There is a phenomenon which occurs in the earliest stages of recovery, from the first few months through to the first two years. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome occurs every thirty days to six months, bringing with it the many symptoms of withdrawal experienced in the first few weeks or months of recovery. Without knowledge of PAWS, many men suffer from these symptoms with confusion, mistaking their return as a sign of failure in their recovery. Unaware of how to efficiently and effectively cope with these recurring symptoms, men become vulnerable to relapse.
PAWS is a last act of the brain, a final desperation for more substances as neural pathways in the brain begin to heal. Addiction convinces the brain that using substances is a necessary and vital requirement for survival. As the last interaction with substances subsides further and further away, the brain struggles to adjust to the life of sobriety. Habits change, behaviors change, and the body changes away from addiction, sending the brain into a state similar to panic. Since so much is changing for the man in recovery, these old patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving seem out of place. For example, when cravings return, men can become distraught because they truly have found a peace of mind which transcends cravings. Simply put, men don’t want to use. Thus, when parts of their brain and body experience cravings, the sensations are disheartening.
Cravings and the other symptoms of PAWS are a form of extinction bursts. Behavioral psychology deals with extinction bursts, which includes the recurrence of an old behavior and the dire need to refuse reinforcement of that behavior. What is most shocking about cravings during PAWS is that they can feel worse than the cravings experienced during withdrawals. Extinction bursts can be summed up like this: behaviors have to get worse before they can get better. The longer a craving goes not indulged, the stronger it will become until, essentially, the craving finally gives up. Reinforcing a craving with relapse, for example, simply makes the behavior stronger because it is rewarded. Without reward- a primary motivator for the neuroscience model of addiction- the behavior has no reason to live.
Sobriety, that is, the chance to live in freedom of addiction, is worth it. Recovery is not easy. Recovery takes hard work, discipline, motivation, and support. If you or a man in your life is suffering with addiction, there is hope. Tree House Recovery in Orange County, California offers men’s treatment programs, helping them build the sustainable changes necessary for sustainable recovery. Call us today for information: (855) 202-2138