How to cope with Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) by Journaling

You’ve been on a steady journey to overcome an addiction. You could be trying to quit drinking, smoking, overeating, or caffeine. It’s great that you’ve taken the first steps—but now you find yourself battling withdrawal. When you are recovering from addiction, you’ll need to deal with the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.

BlogSelf DevelopmentHow to cope with Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) by Journaling

You’ve been on a steady journey to overcome an addiction. You could be trying to quit drinking, smoking, overeating, or caffeine. It’s great that you’ve taken the first steps—but now you find yourself battling withdrawal. When you are recovering from addiction, you’ll need to deal with the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal. 

The physical and emotional pain may seem unbearable at times. However, there is a way to overcome these symptoms by practicing mindfulness and journaling. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that has been around for thousands of years but only recently became popular in Western culture. 

Mindfulness and Journaling can help you become more aware of your feelings and also allows you to see the positive side of life. You will gain a better understanding of your mental triggers and be able to tackle any obstacles that come your way.

What is post-acute withdrawal?

Post-acute withdrawal is common after you quit drinking or any form of addiction. It can last from days to months. For severe cases, the symptoms could linger for up to two years! It depends on the substance, duration of use, and available support. It’s good to be understanding and patient with individuals dealing with PAWS. 

Rehabilitation centers and AA meetings provide support to individuals who are dealing with addictions. Whether you’d like to quit smoking or kick off a caffeine addiction, you might go through post-withdrawal symptoms. Some things can help make this time easier for those who experience it.

One of the best things about post-acute withdrawal is that your body will begin to recover from its dependence on the substance as soon as you stop taking it in large quantities (or at all). That means some symptoms may quickly go away while others may take longer—but they will go away eventually!

The downside of post-acute withdrawal is that people often experience cravings during this period. That’s because their brains are still adjusting to a mentally sober state after being altered by drug use or an undesirable behavioral pattern over an extended period. That can make quitting the addiction harder than usual until these cravings pass.

Physical symptoms of PAWS

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms also prolonged withdrawal symptoms are different from early withdrawal symptoms. They come after the initial withdrawal phase, are milder, and occur more randomly. It’s also necessary to note that not all people experience PAWS when they quit drinking or other addictions. 

PAWS symptoms vary from one substance to the other. There are more general symptoms, which include: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Moodiness 
  • Insomnia 
  • Low libido 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Memory problems 
  • Brain fog 
  • Lack of focus 
  • Higher sensitivity 
  • Chronic pain and discomfort 
  • Cravings 
  • Aggression of hostility  


What causes post-acute withdrawal symptoms?

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are caused by the brain adjusting to the absence of the substance or habit. The brain is trying to compensate for the lack of it, and it will take time for your mind and body to adjust.

The best way to think about post-acute withdrawal symptoms is as a form of grieving. Your brain has lost something important: its ability to produce dopamine (pleasure) from drugs, alcohol, or a particular habit. The brain is trying to adjust to normal functioning, but this can take some time—and it's not an easy process! So try to be patient with yourself.  

How to deal with physical withdrawal symptoms 

Take care of yourself 

Self-care is necessary. Take this time to prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Making simple lifestyle changes is a great way to cope with PAWS. 

Depending on your preferences, self-care can come in many forms. You could: 

  • Visit a spa 
  • Take walks 
  • Eat a good diet 
  • Practice good hygiene 
  • Exercise 
  • Do yoga 
  • Have a regular sleep schedule 
  • Meditate 
  • Affirmations 
  • Enjoy healthy relationships 

Clear your mind by taking a walk and observing nature (credit Pexels)

Clinical treatments or habilitation 

For severe cases, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional and seek drug treatment. If you want to quit drinking caffeine, this might not be necessary. But, for drugs and substances, it might. 

Treatment facilities and rehabilitation centers are available for those in need of serious help. It could be for a few days, weeks, or months depending on the severity. 

Take note of symptoms and triggers 

To understand the scope of it all, you’ll need to pay close attention to how you feel. That will help you know the symptoms you’re dealing with and the necessary treatment. It will also help you figure out common triggers to avoid future relapses.

Attend local support groups 

If you want to quit drinking, local support groups are ideal. They’re a great environment since you’ll be around individuals dealing with the same issue. It’ll allow you to feel less isolated and have people who can truly relate with you. AA groups also provide mentors who have overcome their addiction and can help guide you on your journey.

