The Family P.A.W.S.

April 5, 2017 - - 0 Comments

The Family P.A.W.S.

P.A.W.S, the acronym for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is a set of symptoms experienced by addicts and alcoholics when they have abstained from drinking or using addictive chemicals. P.A.W.S is a period of time after initial detoxing from alcohol or drugs and manifests about seven to fourteen days after acute withdrawal.  According to Terence T. Gorski’s (Staying Sober) P.A.W.S. is a result by a “combination of damage to the nervous system caused by alcohol or drugs” including psychosocial stress due to living without drugs or alcohol.

Gorski outlined six types of P.A.W. S.: (1) Inability to think clearly, (2) Memory problems, (3) Emotional overreactions or numbness, (4) Sleep disturbances, (5) Physical coordination problems and (6) Stress sensitivity. I have discovered while working with the family members of our clients similar effects occur. I have surmised, after almost thirty years of experience working with the addictive family, that each member of the family also experiences a Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.

First, each member of the family finds it difficult to think clearly once their loved one stops drinking and using. This is because the family has been so focused on the addict or alcoholic in their life that they are unsure about what to expect. Secondly, family members report having difficulty remembering certain events or situations as they were consumed at the time with their loved one’s addiction. Third, family members are worried about what if my loved one relapses or changes and often become overly emotional about the “what if’s”. Fourth, Family members also experience sleep disturbances such as, finding it difficult to sleep or only wanting to sleep. This is often the result of worry and fear over concerns for the future. The family members had the same concerns before their loved one stopped drinking or using and they find no escape from the worry or fears. Fifth, due to the hypervigilance of the family members concerned about their loved one’s welfare, the family members, so focused on their loved one, sometimes experience as the alcohol or addict in P.A.W.S., physical coordination problems. Finally, family members are most often extremely stress sensitive. While their loved one was in their disease of addiction, the family was usually in stress over what they should do or what might happen if the addiction continues. After their loved one has stopped drinking or using the family now stresses about “what if they relapse”.

Yes, it is true the family members do experience their own P.A.W.S. unique to their own experience. This is why the family needs to be treated also. Treated, not just educated to the disease of addiction. They need to be treated equally to their addicted counterpart. At His House New Creation we treat the whole family. It is a commitment and much work, however it is worth it. Every member of the family must change in order for the family to experience the joy of recovery. This comes from living a life of sobriety as a family. Family treatment brings freedom to live life together as a family one day at a time.

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