What is PAWS or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from alcohol and why is it important for you to understand it if you’re quitting drinking?
PAWS or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, refers to a series of symptoms that can arise after quitting alcohol and after you successfully navigate your first few weeks of sobriety.
Think of it as a secondary phase of withdrawal from alcohol, which can hit a few weeks or months into recovery, or even further along.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there in the sober community about what exactly Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is, when it happens, how long it takes for PAWS to go away, what are the symptoms you might experience or how do you know if you have PAWS.
So today, we’re going to clear that all up. Gillian Tietz, the Sober Scientist behind the Sober Powered podcast is here to help me unravel the mystery of PAWS.
The most important thing you need to know about PAWS is that it’s a temporary condition. But without a clear understanding of the symptoms, what to expect, why they’re happening and how to navigate Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, PAWS can be a major factor in driving people back to drinking, which sucks because that will just bring you back to the beginning of withdrawal again.
PAWS is frustrating because you’ve been doing everything right. You’re taking care of yourself, not drinking and feeling better, and suddenly experience lethargy, sadness, and stress once again. It’s like the pink cloud, that feeling of health, energy, and optimism, has vanished.
But trust me, PAWS is just a bump on the road to recovery and understanding it can help you overcome it.
People often describe PAWS symptoms as coming in “waves” or experiencing emotional ups and downs. They can manifest weeks or even months after you’ve stopped drinking, often occurring around the 60 to 80 day mark.
The most common symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome include mood swings, unpredictable changes in your mood, depression, anxiety, agitation, loss of pleasure, feelings of numbness or emptiness, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, sleep disturbances, strong cravings, increased stress, and even poor coordination and clumsiness.
But I want you to know that this is not what “sober life” feels like; it’s simply what Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome feels like.
Now, here’s the good news: there are strategies you can employ to manage PAWS symptoms and continue your journey to sobriety with strength and resilience.
In this podcast episode Gill and I share lots of strategies, tips and tricks to navigate PAWS symptoms.
Here are just a few to get you started:
- Lower the bar and identify your sources of stress and try to minimize them. Take a look at your to-do list and see if there are tasks you can delegate or remove. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or set boundaries by saying no to new projects or responsibilities.
- Take care of yourself like you did in early sobriety. When PAWS hits, you may feel down so do whatever you can to pull yourself out of it or make the day more tolerable. Treat yourself with small comforts and find joy in the present moment.
- Eat to optimize your energy, improve your mood. Balancing your blood sugar levels can reduce anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings and cravings. Make sure you’re eating enough protein and avoid letting yourself get overly hungry. Small treats can also be helpful in sobriety but remember to nourish your body with wholesome foods.
- Regular exercise has a major positive impact on mental health. Even if it’s just a short walk or light movement, getting outside and being active can make a significant difference in managing PAWS symptoms.
- Develop regular habits to provide stability and structure during this challenging period. Establish a daily schedule that includes activities you enjoy, such as reading a good book for 30 minutes or going for a walk to grab a coffee. Having a routine helps you focus less on how you’re feeling and more on what you’re doing, making it easier to navigate through PAWS.
- Keep a positive attitude. Consider implementing a gratitude practice where you write down three things you’re grateful for each day and store them in a jar. Noticing and appreciating the small things, like a beautiful flower or a warm hug, can help shift your mindset and foster a more positive outlook.
- Learn relaxation skills. Try incorporating meditation before bed using apps like Insight Timer or explore techniques like EFT tapping, relaxing yoga, and deep breathing exercises to center yourself and find calm during those challenging moments.
Remember, this phase will pass. It’s normal, and it will get better. Be compassionate toward yourself, acknowledging that the journey to sobriety is not always smooth sailing. Surround yourself with a supportive community that understands what you’re going through and lean on them for encouragement and guidance.
Tune in to the full episode now and equip yourself with the knowledge and inspiration you need to navigate and conquer Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from alcohol without going back to drinking.
In this episode, Casey and Gill break down:
What (PAWS) Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is (and what it is not)
- Why PAWS occurs + the long-term healing process of our brain and body when we remove alcohol
- The long-term healing process of your brain and body when you remove alcohol
- How long it takes for PAWS to go away
How to recognize symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and how to cope with them
- Navigating the emotional highs and lows of early sobriety
- Ways to maintain a positive attitude and practice gratitude in challenging times
- Tips for managing negative emotions during PAWS
- How to set realistic expectations of sobriety and maintain resilience
- Living a sober powered life and embracing the journey to sobriety
Resources mentioned in the episode:
Gill’s super popular YouTube Video on PAWS: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) Explained
Gill’s YouTube Video on PAWS #2:
Casey’s blog on PAWS:
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Connect with Dr. Gillian Tietz
Gillian Tietz is the host of Sober Powered, a top 100 mental health podcast, and the founder of Sober Powered Media, a podcast network with 7 other top mental health podcasts.
Getting sober in 2019 inspired her to start her podcast, Sober Powered, where she utilizes her biochemistry background to teach others how alcohol affects the brain and why it’s so hard to stop drinking. She is a chemistry professor at a university in Boston.
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READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS PODCAST INTERVIEW
All About (PAWS) Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome From Alcohol With Gillian Tietz
drinking, feel, sobriety, sober, pause, alcohol, day, grateful, triggers, talk, life, hard, big, podcast, feeling, anxiety, spikes, symptoms, learning, PAWS Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, alcohol-free, brain
SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Gillian Tietz
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a buzz, how to sit with your emotions when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. I’m really excited for this episode because we are talking about a subject that comes up often and isn’t really well understood. And I’m talking about
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, otherwise known as PAWS.
You may have heard this term. You may not have. But it’s something that tends to come in waves after you stop drinking. And it’s incredibly helpful to know the signs of it, know that it’s temporary, and have some strategies under your belt for how to move through it in a really powerful way.
