How Addiction Recovery Works and The Withdrawal Symptoms You Need to Know About

How Addiction Recovery Works and The Withdrawal Symptoms You Need to Know About

There are certain stages every recovering addict goes through, that people aren’t always familiar with in advance.

But information is key here as it might be what will give you hope when you need it the most. Knowing how your brain heals and what changes in your behavior are normal for addiction recovery, will make the process easier.

Let’s talk about how all this happens and what symptoms there are once drugs or alcohol aren’t a part of your life anymore.

Understanding Addiction

Abusive substances aren’t the only thing a person can get addicted to, but they are the most dangerous, the effect of which can last for a long time after we think we’ve recovered.

Although you may know exactly how using your drug of choice makes your body feel, the real addiction usually happens in our brains. In fact, it’s often referred to as the brain disease.

As science has found out over the last few decades, this condition is chronic and a result of the prolonged effects of drugs on the brain.

Accepting this can help people look for the right kind of solutions, including biological, behavioral and social elements.

The Condition Every Recovering Addict Should Be Aware Of

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There is one state of recovery few addicts are familiar with, before actually experiencing it.

When it happens, it’s so bad and like nothing they’ve ever seen before, that they are likely to go back to the old habit of using and give their body and brain the comfort they crave for.

Let’s talk about this condition.

That’s Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, and is what occurs right after you stop taking the drug you were addicted to.

The abuse of drugs or alcohol can lead to side effects that look like mental illness symptoms, and that can happen when you least expect it, and even when you consider yourself on your way to recovery.

Not being prepared for this isn’t a smart idea. Imagine it’s been more than a month since you said the final ‘no’ to your worst habit, and finally your life begins to look like a normal one, but then suddenly you start experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms that make you feel worse than before.

The stage of post-acute withdrawal is something almost anyone has to go through at some point, but is also something not many researchers have studied in details.

You can’t know what to expect, as the symptoms you’ll experience depend on what you’ve been using and for how long. Their severity can rarely be predicted too.

And even though when seeing such scenes of recovery in movies they don’t last long (could be a few days even, but that’s usually the acute withdrawals), in real life that can be months, or even years (these would be the post-acute withdrawals).

How Withdrawal Works

In order to experience withdrawal, you need to have gone through drug dependence. It could be physical, psychological, or both. The symptoms can be separated in these categories too.

To explain how exactly this condition works, I’ll use a metaphor that seems relevant.

If we assume our brain is a spring, then drugs would be the depressants pushing it down, thus stopping the production of certain neurotransmitters that are important to its proper functioning.

When you suddenly stop using, you release the barrier you created around the spring. Your brain then has to find a way to bounce back, and it does it by a rush of adrenaline, which is what causes the withdrawal symptoms.

Types of Symptoms

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The emotional withdrawal indicators might be the following:

  • Depression;
  • Bad sleep;
  • Inability to focus;
  • Isolation;
  • Mood swings;
  • No motivation to do anything;
  • Feeling a void and being dissatisfied with life without drugs or alcohol;
  • Memory issues;
  • Not thinking clearly;
  • Being more sensitive to stress than ever before;
  • Anxiety;
  • Anhedonia;

And more.

And here’s a list of the physical drug withdrawal symptoms after recovery (also referred to as chemical withdrawal):

  • Muscle plain;
  • Shaking;
  • Vomiting;
  • Headaches;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Seizures;
  • Racing heart;
  • Problems with coordination;
  • Flu-like symptoms;


Drug addiction is one of the hardest mental and physical processes a person can go through. Unfortunately, through pain comes freedom.

Willpower, determination, support, the right type of knowledge and preparation, and slow change are the answers to living normally again, without being dependent on any kind of substance.

Knowing the withdrawal symptoms and educating yourself more on how recovery works exactly, can also be a step forward in treating addiction.

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