The effects of active addiction can be excruciating and even fatal. People often think that getting sober is the end of the symptoms. However, in reality, it is just the beginning. It is the beginning of learning new coping skills and emotional outlets. The emotional and physical side effects of active addiction follow you into sobriety, but for how long? While acute withdrawal symptoms last from a few days to a few weeks, post acute withdrawal symptoms can last up to 2 years.
What is Post Acute Withdrawal?
Post acute withdrawal is the second phase of withdrawal in which psychological and emotional struggles tend to come to the forefront. The severity and length of symptoms is dependent upon the intensity and duration of the alcohol and drug consumption. Time and intensity of post acute withdrawal is not a cut and dry formula and symptoms are not linear nor are they consistent. Oftentimes, these symptoms come in waves for a few days at a time. For example, someone using heavily for many years can experience symptoms for up to 2 years. On the other hand, an individual that has used for a shorter period may experience a less intense degree of post acute withdrawal symptoms for a shorter period of time. However, as previously mentioned, the time and intensity of post acute withdrawal symptoms can vary person to person, regardless of their drug and alcohol use history. Even a short relapse can cause post acute withdrawal symptoms for months.
Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal
Symptoms of post acute withdrawal can be triggered by stress, conflict and any type of overload. They include but are not limited to:
- Sleep disturbances
- Hypersomnia (too much sleep)
- Vivid dreams or night terrors
- Anxiety and panic
- Mild to severe mood swings
- Trouble remembering or concentrating
- Ongoing fatigue
Post acute withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to manage due to the broad spectrum of symptoms and the inability to use the coping skills that were used in the past, such as drinking and drug use. If you are in early sobriety or know someone in early sobriety, it is important for you to remember that everyone goes through these symptoms in their own way. It can be a confusing time and relapse may seem like the only way to cope, but it’s not.
Seeking Out Help For Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Seeing a mental health professional who is familiar with addiction can be very helpful for someone in early recovery. They can help you explore and discuss new coping skills for tough times and remind you that you are not the first person to experience these hardships. A mental health professional can also help you sift through symptoms and potentially diagnose health concerns that were masked during usage. Mental health issues may overlap symptoms with post acute withdrawal symptoms and can be difficult to differentiate. It’s important to be treated for mental health problems, rather than just ignore them, as the symptoms you are experiencing may not simply be the result of post acute withdrawal. Instead, they could be indicative of a more pervasive mental health or dual diagnosis issue.
12 step communities and support groups are recommended in sobriety to create a new group of like-minded people who have been through similar situations in the past or are currently experiencing similar symptoms. These are the people who will understand what you are going through the most and will be less likely to minimize or overreact to your state of being. These might not be medical professionals who can give you advice, but they can share with you precisely how they managed their symptoms and stayed sober through them.
Limiting Sugar and Caffeine
If you are experiencing symptoms such as anxiety or insomnia, you may want to consider limiting your caffeine and sugar intake. In addition, getting some excess during the day may assist your body in becoming more tired by the time you get in bed. Finally, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day so that your body gets in the habit of a sleep schedule.
Assessing Each Situation
It’s best to avoid emotionally draining situations in early sobriety. Strenuous work and conflict can create a sense of unbearable pressure. Consciously avoiding too much of that will keep you safe from an overwhelming amount of mood swings. Situations that were handled easily when using may be a huge trigger with new found emotions.
Helping Family and Friends Understand
It also can be beneficial to talk to your friends and family to help them understand your situation and symptoms. This might also reduce the potential for conflict as these things come up. Helping them recognize your actions, thoughts, and behaviors as symptoms of withdrawal may help the amount they are affected by it.
If your symptoms seem unbearable, first know that this is a very common feeling. Second, become aware that they are only seemingly unbearable. The way out is through. There are many people who have come out on the other side of this, do not give up. Third, do not hesitate to seek advice from a medical professional. Treatment centers are available to give recovering addicts a safe place to struggle. Asking for help may be the bravest and most difficult thing you do during this time, but the potential benefits far outweigh the struggle of attempting to cope with your symptoms alone.
Outpatient Addiction Treatment in Phoenix
At Continuum Recovery Center in Phoenix, Arizona, we help all walks of life recovery from substance use disorders, mental health issues, and dual diagnosis disorders. Our team of multidisciplinary professionals can get you back on the path of success to create a new life of possibilities. Call us now at 855.869.7132