So, you probably know my guest. It’s Gillian Tietz of the Sober Powered podcast. It’s a top 100 Mental Health podcast. And Gill is a very good friend of mine. She’s been on the podcast twice. First to talk about alcohol and your body. And second, we talked about our husbands and living with a partner that drinks when you are sober. And there were lots of fun stories in that episodes. Randomly about us throwing up in random places. But we also had a lot of laughs.
So, Gill is also the founder of Sober Powered Media, a podcast network with other top mental health podcasts. I’m a member of it. And after getting sober in 2019, Gill was inspired to start her podcast sober powered, she utilizes her biochemistry background to teach others how alcohol affects the brain. And why it’s so hard to stop drinking. Gill’s also a chemistry professor at a University in Boston. So welcome back.
Thank you. Thank you for having me back.
Casey McGuire Davidson 03:19
Oh, always, I love talking to you. And people should know that we ended up texting like multiple weeks. It’s super fun to have someone else who’s sober. Someone else who’s teaching people, who is in the podcasting business. It just helps a ton to have someone to bounce ideas off of.
Yeah, my husband knows your name very well. He’s, what does Casey think about that?
Because I got to meet your husband when we were in Vegas at the podcasting conference. So, that was really fun.
Yeah, I’m so glad that he was actually able to come to one of those and that it aligned with when you could come, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 04:00
Yeah, yeah. So, we know each other very well. But I wanted to reach out to you specifically for this topic, because of your background in Science and what you do on the Sober Powered podcast. How you dive into it, because post-acute withdrawal syndrome is something that people talk about often like in the Sober Facebook groups in with different people in early sobriety, but not many people actually have the understanding of what it is why it happens, and how to get out of it.
Yeah, you see it a lot in Facebook groups, someone will be kind of complaining about the way that they feel. And in the comments. People are like, Oh my God, that’s PAWS. I must be PAWS-ed. And there’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just kind of a game of telephone on Facebook where things get adjusted, the more times they get shared, but it seems pretty alarm assuming when you’re just learning about it for the first time, and it seems like it’s permanent misery is going to happen in your life. And that’s not what it is.
Casey McGuire Davidson 05:09
All right let’s jump into it. Well, you just teach us about it what it is and why it happens.
Yeah, so when you quit drinking, your brain was reliant on alcohol in some way to function and manage its chemistry. So, because you’re drinking so much alcohol over such a long period of time, your brain adapted to the presence of alcohol, and it learned to kind of work with it, and just expect it to be there. And that’s why you have withdrawal when you first stopped drinking, because your brains. Whoa, I thought that we were having this “thing” all the time. And it was just kind of part of our routine. Like, where’s this “thing” that I need to stay calm or to feel happier to go to sleep? What’s going on? and it’ll send you cravings to try to get the thing that it thinks it needs.
And you have withdrawal symptoms, as your brain kind of adapts. But that adaptation process back to alcohol-free brain doesn’t just take 1 to 2 weeks, it’s a much longer process and the beginning of withdrawal. Like the main symptoms, when you have really bad insomnia or horrible anxiety, and you feel exhausted, and some people get shaky, that goes away faster. But that doesn’t mean that the healing is done. So, I see PAWS as like, the long term healing of your brain. It’s like your brain learning how to function on its own again, without alcohol being there to assist.
Casey McGuire Davidson 06:52
Yeah. And doesn’t drinking actually change? Change your brain? In different?
Yeah, yeah. People don’t think about that. But it does. And the more you drink, the more your brain is going to compensate for the alcohol that you’re drinking, like, the easiest way to think about it is with anxiety. Like when you drink you feel relaxed. And that’s because alcohol is slowing down your brain and making the messages go slower. So, you can’t have racing thoughts and hyped up feeling. So, you feel relaxed. But when you do that all the time, your brain wants to stay in balance, so it’s going to make adjustments to kind of counteract the alcohol. So then, when you remove the alcohol, you’re off balance again, because those adaptations are still there. So that’s why you have extra anxiety, and it’s hard to sleep. And you might feel really cranky. And over months, and the first year, your brain starts to function normally again, but it is a long process. And I think the biggest message I can give anyone about pause is patience.
Casey McGuire Davidson 08:05
Yeah. When I talk to women who are going through it, and starting to feel, it sounds to me when they’re describing it, like they’re back in those first 2 weeks. To some extent, they feel like unstable and predictable moods. Sometimes just like gown, I can’t think of it like inability to feel pleasure. And you can tell us more about the symptoms. But what I hear from women and the women I’m coaching is, oh my god, I stopped drinking, and I still don’t feel better, at least when I was drinking. I had my wine. And what I try to communicate to them is this is a symptom of your drinking, not this isn’t what alcohol-free life feels like.
So, if you go back to drinking, you’re just going to go through this again, and it’s temporary. Does that sound correct? Incorrect?
Yeah, that is absolutely correct. And if you go back to drinking, you’re like resetting the clock. Okay, you’re going to have to start over. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. And that’s what I tell people when they have that, like extra anxiety in early sobriety. It’s like you’ve got through so many days of this already. If you go back, you’re going to reset and have to start over with that anxiety. So, the symptoms of pause are they’re mostly like mood related. So, crankiness. Depression, anxiety, mood swings, low energy, trouble focusing, brain fog, lack of pleasure. Insomnia, maybe I repeated a couple of those.
Casey McGuire Davidson 09:57
No, that sounds exactly like your first Two or three weeks or so a quitting drinking.