Ask for help when necessary 

You’re human and far from perfect, so seek help when necessary. Your spouse, family, friends, and community will be willing to lend a hand. There’s no need to feel shy or embarrassed. What matters is that you’re putting in the effort to change. 

Steps to take when dealing with PAWS 

After the initial withdrawal phase, you could be okay, or you might start developing post-acute withdrawal symptoms. There are two main ways briefly mentioned in this section that we’ll delve into further.

Journaling as a way to move past post-acute withdrawal symptoms

Journaling is a great way to get in touch with your emotions. You can process your thoughts and feelings. It can also be a tool to move past negative emotions that may have been holding you back from moving forward in recovery. You can write down whatever comes into your mind without judgment or censorship. That means that there won't be any pressure on yourself as a writer (or even as someone who doesn't know how to put words together). 

Writing can help with stress management because it gives us an outlet for our emotions and frustrations. That makes it easier for us not only during post-acute withdrawal but also throughout life! 

Express your thoughts and feelings through journaling (credit Pexels

There have been several studies on the psychological effects of journaling.

There was one such study to observe how journaling can be beneficial in the process of overcoming addiction. During eight group sessions, women recovering from substance use used journaling practices. They each journaled on their own for two weeks. “The journaling practice was feasible and acceptable” (Amy R. Bettina B Hoeppner Susanne S Hoeppner & Nancy P. Barnett). 

It helped them mentally recover, progress, and have pride in their achievements. Such studies show the benefits that journaling can have on people dealing with withdrawal symptoms. It can be highly therapeutic and beneficial for a variety of psychological issues.

Anyone can experience addiction and post-withdrawal symptoms. It’s more common than we imagine. More women in Canada are attempting to quit gambling. Gambling addictions were more common in men, but that’s changed. A study analyzed the effectiveness of journaling and used qualitative data and therapeutic techniques. The findings showed that the “reflective and intellectual” aspects of journaling made it a good tool for counseling women. 

Journaling also allows for reflection on what went wrong in the past (or why it went right), which can help guide future decisions about substance use or other behaviors that may lead back down a similar path. This type of self-reflection helps people recover by making them aware of patterns, triggers, thoughts, and behaviors associated with substance abuse. 

Such awareness can lead them away from those triggers while providing an alternative coping mechanism when faced with challenging situations without drugs/alcohol in their lives again later down the road!

Practicing mindfulness helps with dealing with stress and anxiety

Mindfulness involves being fully aware while doing everyday activities like eating breakfast or taking out the trash—instead of just going through the motions without actually experiencing what's happening right now! It helps you be aware of what's happening around us at all times—including our thoughts and emotions. 

It’s about accepting them without judgment or criticism. It helps you realize that their thoughts aren't always accurate. They might also be irrational or just plain wrong! This realization can help you make better decisions in life because they're not basing their decisions on false information anymore.

This skill will help you stay grounded during post-acute withdrawal because there won't be surprises when something unexpected happens. We'll already know what we're capable of handling before anything happens!

A positive step in overcoming post-acute withdrawal symptoms is to practice meditation. It will help you focus on the present rather than worrying about the past or future. It also allows you to gain control over your thoughts and emotions by noticing them when they arise. 

Meditation will calm your mind and allow to handle PAWS better (credit Pexels)

There are books on the subject that can help you learn more about it. Mindfulness is a way of being. It’s not something you do only once in a while but rather a process of paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and acceptance. It's also important to notice when your mind wanders away from this. 

Focus on reality by gently bringing yourself back into the present moment again. Do so without judgment or criticism but with kindness towards yourself and others around you in society today who may be suffering from post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

Why mindfulness helps you quit an addiction?

Mindfulness allows you to observe of your thoughts, feelings, body, and environment. That allows us to focus on the present moment by bringing our attention back when we're distracted by thoughts or impulses. 

Some random and controlled studies assessed how mindfulness can help individuals to overcome drug addiction. In five out of 6 cases, there was a reduction in substance use. “Psychiatric symptoms and perceived stress levels were also significantly reduced” (S Skanavi, X Laqueille, HJ Aubin). It’s proof that mindfulness is an effective tool when dealing with addiction or trying to quit drugs. 

