Feeling Down in Sobriety? We had a discussion this week about feeling down in sobriety. This is common yet it can come out of the blue. You know, in the early days, once you get over the initial detox and recovery process, you seem to be on a high, you feel great, have loads of energy, feel like you can take on the world and are just so inspired and motivated.
And then, it hits you. You feel sad, depressed even, lethargic, tired, grumpy and even though you sleep like a log you feel headachy and constantly drained. What’s going on? If you are feeling down in sobriety it could be PAWS.
PAWS, (nothing to do with animals,) is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and it is like a second wave of withdrawal from any drug or alcohol which can occur a month or two into recovery. In fact it can happen monthly for up to two years!
I had never heard of it until I read this post by Sober Mummy. I feel incredibly lucky that I didn’t suffer from it myself to such an extent. Of course I had hard days, some days I had no energy for seemingly unknown reasons but I just thought it was the general ups and downs of life that we go through. But, if you suddenly feel exhausted, depressed, teary and just bloody awful after a period of sobriety then it could be PAWS.
Yes, PAWS is crap and after all the hard work you’ve put in, it can feel really, really unfair to have to go through all of those feelings again but at least it’s not you. You are not doing anything wrong and it is not a sign that sobriety is making you ill and that you should go back to drinking, really it’s not.
PAWS happens as we adjust to a healthy way of living again. After all when we drink, we do so much damage to our bodies and brains that it is no wonder that it can take time to get back to normal. Some symptoms of PAWS include:
- Lacking in energy and enthusiasm
- Poor concentration
- Disturbed sleep and bad dreams
- A feeling of sadness and depression
It is important to be aware of PAWS and to plan for it because if you get caught off guard then it can be a reason for relapse. Often when things go wrong we blame it on the fact that we are not drinking anymore.
The truth is though that it is alcohol which is to blame. It is alcohol that has caused all of this damage. Alcohol is responsible for the feelings you are going through and the symptoms you are experiencing, it is just your body’s way of fighting back and healing. It is a process that you have to go through to get well again.
Which you will – as long as you don’t drink.
The thing to remember is that while you are going through this stage in recovery, it does get easier, the symptoms get less and the episodes will happen less often and last for shorter amounts of time. A bit like the cravings we experience, the more you work through them, the less they happen, the less intense the experience until they don’t bother us so much anymore. Hang in there and don’t give up.
I like the mantra, “This too shall pass” Because it will.
How to deal with PAWS:
Go with it.
Knowing it can happen and being aware of it when it does will help enormously. It is normal and a natural part of the recovery process. Physically you might feel ill and your emotions are all over the place. But, don’t fight it, don’t resent it. Just like life in general, you will have good and bad days. Enjoy the good days and look after yourself during the bad days.
When a period of PAWS occurs it is vital to go back to basics and make sure you look after yourself. I always say do the simple things first. Drink lots of water, eat nutritious food, get fresh air and exercise and make sure you rest. Give yourself permission to focus on you and try not to take too much on.
Keeping up with self care is an ongoing and vital part of recovery, that is why with every new moon I host The Virtual Sober Retreat to help you to connect to yourself and learn all important self care practices to keep you feeling nourished, loved and looked after every single day.
I know it can be so frustrating to feel rubbish when you are doing this wonderful thing for yourself. You expect to feel amazing all the time and when you don’t it can feel like things are just going so slowly. Remember that it takes time to adjust. Your body, soul and spirit need time to recover and heal again. Don’t try to rush the process. You will get there, it just might take a little while before you begin to feel good again.