Yeah, and all of these symptoms, they were triggers to drink back when we were drinking. And this is why PAWS is so difficult. Because these are symptoms that we drank out before. Like, when we were tired after a long day of work, we would drink some wine and then we’re energized. And we can cook and clean and do whatever we have to do. Or if you’re cranky, you have a drink. And no, you’re the overwhelm frustration feeling kind of goes away. So, it’s difficult because you don’t feel better. But it’s also difficult because these are all triggers to drink. And it can last for a while, like it’s not going to be permanent misery, which is what I think the most common misconception about it is that you’re just going to feel horrible for 2 years. But it’ll come and go with like situational type triggers, like something will happen in your life. And it’ll kind of bring up your old mentality and your old cravings to drink. And with that comes in all of these mood related issues that just makes you want to drink even more, but it will lessen over time. And I think you just have to remember that it’s your brain healing and readjusting. And it doesn’t have to do that forever. And the more it heals, the less you’re going to have these like disruptions in your brain chemistry.
Casey McGuire Davidson 11:29
Yeah. And the other thing to keep in mind is and my clients, just forget about this. Whenever it comes, I’m like, You didn’t feel awful the entire time you were not drinking, like you actually felt more energized, you were sleeping better, you were more content, you had those breakthrough moments of joy. And when this I always think of PAWS is sort of descending on you, you sort of forget about all that good stuff. And if you just push through, and don’t drink and use other strategies and tools to sort of make yourself okay, and sort of manage how you’re feeling as you get through it. You’re going to feel good again, this is a temporary dip.
Yeah, that that why bother? I’m like, why am I doing this, I don’t even feel good. That is such a bad feeling. To have, that’s such a big trigger to go backwards. And like you said, if you can just push through it and stick to the path and your plan, then those feelings will go away, we tend to catastrophize things and extrapolate them. This is how it’s always going to be because it’s how it is right now. And I think everything passes even the good things like I’ve seen in my own sobriety, like I had a gigantic pink cloud in the beginning. But I’ve had phases where I had many pink clouds come up again with excitability and extreme happiness. And it’s just it’s all a big cycle. And just because it’s bad now you could go into a great cycle right after it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 13:09
Yeah, for sure. I know when I feel like it descends. And then you’re going to tell me how long it typically lasts. But my impression is 10 days later or so it just lifts like the clouds part. And my clients are like, Oh, my God, suddenly I feel better. Like Suddenly, I feel different and better and happier and not so desperate, but just down.
Yeah. So, it lasts like a few days at a time. It depends. It depends a lot on your genetics, how much alcohol you drink, how many years, some people when they quit drinking, they’re very malnourished. So that has an impact, too. If you drink a lot, and you had really powerful withdrawal symptoms, and you stopped cold turkey, that increases the likelihood of struggling with pause. So, there’s a lot behind it. But it will just be a short cycle of a few days at a time, maybe a week at a time and then you’ll come out of it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 14:19
Right? Just it’s not a very long time that you have to white knuckle it through.
Yeah, it’s not two years of sobriety stocks. So, the timeline, it sounds like even 10 days is on the longer end, like a couple of days to a week. That’s pretty manageable.
Yeah, I think it’s most of the time a few days, a week would probably be on the longer end for someone like more severe or closer to early sobriety. But as you go longer and longer, it should just be a few days and then you come out the other side of it. And your mood kind of stabilizes and it’s also good because some triggers are usually some kind of situational thing or something going on in your life. And you can use that opportunity to learn more about your triggers, like what kind of brought this on what was going on in my life. Was there a person like a family member that I don’t usually talk to that showed up or something going on at work so you can learn more about your triggers whenever this happens, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 15:24
Yeah, I remember something like this happened when I was about four months, alcohol free. And I went away on this trip with my family to Venice and Croatia, I was super nervous about it, because it was like, I was a red wine girl never traveled alcohol free before my mother, my sister all the triggers red wine everywhere. And I got through it without drinking. But 2 weeks later, I came back, and work was always my biggest trigger, just stress and feeling like there was too much to do and not enough done, to not enough time. And my sort of right hand guy had quit. Right after I left, he’d given 2 weeks’ notice. And he and I were like joined at the hip. He produced everything for the website, he’d been there for years, he had all this institutional knowledge. And nobody told me, which I’m actually really grateful for when I was on vacation, because they didn’t want to ruin it. But I came back, and he basically had 2 days left. And I just went into this full anxiety catastrophizing. I can’t cope, you name it, feeling and because it sort of wasn’t my first rodeo, because I had gone back to drinking before. And it had brought me sort of to that place of doom. And I knew drinking wasn’t going to solve it. I actually went, I did all the things, right, I like, kept up with exercising, I went to bed super early, I told my husband, like how freaked out I was, I talked to my sober besties. And like, on the daily messaging to them, but I also went to my doctor, and was like, here’s the deal, I want to jump out of my own skin, I cannot feel this way anymore. But I also cannot go back to drinking. So, you have to help me. And that was what got me into therapy.
Casey McGuire Davidson
Hi there. If you’re listening to this episode, and have been trying to take a break from drinking, but keep starting and stopping and starting again, I want to invite you to take a look at my on demand coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit.
The Sobriety Starter Kit is an online self study sober coaching course that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol without white knuckling it or hating the process. The course includes the exact step by step coaching framework I work through with my private coaching clients, but at a much more affordable price than one on one coaching. And the sobriety starter kit is ready, waiting and available to support you anytime you need it. And when it fits into your schedule. You don’t need to work your life around group meetings or classes at a specific day or time.