When practicing mindfulness, it's easier to recognize when something triggers an addictive response or behavior. In those moments, mindfulness allows you to see what's happening clearly without judgment or emotion clouding things for you.

Surbhi Khanna et al. researched how yoga and mindfulness could be complementary therapies for addiction. It made use of clinical promise and scientific evidence. The results were that mindfulness techniques support people to quit smoking by “helping them decrease avoidance and tolerate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.” Such studies prove that meditative practices can indeed help people dealing with addictions. 

For example, I’m trying to quit drinking. If someone offers me a drink at a party (or even asks me if I want one), my first thought might be, "No thanks.” Then I think about how much fun everyone else looks like they're having, so maybe I should have one just this once—and eventually, I'm drinking out of habit instead of choice, which leads me right back into addiction territory!

But if I were more mindful during this situation, then instead of saying yes every time someone offered me alcohol (which could happen multiple times per night), my response would likely change depending upon whether or not I was thirsty—if not, “No thank-you” otherwise “Sure why not!”

Trying to quit smoking is not easy. It’s both an addiction and a habit that can be difficult to stop, especially in stressful situations. Using meditation and mindfulness has a positive impact on this process. There was a study to assess the effectiveness of mindful-based stress reduction in smokers. It included eight weekly group sessions and one week of quitting smoking. The results showed that 56% of subjects managed to abstain. Though it’s not 100% foolproof, it does show that mindfulness can aid this process.

How to practice mindfulness and meditation to break an addiction?

You can practice mindfulness by focusing on something simple—like your breath. The air going in and out of your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest, or the feeling of air filling up your lungs. If you’re outdoors, you could also focus on listening to birds chirping, dogs barking, or the peaceful silence. 

Yoga involves breathing exercises and can be a good way to meditate and be mindful (credit Pexels)

Focusing on our surroundings helps us to stay present in the moment and reach a state of no-mind (not thinking about anything). That allows you to gain more control of your conscious mind. You’ll be able to quit drinking or any other addiction. 

Mindfulness is achievable through meditation. Meditation is a great way to relax, focus and reduce stress. It can also help with anxiety, depression, pain, and other symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

There are many different types of meditation. Some people prefer guided meditations, where they listen to an expert who guides them through their meditation session.  

Journaling and mindfulness can help you overcome post-acute withdrawal symptoms 

The withdrawal symptoms of quitting an addiction can be tough to overcome. You might be experiencing cravings for your substance of choice (or habit), or you may have negative thoughts about quitting. A combination for f journaling and mindfulness can help you overcome these challenges.

When you are ready to quit, practice mindfulness and journaling as a way to move past the uncomfortable physical and emotional experiences that go along with addiction recovery. Journaling is a great way to get your feelings out. It helps you process your thoughts, cravings and withdrawal symptoms so that they don't overwhelm you or keep you from moving forward in recovery.

You’re on the right path, so be kind to yourself! (credit Pexels)


I hope this article has helped you to understand what post-acute withdrawal symptoms are, why they happen, and how you can cope with them. If a loved one is dealing with post-acute withdrawal symptoms, support them. As they try to quit drinking or smoking, encourage them and assure them they’re not alone. 

I can relate since I’ve been through post-acute withdrawal symptoms myself. I found that journaling and practicing mindfulness were some of the best ways to deal with them—but it took time! I recommend you try it out. You will also be able to better deal with negative thoughts that trigger or fuel your addiction.

So if you want to kick your addiction once and for all, don’t give up on yourself because things didn’t go perfectly right away (remember: there is no such thing as failure). Just keep up the effort until it becomes second nature. It may take years or even decades before you master everything—but isn't being human enough reason enough?


Development, feasibility, acceptability, and impact of a positive psychology journaling intervention to support addiction recovery

Amy R. Bettina B Hoeppner Susanne S Hoeppner & Nancy P. Barnett

Women gamblers write a voice: Exploring journaling as an effective counseling and research tool

Sonya Corbin Dwyer, Noëlla Piquette, Jennifer L Buckle, Evelyn McCaslin

Mindfulness based interventions for addictive disorders: a review

S Skanavi, X Laqueille, HJ Aubin

A pilot study on mindfulness based stress reduction for smokers

James M Davis, Michael F Fleming, Timothy B Baker

A narrative review of yoga and mindfulness as complementary therapies for addiction.

Surbhi Khanna, Jeffrey M Greeson