Abstinence. Personal Empowerment. Support. Inclusiveness. www.freestylerecovery.org.
Quitting our drugs of choice usually means dealing with some degree of withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal. There are no firm boundaries, instead it is a seamless transition on a continuum of effects, but generally acute withdrawal is the early phase and exhibits the worst physical effects. Depending on the drug and the amount we've been using, this can be debilitating and can constitute a medical emergency, particularly when alcohol or benzos are involved. At the very least, it sucks. There is a great deal of information out there on the early withdrawal effects of various drugs, including alcohol,benzos,opiates,meth, and marijuana. Typing the name of your drug of choice plus "withdrawal" in a web search engine will bring up hundreds more references. When in doubt, talk to your doctor. Usually the worst acute withdrawal symptoms are over in days to a week.
Following acute withdrawal comes a long phase known as post-acute withdrawal, and it is often referred to as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This is more or less the period when the worst physical effects of withdrawal are over, and our brains are slowly adapting to the sudden lack of drug intake and returning to a normal non-chemically-dependent state. Scientists don't understand all the details, but the effects are clear in PET scans of the brains of recovering addicts, which gradually become indistinguishable from the brains of people who have never been addicts. The PAWS phase can last months to a couple years, but generally the symptoms lessen and become more occasional over time.
It all gets easier over time, but the time frame is longer than we'd like. It often takes us years of abuse to build up to a state of serious chemical dependence on drugs or alcohol, and yes, it can take a couple years of abstinence to reverse the effects of this dependency. The good news is, it really does get easier and easier over time, and we do gradually feel normal again - the real normal, without the drugs and alcohol, not the chemically dependent normal we've grown accustomed to.