If you’re in the beginning of your recovery, you are likely going through or about to go through the process of withdrawal. Withdrawal is usually one of the first experiences you have in recovery. It’s the experience of weaning off the drug you’re on (whether that’s alcohol, methamphetamines, painkillers, or cocaine). During this process, as your body adjusts to the absence of a substance it’s been dependent on, it’s going to go through some discomforts. It’s going to experience the symptoms of withdrawal.

It’s important to know that there are two stages of the withdrawal. The first is the acute stage and the second is the post-acute stage. Both tend to have their own symptoms. For instance, the acute stage tends to have physical symptoms, while in the post-acute stage, a person will experience emotional and psychological symptoms.

However, it’s important to know that while the acute stage of withdrawal may only last for a short period of time (a few days to a few weeks); the post-acute stage could last for over a year or more. Acute is often defined medically as “having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course”. It’s usually a brief time in which you will experience symptoms such as discomfort, pain, fatigue, slow movements, itching, coughing, nausea, or vomiting, depending upon the drug you’re weaning yourself from.

On the other hand, the post-acute stage of withdrawal is a longer period of time that will require your courage, patience, and acceptance. The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:

–Mood swings
–Variable energy
–Low enthusiasm
–Variable concentration
–Disturbed sleep

Of course, the kind of experience you have when you withdraw (for both stages) will depend on a variety of factors:

–Type of drug
–Length of addiction
–Physical health
–Psychological health
–Intensity of the addiction
–Existence of addiction to other substances
–Existence of mental illness
–Addictive quality of the drug

Because the post-acute stage can last a long time and can be emotionally and psychologically difficult to bear, it’s important to think ahead of time of ways to cope with this process. Having a plan filled with ways to manage the withdrawal symptoms will make this process easier. For instance,

Practice self-care. No matter where you are in your recovery, you’re going to want to take good care of yourself. In fact, one of the contributing factors of addiction is not knowing how to care for yourself. This might include not getting good rest, not eating well, not knowing how to get your needs met, and not knowing when to take a break when you need it. An essential part of the beginning stages of recovery, especially while you’re experiencing symptoms of withdrawal is to take good care of yourself. This could include taking baths, going to bed early, going for walks in nature, spending time with friends, and communicating your needs.

Be careful of relapse. Because the second stage of withdrawal is an emotionally volatile time, it could be a time where one might be vulnerable to relapse. Taking extra precaution during this time not to relapse is critical. This could be scheduling regular appointments with your therapist, attending AA meetings, going to your drug counselor, and participating in sober living community of some sort.

Use relaxation techniques regularly. A contributing factor to addiction is not knowing how to cope with stress as well as not knowing to how cope with challenging feelings. Relaxation techniques used on a regular basis can facilitate a sense of ease even when life gets stressful and difficult.

These are a few ways to take good care of yourself during the withdrawal process. Although it’s easy to believe that the withdrawal process will only a few days to a few weeks, the post-acute stage in which you may be vulnerable to the dangers of the emotional and psychological, can last much longer. For this reason, call upon your patience, love, and courage to make through both stages of the withdrawal process.

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