoholic denial.

Quite a lot of “I deserve it”; “just one won’t hurt”; “it won’t do me any harm”; a rather obstinate refusal to look at the realities, a head in the sand – self defeating “tomorrow will do” attitude.

Now maybe that shouldn’t matter, after all, I’m not vastly overweight, and surely a bit of laxity with cream buns is allowed in the initial stages of getting sober… Maybe. But what does matter to me is how lousy I feel in myself. The lack of self control and the burgeoning waist line makes me feel every day like a failure.. I want to feel in control of myself, not a slave to whims and greed…

I’m really not sure what to do. I’m not sure if this is a full scale cross addiction , whether being ‘strict’ with myself is likely to be counter productive, whether I should make a proper diet plan and follow it … I’d been sort of hoping that a natural rhythmic eating pattern would emerge once the alcoholic / sugar highs and lows had evened out – that I would want  to eat healthily and nourish myself … That hasn’t really happened yet…..

I slightly feel (and I don’t want to think this) that my addiction tendencies, are finding another outlet …and that unless I deal with whatever is underneath, I will continue to have one issue or another ….

Bugger. Not a great couple of days really