Entering treatment and realizing you have the opportunity to regain control of your life is exciting. But once the initial withdrawal period has passed and the excitement has died down, recovering alcoholics can begin feeling disenchanted. They took the steps to stop drinking but they’re lives aren’t instantly perfect as a result. That’s when the depression, irritability, mental confusion and general malaise set in.
It’s not a failure in treatment, it’s not a relapse, it’s PAWS.
PAWS stands for post-acute withdrawal syndrome and most recovering alcoholics will experience it. Once the body has effectively gone through physical detox from chronic alcohol abuse, the brain has a hard time catching up. As it works to create new pathways and replace the old ones damaged by drinking, its other processes may slow down causing mental distress.
Not every alcoholic experiences PAWS, but the ones who do may experience it periodically for several years. Thankfully, most are able to effectively cope with the symptoms using a number of self-care strategies. These strategies are similar to coping mechanisms people use to manage depression and anxiety.