How to prevent relapse when newly sober
Dealing with the dreaded “PAWS”
Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAWS) refers to the time period after a person has undergone the initial withdrawal (detox) from a substance and is medically stable but subject to emotional and mental withdrawal symptoms. This can include heightened stress, irritability, anger and depression.
In the weeks and months following detox, a person’s brain chemistry is still returning to normal. Most people will begin to feel better physically and emotionally within 1-2 weeks, but it can take up to 1-2 years for the brain and the body to fully return to a normal state of functioning.
That is why it is crucial to stay engaged in a program of recovery and remain vigilant for signs of PAWS. There will be triggers, ranging from stressful experiences to potentially very positive experiences that can trigger a relapse.
Key activities for staying sober in the first 1-2 years include:
- Staying engaged in on-going treatment such as outpatient programming following your initial treatment
- Serenity Lane offers Level II (Intensive Outpatient Programming) and Level I (ongoing recovery support) services meant to extend a patient’s continuum of care for up to 2 years)
- Getting connected as an alumni through your treatment provider
- Alumni programming is both a great way to stay connected to your treatment experience but also an opportunity to support people still in treatment. Alumni programs usually provide a mix of recovery-themed events, service opportunities and resources for getting your life back on track post-treatment.
- Being active in 12-step recovery
- Serenity Lane encourages patients to attend 12-step meetings, get a sponsor and get active in 12-step recovery. While it is not for everyone, many people find enormous benefit in 12-step recovery.
- Seeking help for co-occurring mental health issues, like trauma, anxiety, depression, body image issues or anger.
- Serenity Lane’s integrated model of care includes mental health services for co-occurring issues. Ongoing therapeutic work, including professional counseling and holistic therapies can help maintain sobriety and create a solid foundation for long-term sobriety.
- Understanding the Disease of Addiction: Addiction rewires the brain but it is possible to re-re-wire it! Dr. Geisler, Serenity Lane’s Director of Medical Services and a board-certified specialist in addiction medicine explains how addiction centers in the brain and what to expect in early sobriety. He also outlines how to deal with PAWS and avoid relapse in early sobriety.