This course is not a 30 day challenge, or a one day at a time approach. Instead, it’s a step by step formula for changing your relationship with alcohol. The course will help you turn the decision to stop drinking, from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
You will sleep better and have more energy, you’ll look better and feel better. You’ll have more patience and less anxiety. And with my approach, you won’t feel deprived or isolated in the process. So if you’re interested in learning more about all the details, please go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com. You can start at any time and I would love to see you in the course
Yeah, and I think that’s amazing. And if the symptoms are really strong therapy, or talking to your doctor, sometimes you need medication even to get you through the beginning, like especially if the anxiety is really overpowering my doctor pulling Clonazepam, which is just I just gave me six pills, because it can be a little addictive, which I did not become addicted to it. But it was like a, if you were going into that place of panic. And of course, for me it manifested in tears, which is not cool at work. But it happened that you take this pill, and it just brings you down to the level of being able to cope. And I needed that it helped me get through it and feel better again.
Yeah, if I’m envisioning a graph, so everybody imagine a craft with me. When you’re drinking, there are these huge spikes of highs and lows really big ones, and you alternate between the high and the low really quick. And they’re both very powerful. And as you spend more time away from alcohol, you get more space, and the spikes diffuse out. And they’re not spikes anymore. They become waves. But it’s not going to go straight from like, these giant spikes of extreme euphoria and extreme misery to just like normal waves is going to take time to recalibrate. And that’s what pause is, you might have a huge random spike of misery. But you’re not stuck down there. And when you get through it, the spike of misery that comes after that is probably going to be like less powerful and less powerful. And so that’s how I see it. But every time it happens, I would just try to remind myself like, my brain is healing. I blasted it with alcohol for a really long time. The fact that it needs to even do this kind of healing for this long means that something was going on before with my drinking like my husband who’s a regular old, Take it or leave it drinker. Doesn’t have to have this recalibration, so I used it as a reminder that sober is what I need.
Casey McGuire Davidson 19:49
What are some of the big misconceptions about post-acute withdrawal syndrome?
The number one misconception is like that. It’s permanent misery for a year or two years. So that’s what you’ll see a lot of people sharing and then they scare other people. And that’s the biggest one I’ve seen. And then I think the other one is just with the symptoms, like what the symptoms actually are. I think sometimes people think that there are more physical symptoms than there are most of them are like mood related, like depression and anxiety and crankiness. So those are the two that I see. And it’s hard to with the symptoms, because if it’s mood related, how do you know if it’s pause? Or if you’re just kind of cranky that day? Yeah,
Casey McGuire Davidson 20:43
Yeah, for sure. And yeah, completely, I always think of it as sort of just this low, like crankiness unstable moods, for sure. But what I always think of is like, the feeling of not being able to feel pleasure, right, like, things you previously enjoyed doing, or feeling kind of overwhelmed. Like, sometimes, I felt like even going out to brunch with my girlfriends, which is something I typically would absolutely love would feel like too much for me. Yeah, in that moment.
Yeah, lack of pleasure, or any kind of joy might be the toughest one, because that one can last a while, if you have a spike of crankiness, usually that can pass or come down. But if you just can’t feel any joy, or pleasure, like that’s a long last, like, that’ll be a constant for a few days feeling. And that’s a hard one, it makes you feel like why am I even doing this life will never be good. And I felt that way, too. And then after a while, I noticed I became like this silly, sober person, I would wake up in the morning and go on a walk. And I’d look up at the sun. Look, the sun is shining, what a nice day. Look at these flowers. Like I just felt gratitude for little tiny things. And that’s how I first knew that my joy came back. I don’t know if you felt that too. Like when you could finally feel gratitude for just like regular stuff.
Casey McGuire Davidson 22:30
Oh, yeah, for sure. I remember being in this sort of photo project with actually a bunch of others sober people. And you can find this stuff online, like the Photo of the Day project, I kind of wanted to do it again. But it was this sort of group of 10 people. And it was like, every day that was a prompt. So, under my feet, or turquoise, or in my view, or whatever it was, or I love, and I was just like taking pictures of shadows that were curved, or my cat or you know, holding my daughter’s hand or whatever what I’m reading, a picture of my book, but then he would share it and type something about it. And I even did like, in my kitchen, and then whatever I was looking at, and it made me so happy, like the little details. And just this little peek into other people’s lives that you’re connecting on a really nice level. And that was where I remember just feeling that like where you just kind of look at something and smile.
Yeah, and that takes time to come back. And that’s all about those spikes kind of fading away. Because when we first quit drinking, we need the really big things to change our mood and make us feel anything positive. And that’s why we go for alcohol or sugar. And after a while when your brain recalibrates, and your dopamine kind of resets and you don’t need huge spikes. natural rewards can be good again, like when you first quit drinking natural rewards are useless. And that’s where the lack of joy comes in. Because you just can’t feel anything good from regular stuff.
Casey McGuire Davidson 24:19
Yeah. Do you have tips for managing it when it comes on?
I think the first thing would be just like, understanding it. For what it is like recognizing that it’s not you. It’s not that sobriety is the worst thing ever. It’s not that it’s always going to be this way. It’s just a part of the healing process. I think that’s the most important tip and recognizing when you’re tempted to want to push the effort button or say why bother because that can trigger it. I think also learning how to regulate your emotions for people azer for anything is important. If you have a big spike of negative emotions or crankiness from pause, and you don’t know what to do with negative emotions, then you’re going to have to white knuckle it through, and that’s going to suck.
So, I think learning some coping strategies that you’re willing to do, like, in the moment when you’re actually suffering, if you’re really cranky and overwhelmed, maybe the idea of taking a bath isn’t going to do it for you. And you feel like that’s so stupid. But instead, you could rage journal, and just get it all out or call your friend and talk as fast as you can. So, I think having ideas for go to when you’re feeling that way, and reflecting on your triggers, so then you can avoid them. Or take steps to manage them. Not all triggers can be avoided, obviously, but you can reduce the amount that you have to be exposed to. So, if it’s a family member, that’s triggering you, that’s an excellent opportunity to learn about boundaries.
