A “dry drunk” is an individual who has stopped drinking alcohol but is still troubled by the emotional problems contributing to the addiction in the first place. Moreover, these problems continue to have control over their mental state even though they are sober. In a nutshell, dry alcoholics are people who have overcome physical alcohol dependence but haven’t fully committed to living a healthy and fulfilling life in recovery.
These issues undermine a person’s ability to leave their addictive behavior in the past, despite being abstinent. This failure to surmount these problems causes those suffering to remain entrenched in a less-than-satisfying day-to-day life. Dry drunks have not addressed past trauma, resentments, shame, or guilt, and as a result, most will eventually relapse back into substance abuse.
What Is a Dry Drunk (aka Dry Alcoholic)?
As noted, a dry drunk or dry alcoholic describes a person who, despite their sober lifestyle, continues to behave as if they’re still entangled in the web of addiction. It’s not uncommon for dry drunks to appear to be perpetually unhappy and uncomfortable with sobriety. They are often sober for others or legal purposes, such as being arrest for a DUI, but they feel as if they were pressured into it rather than a wholly willing participant.
Who Becomes a Dry Alcoholic?
There is a myriad of reasons why a person in recovery would continue to experience many of the same emotional issues they did when they were actively drinking. Factors that contribute to becoming a dry drunk may include the following:
The person in recovery…
…has a coexisting mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, that has not been properly addressed or managed.
…assumed that the mere act of becoming sober would be enough to solve most problems, and did not develop improved coping mechanisms beyond their dysfunctional solutions.
…has not put forth enough effort into their emotional well-being and, therefore, has become trapped in a subpar way of life.
…did not take full advantage of psychotherapy, counseling, or external support systems, such as friends, family, group meetings, etc.
…is lacking spiritually, which has less to do with actual religion than it reflects a fundamental belief that reaching a state of inner peace is unnecessary or impossible.
…are resentful that they can’t drink like other people, and consider the state of sobriety as a sort of life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Dry Alcoholism vs. Healthy Recovery
Comparing a dry drunk to an individual experiencing a successful recovery isn’t hard. It’s about the attitude they project onto others and the world around them.
For example, dry alcoholics…
…exhibit bitterness and anger, and have little tolerance for stress.
…have enacted very few changes in behavior and lifestyle other than sobriety, and at times continue to withdraw from others despite having feelings of loneliness.
…are often criticized by loved ones who consider the individual to be every bit as disagreeable to be around as when they were active alcoholics.
…believe their lives are not much better or even worse than before they quit drinking.
…cling to the false belief that their dysfunctional coping mechanism improved their lives in some way.
…engage in self-pity and behave as if they were coerced into abstinence against their will.
…tend to romanticize or glamorize drinking.
…continue to ignore life’s challenges and stresses in the same way they did when they were actively drinking.
On the other hand, people who experience a healthy recovery…
…exhibit resilience, forgiveness, and a sense of self-worth.
…engage in healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes such as using effective coping mechanisms and pursue a positive, active social life.
…are markedly different in their attitude and behavior to those close to them.
…experience more happiness and enjoyment in life than when they were drinking, and accept that their former coping mechanisms were dysfunctional and unhealthy.
…understand that in recovery, life is not going to revert back to what it was like before alcoholism, but instead, it needs to be placed in the context of a new paradigm of living.
…confront life’s challenges as they arise constructively, exhibit self-confidence, and bounce back emotionally despite difficulties.
Dry Drunk Prevention
Those new to recovery are still at risk of surrendering to the emotional pitfalls that are aspects of a being dry alcoholic. A person can avoid these by…
…becoming an expert at recognizing signs of dry drunk vs. healthy recovery.
…being prepared to revisit early recovery, identify where things went awry, and seek solutions.
…being fully committed to recovery and monitoring progress on a life-long basis.
…refusing to “romance the drink” or consider that former unhealthy coping mechanisms were functional in some way.
…continuing to seek significant connections between oneself and others.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction is a potentially life-threatening chronic disease that adversely impacts the lives of those who suffer as well as those close to them. Fortunately, however, alcoholism is very treatable, and using effective therapies and a customized, integrated approach, people with this condition CAN recover and foster happy, healthy lives without alcohol.
Just Believe Detox and Recovery offers comprehensive, evidence-based programs that include services vital for the recovery process, including counseling, psychotherapy, group support, substance abuse education, aftercare planning, and more.
If you or someone you love is dependent on alcohol, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible. Discover how we help those who need it most reclaim the healthy lives they deserve and free themselves from the cycle of addiction for life!