Addiction Symptoms, PAW, and The Circle Of Denial

By Terence T. Gorski

imagesAlcohol and drug addiction has progressive symptoms that are readily observable. There are the SUBSTANCE-BASED SYMPTOMS, which occur while the addict is actively using with a high blood level of the drug. Then there are the ABSTINENCE/WITHDRAWAL-BASED SYMPTOMS, which come into play when an alcoholic/addict tried to stop using. This includes an acute withdrawal syndrome, known and recognized for decades. It also includes the symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal (PAW).

PAW, an Abstinence-based group of symptoms, shows up in the following ways:

(1) Problems in thinking clearly and solving usually simple problems;

(2) Problems managing feelings and emotions which results in alternating episodes of emotional over-reaction or emotional numbness;

(3) Problems with storing short-term memory into long-term memory which makes people forgetful;

(4) Sleep disorders marked by the inability to sleep restfully until exhaustion imposes a sleeping marathon of 20 hours or longer;

(5) Problems with psychomotor coordination making people stumble, drop things, or knock things over (the origin of the term “dry drunk);

(6) Problems with managing stress marked by the tendency of the previous five symptoms getting dramatically worse when tired, fatigued, or under pressure.

The incredible thing is that all of these symptoms, both SUBSTANCE-BASED SYMPTOMS and ABSTINENCE/WITHDRAWAL-BASED SYMPTOMS, are very noticeable. They are not at all funny although there is a tendency to laugh about them. It is what is called dark humor, gallows humor, or a cold joke. But then again, humor is more about pain than anything else. We rarely laugh at people who are doing healthy functional things. We laugh at the things that hurt so bad we need some comic relief to get away even for a little while.

So how are these readily observable symptoms so easily accepted in the real world, enabled by people close to the addict, and denied by the alcoholics themselves, and usually no diagnosed by trained physicians, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals?  It is liked a circular closed loop of denial:

“I deny! à My friends & family deny! à The world denies à Start again.

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