Yeah, and like setting kind of guidelines for your interaction with this person. And if it’s really bad, and it makes you relapse in the past and you’re you’ve had a lot of trouble, then medication can be really helpful to like, talking to your doctor about naltrexone, that can help with cravings or antidepressants. And if you’ve been a really heavy drinker, and you’ve had a lot of powerful withdrawal symptoms, sometimes getting help with tapering from a doctor can reduce the severity of pause too. Because then you don’t have these like gigantic spikes that have to neutralize. It’s a little less tapering on your own is very challenging, obviously. Yeah, if we could, we would?
Casey McGuire Davidson 26:58
Yeah, exactly. Some of the things that I think about doing because if I don’t think it’s just during pause, I think just during life and sobriety, we go through really, ups and downs, right? Some things are way more difficult than others. And I’m you know, both when I was sort of feeling that thing in early sobriety that felt very much like pause, and likely was from everything I’ve learned about it. But also, Dear god, my mother moved in, I hope she didn’t listen to this. She moved in with us for two and a half months, during COVID. And just being trapped and having a full house and all the things and then also, couple years before my very best friend died of brain cancer and went through a long sickness, just all these things that are true lows and triggers. I always think of going back to your sober foundations. So, trying to minimize stress, or things that make you angry, like taking things off your list asking for help. Saying no to new responsibilities, asking your boss to prioritize stuff, going back to sober treats like daily. What can I do for myself today? What? What can if you’re not feeling pleasure? Just what can I look forward to that simple, even if it’s like a walk to get a latte or fresh flowers or a nap? eating and exercising, eating protein, and eating often can help exercising even if it’s not a hard workout, which can feel overwhelming, just even walking, I feel like can help a lot. I know you’re a big Walker, right?
Yeah, I walk for my treat every day. I go for a coffee every day. And that helps me or I walk to get some chocolate at night if I need a little extra support. So that yeah, I look forward to it now. And once you get a routine like that in it’s so good. I think another symptom that people really struggle with too is brain fog. That’s a big one. Because they feel like I can’t even think straight like why am I even doing this? This sucks. I didn’t feel this way before. And in that situation. Like if you’re struggling with brain fog, a meal kit can be helpful so that you don’t have to cook yourself or asking other people to kind of help you with chores, writing things down or getting like a task app in your phone. Like, just little things. To be gentle with yourself. I think it’s it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you because you need a little extra support once in a while. And like we’ve been saying it’s not permanent. Just because you’re having a tough few days or a tough week. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be tough. You just need a little extra A boost this week. And next week, maybe it’ll be back to normal. And you don’t need to boost.
Casey McGuire Davidson 30:06
Yeah, yeah, totally. And I also think throughout the whole process, especially in early sobriety, like developing a gratitude practice, I know it feels super dumb. But it actually can help sort of rewire yourself from being negative to more optimism, it can, like truly rewire your brain to see the positive thing. So, I used to, and as I’m thinking about this, I need to do it again. I used to just take a post-it every day and write down three things I was grateful for and put it in a jar. And a lot of times, it was not that. Yes, I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head and my family is healthy. It was more like, I’m grateful that I got to see my friend this morning. I’m grateful that this good book came in the mail. I’m grateful. It’s sunny, you know what I mean?
Yeah, when I, before I got sober, I was really into personal development. And that’s like, the one of the main recommendations in personal development is to write down gratitude. And that was a huge block for me, because of my drinking. And I used to think gratitude is so dumb. Why does anyone do this, this is such a waste of time, I can’t be grateful that I had a nice bed, or like grateful that the sun is shining, like my whole life is a piece of crap. Like what is wrong with these people, they don’t understand me. And then like, I got sober. And I still kind of felt that way. And then slowly, over time, I was able to feel gratitude for the first time. And then I understood, and then I was like, Oh, my God, I’m taking pictures of flowers. And like, waving at Cat Center and the windows of houses. And like, looking at the sun, and looking at like little kids being cute. And I just didn’t have the capacity to feel it before. And that was it wasn’t that gratitude was dumb. It just was that I was having trouble accessing it. And I think when you can figure out how to do it, and feel actual gratitude it’s so powerful, I love and now I just do it automatically, like, go on my walks. And I’m just like, grateful for all sorts of random tiny things. Yeah. And it’s really nice.
Casey McGuire Davidson 32:39
All right, I’m going to ask you. Give me five things you’re grateful for today?
Today, little ones, I guess. Yeah. My first one is, I’m grateful for your friendship. But maybe that’s a big one.
Casey McGuire Davidson 32:52
Know that. I’m grateful I get to talk to you today.
I’m really grateful that I tried Factor 75. They sponsored Dwayne. And I just tried them, and I have a bunch of meals that I can put in the microwave, in my fridge. And so, I don’t have to cook anything. Okay. Just so people know. Yeah. Dwayne, from the Addicted Mind podcast, you should definitely listen. We love Dwayne. He’s amazing.
Casey McGuire Davidson 33:20
Like, the nicest guy. He’s actually been on my podcast. And we talked about how to heal from infidelity and betrayal trauma. And it actually was really powerful and interesting and gave people who I know have experienced infidelity, whether in person or online or emotional infidelity, or have been lied to by a partner, they trusted, a lot of compassionate tools, but Factor 75 not a part of that. You’re grateful for that.
I’m grateful for Dwayne sponsor in twain, he’s amazing. I’m grateful that we have nice weather in Boston. We don’t get a lot of that. And I went on a nice walk this morning, and I’m gonna go again later. I’m also grateful. I think a theme is emerging, but I have a delicious Vitamin Water zero in my fridge waiting for me tonight. And I’m just like, I cannot wait for that. It’s the little things.
