Knowing about PAWS helped me. I hope awareness of it helps those who are wishing for it to just be all over. Patience. You'll get there! I promise; if you just don't smoke.
FOR THOSE IN THEIR "STAY QUIT" MODE (Approx. 4 MOS to 2 YEARS QUIT towards FOREVER!):
*** PAWS -- The 2nd Stage of Withdrawal ***
The first stage of withdrawal is the acute stage which usually lasts at most a few weeks. During this stage, the physical withdrawal symptoms experienced may be different for every person.
The second stage of withdrawal is called the POST-ACUTE WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME OR PAWS. During this stage you will have fewer physical symptoms, but more emotional & psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain improves, the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new equilibrium causing Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms. Most people experience PAWS.
The most common PAWS symptoms are: mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, variable energy, low enthusiasm, variable concentration & disturbed sleep. It feels like a roller coaster of symptoms. In the beginning, your symptoms will change from minute to minute and hour to hour. Later as you recover further they will disappear for a few weeks or months only to return again. As you continue to recover, the good stretches will get longer & longer. The bad periods of PAWS can be just as intense and last just as long.
Each PAWS episode usually lasts for a few days. There is no obvious trigger for most episodes. You will wake up one day feeing irritable and have low energy. If you hang on for just a few days, it will lift just as quickly as it started. Each episode is time limited.
Post-Acute Withdrawal usually lasts for 2 years. This is one of the most important things you need to remember. If you're up for the challenge you can get through this BUT if you think that PAWS will only last for a few months, then you'll get caught off guard, and when you're disappointed you're more likely to relapse.
* BE PATIENT. You can get through recovery one day at a time. If you resent or bulldoze your way through it, you will become exhausted. PAWS symptoms are a sign that your brain is recovering. Don't resent them. Remember, even after one year, you are still only half way there.
* GO WITH THE FLOW. You'll have lots of good days over the next two years. Enjoy them. You'll also have bad days. On those days, don't try to do too much. Take care of yourself. Focus on your recovery and you'll get through this.
* PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Give yourself a lot of little breaks over the next two years. Tell yourself "what I am doing is enough". Be good to yourself. Sometimes you'll have little energy or enthusiasm for anything. Understand this & don't overbook your life. Give yourself permission to continue to focus on your recovery.
PAWS can be a trigger for relapse. You can go weeks without any symptoms & then one day you wake up & are hit like a ton of bricks. You'll have slept badly. You'll be in a bad mood. Your energy will be low. If you think that PAWS only lasts for a few months or that you'll be different and it won't be as bad for you, then you will not be prepared for it & will get caught off guard but if you know what to expect you can do this. Relax. Don't get caught up in PAWS.
Remember, EVERY RELAPSE, NO MATTER HOW SMALL UNDOES THE GAINS YOUR BRAIN HAS MADE DURING RECOVERY. WITHOUT ABSTINENCE, EVERYTHING WILL FALL APART. WITH ABSTINENCE, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
(Modified Source: addictionsandrecovery.org)