Day 87, and I'm struggling.
I had been fine. Upbeat, energetic, seeing light at the end of the tunnel. But the last few days I've felt despondent and tetchy. And I'm tired. Physically tired and emotionally drained.
I sleep like a log - 7 hours - but wake up feeling exhausted. Then, by mid afternoon, I'm falling asleep in a chair. By evening I've run out of the energy to do anything except collapse in front of the telly.
So I googled something along the lines of 'fatigue after quitting alcohol.' I got all the usual stuff about withdrawal symptoms in the few days after stopping. I know that. I remember the total exhaustion of day 1-5. But this is DAY 87!
Then I found all this stuff about Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (here's a link to one of the best explanations I found). It's also known by its more cuddly nickname PAWS.
Apparently, PAWS is the second stage of withdrawal from alcohol (or any form of drug) and occurs after the initial intense physical withdrawal stage. As the brain chemistry gradually returns to a new equilibrium it tends to fluctuate causing emotional, physiological and physical symptoms.
These episodes appear to be cyclical - some people swear they are lunar, occurring every 28 days or so or literally at the full moon. Good God I'm a werewolf!
The 'pink cloud' phase followed by 'the wall' is the first episode of PAWS, but these symptoms can reoccur for up to two years!
The good news is that each episode gets shorter and less intense, disappearing within a few days. And if you're aware of them and ready for them you can cope.
Apparently, being unprepared for an attack of PAWS is a major reason for relapse. You think everything's getting better, then BAM! It feels like you're back to the beginning. You lose faith that it's ever going to get better and reach for the bottle.
Symptoms of PAWS include: mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, low enthusiasm, variable concentration and sleep disturbance (including bad dreams in which you drink heavily!).
I also read that a number of people experience terrible memory lapses during episodes of PAWS. This was actually a relief to discover, as two days ago I was asked in a shop for my postcode and couldn't remember it!
I've had that postcode for nearly a decade and am constantly using it. I had a panic that I was getting early onset Alzheimer's. Imagine - 2 decades fuzzy through drink, a few months lucid, then off with the fairies again!
So, what do you do about PAWS?
Here's some advice I found: You can't hurry recovery. But you can get through it one day at a time. If you resent post-acute withdrawal, or try to bulldoze your way through it, you will become exhausted. And when you're exhausted you will think of using to escape.
Basically, you just have to go with the flow. Ride it out. Like PMS. Each episode is short and gets shorter/easier. The good times get better/longer. So they say.
We had bad spells when we were drinking too, didn't we? Loads of them! Only this time we don't have the false friend to help us through.
Love to you all!