Casey McGuire Davidson 34:28
It’s Friday night, and I really excited. I’m going to go crazy on Vitamin Water tonight. And I bought a new pillow. And it has a neck divot thing and I’m really grateful for my new pillow.
Casey McGuire Davidson 34:44
That’s pretty good.
Now you give me five.
Casey McGuire Davidson 34:46
Oh, okay, weather. Also, Sunny, which is amazing. And I was like smiling your ear to ear yesterday because I was driving with my son. Oh my god. And okay. My son is 15. And it’s actually really hard to talk to a 15 year old boy,. sometimes I think he is like a sweetheart. But dude, what the fuck do we talk about? He doesn’t want to tell me about girls. He doesn’t. He’s How was school? It was good. It was chill. I’m like, Oh my God, you’re killing me. So, driving down the road, windows down, son is out. And he was like, Can I play my music mom? And I was like, Sure. And then he was like, Do you want to play the song game? which is something that I used to do with my best friend. So, he picks different songs. And from the first couple beats, I’m supposed to guess what song it is. So, we were like, played that. And he was shocked that I knew “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. Right? And I was like, what the hell? This came out when I was like, a freshman in high school. You know, that’s, like, how the hell do you know this song? It was my thought 30 years ago.
But there were a bunch. Like “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel. There were definitely some I did not know. But that was just totally joyful. So, sun’s out, driving your car with the windows down, and having a really fun time with my son. That was 3. I get to work in my garden.
This weekend, I’m creating an entire bed of sunflowers. I actually already planted one. A yellow sunflowers and I’m going to do red sunflowers. And then also, my daughter’s off school today. And I totally forgot about it. Like, I had no idea. She told me yesterday. And I was like, Why do you have squirrel off? Like, apparently they get the Friday and the Monday and one of her good friends’ mom wrote me, texted me and volunteered to take her to a nearby lake and beach at one o’clock today. And I was just like, thank you. So grateful. Because I’m recording 2 podcasts today. I actually have work to do. So. Yeah, there are a lot of good things.
I’m grateful for that, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 37:04
Yeah. otherwise, she’d be like ready to round?
Yeah, yeah. It’s nice to reflect on just the regular stuff in your life and feel good about I thought my life sucked the whole time. And now I can look at just little simple things. Like it doesn’t have to be this big, amazing, exciting life all the time. Sometimes you can just have regular stuff. And that’s really good, too.
Casey McGuire Davidson 37:31
Yeah. And when my Coach, who was Belle from Tired Of Thinking About Drinking, always said that we think sometimes especially early sobriety, once you get out of the first couple of weeks, that life might feel boring. And we’re always like, oh my god, the worst thing in life is to be boring. That’s so many people’s big fears. But it’s actually just peaceful. And we’re used to chaos. We’re used to the high highs. And then like you said, the super low lows, and this busy mind like that ticker tape worrying about your drinking or strategizing or rationalizing. And you get away from that. And you’re just like, you’re just peaceful. I used to come home from work. And my husband would be like, How was today? That was like, it was fine. He’s what? And I’m like, Yeah, had a couple of meetings, Boop, this project forward, went to walk and get a latte. Like, this is annoying, but it was fine. Whereas I used to come home. And just that drama, I would bet this happened. And this guy did this. And you know what I mean?
Yeah. And I think that’s why PAWS can be so alarming. And it’s such a big trigger for relapses, because it reminds us of all that chaos that we used to feel all the time. And I did the same thing. I always had drama and issues and like, everybody was out to get me and there was always some kind of problem. And that’s tiring. It’s a really exhausting, and it doesn’t have to be that way forever.
Casey McGuire Davidson 39:10
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. So, if someone’s I think the other thing that people feel in advance is like people are worried about pause like I hear that from people. They’re like, Oh, shit, I hope this doesn’t hit me. I hope it doesn’t come. I don’t think I can take it. And like you said it is temporary. And if you have a tough week, to three months into feeling better and more energized and sleeping better and not having the drama, like just go to bed early. Just eat something with protein, just push off. Projects, just look for joy, right? It’s not going to bring you down unless you just I did start drinking again, once you finally got away from it.
Yeah, I get that a lot of people worry about pause. And most people do experience it. That gets over from alcohol, just because alcohol causes so many changes to the brain and the healing process takes time. But just because most people experience it doesn’t mean that most people are completely miserable and triggered the entire time. You might experience it and not even know you might just have like stress situational stuff going on, which would trigger PAWS, but you might not be able to distinguish that from how you would feel normally. So, it’s not that you’re going to suffer and it’s in sobriety is going to be so hard and miserable, you might not even know that you’re having it. I think it’s just good for all of life, even when you’re like post 2 years, and there’s no more chance of pause or anything, just always be kind to yourself, when you have stress pop up and get into those habits, whether it has like an official name, or it’s just regular life.
Casey McGuire Davidson 41:10
Yeah, I totally agree. We’re, I say this to some people to when they are feeling tired or down or bored or anything else, whether it’s related to pause or not, like we’re so used to overriding our bodies and our minds and our nervous system with alcohol. So, you’re tired drink, you’re down drink, you’re bored drink. As opposed. It’s like the easy button and the only one we have, as opposed to I’m really tired, I have a lot to do. But I’m just going to take a nap or I’m just going to go to bed early, because I’m tired. When I feel better, I’ll be able to do more, or I’m bored or lonely or pissed off, like you can solve for that without drinking, but we’re so used to, I’m just going to have a drink, and it will give me energy or numb me out or slow me down whatever that is.
