Why Are There Struggles At Each Recovery Benchmark?

“We celebrate 30,60, 90 days, 6 months, 1 year and each year thereafter.” These words are commonly read at some point in time at twelve step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous where they give out chips and tokens to commemorate time benchmarks of sobriety. Each meeting, there is a question for the newcomers, people with thirty days or less, to identify themselves by first name. Frequently, they are invited to collect a “24-hour token” to help them remember to take recovery one day at a time. One day at a time, day by day, people collect their time sober.

Tracking Progress During Recovery 

The benchmarks are important to track progress. However they can also be key indicators for the timely struggles with can come up with each passing set of months. Post acute withdrawal syndrome, called PAWS, is the phenomena of the return of cravings and symptoms similar to those first 30 days. Typically, the symptoms flare up right around the “token time” or recovery time benchmarks. For up to the first eighteen months, those in recovery can continue to experience symptoms of withdrawal and cravings every 30-90 days. Identifying the symptoms of being related to the process of time and PAWS is important for getting through the challenge and staying sober.

Problems of Getting “Time”

Problematically, getting “time” sober can lead to one of two primary courses of thought, especially when it comes to having to deal with uncomfortable symptoms again. First, if the symptoms are so unsettling and not finding any immediate relief, which is a constant struggle for someone in recovery, one might feel that the program of recovery is no longer working and that they should give up. Second, if the symptoms are manageable and one finds they can easily override their cravings, they might think they have found a secret answer to drinking or using like a “normal” person. If they can get through cravings with such ease, they shouldn’t have to give into impulse like they did before.

Ongoing, people tend to experience a little bit of anxiety or what they call “squirreliness” right before their sobriety date when they will be taking a token for another year sober. The body and the mind hold memories well. Coming up on the time period when life was becoming particularly painful is triggering to remember. Old familiar feelings can come up, including self-destructive thoughts about continuing to stay sober. Typically, these thoughts and feelings last until about a month after the token time, then go away.


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