Thursday, September 11, 2014

Follow Up to Today's Earlier Post or Of Course It's PAWS!

Everyone is different. Some people will never feel symptoms of PAWS. I wish that were true for me, but, alas, I'm a bonified PAWS sufferer. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: If this is the worst consequence of my drinking, then so fucking be it. I know it's not ideal, but at least there is a name for it. And when there is knowledge, there is power. No wonder I just wanted to plop on the couch last night. The main symptoms I am experiencing are fatigue, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, memory loss, difficulty in solving problems and thinking clearly and obsessive thoughts. 

And this can lead to some icky things. It can lead a person to buy a bottle of non-alcoholic wine. It can make said person beat themselves up about it. And the negative dialog leads to more negative dialog. I am feeling somewhat better today, but still not 100%. Not even close.

I am a bit of a type A personality. I own a business and I am accustomed to drawing up a huge to-do list a the beginning of the week and working hard to cross every little item off over the course of the week. I am never able to do it, probably because it isn't always feasible. But I give myself a ration of shit about it. I call myself lazy and accuse myself of being wasteful of time. I regret spending time on Facebook and wish instead that I had filled all my time with work. I've always been this way. Part of the perfectionism piece (I need to get that book, Anne!). But when I'm in the middle of a PAWS episode, everything gets amplified. I am so physically exhausted, but the negative self talk doesn't change. Actually, it gets worse because I am accomplishing less. Instead of breaking down tasks and doing one small thing at a time, I become seriously overwhelmed.

I don't think this is depression because my mind actually wants desperately to accomplish my tasks. It's just engaged in a huge duel with my body and my body says, "Fucketh You!"

I'm not suggesting that I'm not getting things done. Of course I am. But not nearly as much as I usually do and certainly not as much as I was able to do when I was actually drinking (go figure).

Here's what I read one ought to think about during a bout of PAWS (from elementsbehaviorhelth.com):

Despite the intensity of the cravings in the acute stage, many addicts are able to resist them, only to relapse later during the post-acute stage. This is because substance abusers are often well-prepared for the strong physical symptoms that accompany abstinence, but they are not ready at all for the scary and unfamiliar emotions they are suddenly forced to deal with after the onset of PAWS. That is why knowledge is the most important defense an addict can have against PAWS; as long as they know what to expect, they will not be taken by surprise when the various manifestations of the post-substance abuse blues descend upon them. When dealing with bouts of PAWS, recovering addicts should remain calm and relaxed, realizing that this too shall pass and that all of their inner turbulence is just a natural and unavoidable consequence of getting clean and sober.

The best strategy for coping with the negative emotions and loss of focus and motivation associated with PAWS is to scale things down and to simplify. Outside of work, days and nights should be filled with small activities that bring pleasure, such as playing sports or games, exercising, reading, taking nature walks, journal writing, pursuing favorite hobbies, and so on. Generally anything that does not involve too much time or effort is acceptable; however, it is not a good idea to while away the hours by surfing idly on the internet or by vegging out in front of the television, since passive, unfocused pursuits like these can actually reinforce a negative mindset and end up making a person feel worse rather than better. Activities that require real effort and concentration in manageable doses, which is what recovering addicts dealing with the symptoms of PAWS should be looking for.

So, yes, it's all pretty straight forward. Take care of yourself and try not to be too hard on yourself. Simple things, but not inactivity. Okay, I'll keep trying. I know the episode will pass. 

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