Yeah, we aren’t used to being kind to ourselves. And we’re used to forcing ourselves to just go and not taking a break and shaming ourselves. And sometimes you do need to just do nothing for a day. And then the next day you wake up and you’re better or a little bit better. So, I think along with learning gratitude, and natural rewards, we also have to learn to give ourselves a frickin’ break. Sometimes that’s a hard skill to learn. Yeah, I was not good at that. I’m still not that good at it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 42:43
And sometimes life is hard, not because you’re sober. But just because sometimes life is hard, like adulting is hard. Sometimes, and not everything is because oh my god, I’m fuckin sober. And this sucks. One of my best friend, I was talking to her the other day, and we talked maybe once a week and I was like, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just feeling like antsy and pissed and down and agitated. What’s wrong with me? And she was like, okay, and I was like, maybe it’s this. Maybe it’s that. And she was like, maybe it’s February. It’s Seattle, and you don’t have a trip planned anywhere, Sunny. And I was like, oh, yeah, that could be it. Like I haven’t. I don’t have anything to look forward to. And it’s been rainy and dark for three months, and I’m freaking over it.
Yeah, and we need to have realistic expectations about what sobriety is both on the positive and the negative, and it’s not going to suck and ruin your life. But it’s also not going to be this like amazing, perfect thing that’s going to fix all your problems. Problems will still exist. They’re just not going to be like as dramatic and chaotic and big. But you’re still going to have problems just anyone else would. They just, it’s just part of life. I love how you said that. It’s not always because of sobriety. Sometimes it’s just regular.
Casey McGuire Davidson 44:12
Yeah, sometimes it’s just the ups and downs of life. But at least when you’re not drinking, you’re not completely off the scale emotionally of what the actual situation is. That’s how I used to be like I would be anything hard was like, so hard and anything unfair was so unfair. And you know what I mean? And then also like, you have the clarity and capacity to deal with it. When I was drinking. I just wasn’t completely rational.
Yeah, I was just operating on emotions. And I was so emotional, and I would judge every situation, like without any information about it. And it was always something negative about me or like other people suck, and I created a lot of misery for myself, because of all of my emotions and not knowing how to handle them and not knowing what they are. And just because you have big emotions that come up in sobriety, it doesn’t mean that like you went backwards or you haven’t done enough work, or sometimes it just happens. Like I was really cranky, I think earlier this week. And today, I’m like, nice and excited. And I was happy to see you when we got on the call. Like, it’s just normal. But yeah, the heightened emotions while we’re drinking, that was so hard. That was hard to live that way.
Casey McGuire Davidson 45:39
Yeah. Yeah, living in that drinking cycle just is really difficult. For sure. It’s like, you’re just dragging around this ball and chain, that everything you’re doing is harder, whether it’s the lack of sleep, or the lack of clarity, or your nervous system is shot, or you feel guilty and defensive or obsessed with like, how can I get the next glass of wine before people ask for the check at a restaurant, all the things.
And it’s so impressive how well we function and do our day to day, when we have all of that going on internally, like now reflecting back to how I used to be. I’m like, it’s amazing that you just did your day to day life and existed works like that. And in outwardly getting all your shit done. Or most of it. Yeah, bare minimum. Yeah, it’s one thing that cracks me up is that I always like, why don’t I have willpower? Why can where’s my willpower? And I’m like, looking back at like, you fuck it hard, how much willpower it takes to keep everything going when you’re vaguely hungover every day of your life. That takes a lot of yellow discipline.
Yeah, I feel like I’m less tough now. Like now I’m, like, just so weak sometimes, like, I don’t get good sleep one night, and I’m like, oh, where before I go four hours of sleep a night, cause I would stay up with anxiety. And like, I never complained about it. And now it’s like, I get six hours and not eight for one night. And I’m just like, today’s so hard. So, I’m just not used to dealing with all of that like misery anymore. So, it’s just funny. Like, we were really tough.
Casey McGuire Davidson 47:36
Yeah, not only that, but yes, I was the same way. But I think it was because I blamed myself for being hungover. I didn’t feel like I deserved to rest. But also, I didn’t want anyone else to be like No shit. If you’re tired, you were drinking a bottle of wine or more last night. So I was trying to not let anyone know that I didn’t feel well. I was like, totally overcompensating. So no one could call me out. But yeah, it’s kind of funny. The other thing I would say is like, when you go through life, drinking and trying to cover it up, like how you feel, we have a really high tolerance for pain for real high. Incredible.
Yeah. And it’s all about hiding it and protecting it. And not letting anyone know what’s going on. And because if they find out like, Oh, you didn’t sleep and you haven’t been feeling good, they might blame the alcohol and we can’t have them. We can’t blame that.
Casey McGuire Davidson 48:35
Like, maybe they’ll say, I used to not tell anyone I was sick, because I had a really bad cold or a really sore throat. Like, they would look at me really weird. And by that I mean my husband, if I opened the bottle wide, and I didn’t want him to say anything, or tell me not to. So, I’d have this brutal sore throat and wouldn’t say anything, so that I could drink that night without my husband being like, I thought you were sick.
Yep. And I would try to. I got food poisoning a lot actually, in motion sickness all the time. And it’s a miracle because now that I don’t drink, I don’t have food poisoning or motion sickness anymore. But that was my go-to like, when we would go on cruises, and I would just destroy myself with the open bar. I got motion sick a lot, because that’s in quotes, right?
Yeah, because of the ship. That was why I was sick. Not because I drink for 14 hours straight and had 1000 drinks and blacked out at the end of the night. That’s not why I’m sick. It’s because of the ship.
Casey McGuire Davidson 49:44
Yeah, you know what’s funny is I actually do get motion sick a lot. I just do to the point where I always drive because if I’m in the passenger seat, I get sick. But I always blame myself because I was drinking and don’t get me wrong. Even when we were not driving, I was throwing up decently often. But I drove home in an Uber after like, I was like three years sober. And it was pouring rain in Seattle. And I was like, don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up because I felt so motion sick. And I had the Uber, pull over two blocks from my house, I was like, This is good. I’m cool, jumped out, threw up and then walked open the raid with viral lead suitcase. And I was like, walked in. I was like, bike. It wasn’t all the outcome. And he was like, way to go. Congrats. Okay, our conversation somehow always come back to throwing up which it happened a lot. So, and it’s funny now that we don’t do it anymore. Now it’s funny to laugh.
Casey McGuire Davidson 50:53
Yeah, for sure. Cool. So, anything else you want to tell people who are listening to this and super interested in learning about pause or what it is anything they should know.
And I think any kind of education that you can get is helpful. I think that a lot of people struggle, and they want to kind of rush the process. And they feel like it should be quicker. Okay, I quit drinking. I haven’t had a drink for 30 days, like I should be good. Now this, why am I still struggling. And I think it’s important to stay patient. And remember that, like you were drinking for a long time, like think about all the years that you drink. And then we don’t just spontaneously start doing that there’s patterns and toxic thought processes and like other in lack of coping skills going on, like before the drinking started. So, there is a lot of years and years and years of stuff to heal from. So, I would just encourage anyone to just please try to be patient, with yourself and with the journey. And I think remembering how bad both the first few days and the end of your drinking is helpful. Because no matter how, like big the trigger is, if you remember what you don’t want to go back to, that’s really helpful the days that you said you weren’t going to drink. And then you did, then like how bad you felt. And so, I would just say please stay patient, and it’s worth it. Because we wouldn’t still be doing it.
Casey McGuire Davidson 52:32
If adapt. Yeah, and I love that you said remembering I think it is really helpful. And I did this what a lot of people do this, right? When they’re drinking or like their last day one, right? You take a picture of yourself with like, your papery skin and your bloodshot eyes and your bloated face. And you write down like I had written down all this stuff about how I felt. But if you haven’t done that early, I highly encourage you to actually just record not for anyone else for yourself, what you want to stop feeling and doing why you know, how you feel when you’re drinking, why, while it’s fresh, all the shit, I wake up and I think X and Y and Z about myself. I hate myself. I can’t sleep. People have said this to me all the stuff, you can put that away. And the only time you need to look at that, again, is when drinking sounds like a really good idea.
Yeah, it’s. And that’s why connection is really helpful too, because you see people with all different lengths of sobriety and people that are still trying to get there. And you remember, that’s why I love doing this work because I interact with people that are in all different stages, and that are still working on it. And we forget when it’s been a long time without alcohol. So I like to remember oh my god, I forgot how bad that was or how I used to feel that way. And it just keeps it fresh in your mind what you don’t want to go back to I wrote something in an app once to about like, my depression is the worst it’s ever been. I can’t handle feeling this way for another minute. Like I’m I’ve never suffered this much. guy wrote something like that, too. On my like day one when I really committed to it. And I don’t look at it either. But I know it’s there.
Casey McGuire Davidson 54:32
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I know that you have a fantastic video on PAWS on YouTube. So, I will link to that. It’s super popular and helpful. And when you were talking about staying close to community, I know you have a membership and that people in there are just incredibly supportive. And it’s a great space. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, so my community is called Living a Sober Powered Life. We have a lot of your fans in there. Your podcast comes up a lot, though we love you. But it’s yeah, we have meetings, workshops, private community, it’s very small and safe. And everybody’s welcome. Whether you’re still figuring it out, you’re not sure if you want to figure it out, or you have already figured it out. All are welcome.
Casey McGuire Davidson 55:24
And it’s not on Facebook. I know a lot of people like that.
Yeah, it’s on its own app that you can download or the computer you can get on both, but no, Facebook, stay away.
Casey McGuire Davidson 55:37
Yeah. And I know you have meetings pretty often. I don’t know how you do that, like, seriously. Maybe it’s because I do private coaching. So, I talked to horrify people four days a week, but I’m just like, how do you do all those meetings?
Yeah, we actually have fun. We played bingo last night. Oh, you did it. I made a bingo card. I can show you later. But it was so fun. I tried to do like a bunch of inside jokes. Like, there are so many people in my group that have a bitch sister. And they complain about their sister and how she’s such a bitch. So that was one of the things on the card. Like someone brings up my hair, right? My favorite one brings up their bitch sister, and then you get to cross off the spot. So yeah, that’s so fun.
Casey McGuire Davidson 56:20
Fun. Couple other ones because Oh, somebody forgot to unmute was one of them. That’s an easy one. And then there’s an emoji explosion. So, when you’re in like Google me, you can click the emojis and then eventually they explode. We talk trash about moderation was another one because we do that a lot. Someone pronounces my name wrong. Yeah. That happens all the time. No matter how long you’ve known me, people do it. And then some good ones. Like you learn something helpful. You participate in the awkward small talk in the beginning. While we wait for people? Yeah, you see someone’s pet. It was fun. I really I liked it. I love bingo.
Casey McGuire Davidson 57:11
Yeah, so that’s super fun.
No, I love that. Because that’s the good part of building community, getting to know people, and laughing. And it’s not all about the drama, just like the photography group, that picture of the day. It wasn’t at all about drinking or not drinking. But it was cool, that everybody was sober working on sobriety, like you had this mutual background and understanding, and I always say, I have enough friends that drink, I don’t need to add new friends who are boozers. I’d like to add new friends who are sober or get it or working on being sober. So that’s very cool. All right. So, anything else?
Obviously, the Sober Powered podcast is incredible. It’s very popular. You’ve got your membership, you’re big on Instagram, right? Anything else? If people are looking to find you where they should go?
I think that’s it. If you search for sober parody, you’ll find me. Yeah, that’s basically it. I try to be in many different places.
Casey McGuire Davidson 58:18
Very cool. Thank you so much for coming on and talking about PAWS.
Thank you for having me again.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more.