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What Is a “Dry Drunk”?

Image symbolizing the question, "What is a dry drunk?"

Addiction is complex, with roots in various aspects of life. Thus, sobriety is multi-dimensional—it’s not just about avoiding substances but also about how one lives. Unfortunately, some view sobriety narrowly, believing abstaining from substances is enough, neglecting the negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors tied to their addiction. In the context of alcohol, this scenario often leads to being labeled a “dry drunk.” This term may also be used to describe someone who uses other drugs, however, for our purposes, we will refer to this term in the context of alcohol addiction. To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment, call us today at 662.222.2989.

How Does a Dry Drunk’s State Originate?

Supporting someone in recovery can be tough, especially when they show “dry drunk” symptoms, where behaviors mimic those of active drinking. It’s difficult to notice a change if you’re used to their behavior during drinking times, overlooking their pre-alcohol self. Recognizing that a dry drunk may still exhibit negative thoughts and behaviors from their addiction is crucial, as they might face the same emotional and psychological issues that led to their drinking.

People with alcohol addictions often self-medicate, possibly sparking and fueling their addiction. Dealing with emotions like loneliness, anger, resentment, or fear, they turn to alcohol instead of facing these feelings head-on.

This situation is more complex if the individual has co-occurring disorders, like anxiety or depression. They might use alcohol to mask these symptoms rather than seek professional help, worsening their condition and creating a cycle of increased drinking to cope.

Understanding the Behaviors of a Dry Drunk

Sometimes family members of dry drunks find that they seem to struggle with a person more in this state than they did while they were drinking. This can be very confusing, especially if you don’t understand what’s happening. In order to better understand and spot the tendencies of dry drunk syndrome, we’ve assembled a list of the most common characteristics or the realizations a person may struggle with that in frustration push them towards their negative behaviors. A dry drunk may:

  • Become resentful towards the person who “made” them quit drinking
  • Struggle to stay on task, finding that they’re easily distracted or that they’re unable to make decisions in an efficient manner
  • Not be able to accept the consequences of their actions, instead of trying to pass the blame to other people
  • Become impatient, impulsive and take action without contemplating the consequences in a way that hurts themselves or those around them
  • Struggle with dishonesty that gradually gains momentum as they find themselves lying more
  • Exhibit grandiose thoughts or behaviors, being excessively self-centered
  • Struggle with thinking that they won’t be able to achieve the things they’ve hope to, notably due to the above point
  • Find that they spend increasing amounts of time thinking about drinking or recalling memories of times when they drank

Without proper attention or support, these detrimental thoughts and behaviors may pull a person deeper into dark thoughts or notions of using, leading them down a path that has the potential to be damaging and dangerous.

The Risks of Living as a Dry Drunk

Living as a dry drunk is more than just suffering a bad attitude. Their behaviors negatively affect those around them, causing tension, blame, anger, resentment, and communication breakdowns within a family. This can leave partners feeling hopeless and exhausted, always walking on eggshells.

Unchecked, these behaviors can cause deep family rifts, sometimes irreparable. Dry drunks are at risk too. The complex emotions and mental health issues they’re dealing with were likely factors in their initial turn to alcohol. Without intervention, these could trigger a relapse.

Dry drunk habits often signal a relapse risk, a potentially life-threatening situation. To prevent this, you and your support network must be proactive in addressing the underlying mental and emotional issues.

Helping a Dry Drunk Find Balance

Just because someone is sober doesn’t mean they’re healthy. A “dry drunk” may show signs of emotional and mental struggles, needing support. Discussing this can be tricky, especially if they feel criticized after achieving sobriety. It’s crucial to be patient and careful. Confronting them about their emotional state gently, reassuring them of your appreciation for their sobriety and effort is key.

When talking, be mindful of your words to avoid confrontation or shame. Express your concerns, the impact of their actions on you, and the relapse risk clearly. Emphasize that you care about their happiness, not just their abstinence. Support and understanding are vital in difficult times. Being open-minded and acknowledging the potential harm of their actions is important for personal and relational health.

Seek Support

During this time you can take several steps that can help you surpass this period. First, you need to seek support. This may come in several forms—seeking the guidance of a counselor or therapist may be one of the wisest decisions, as they can work with you to unravel the complex emotional and mental issues. They may use various different forms of psychotherapy to help you overcome your negative emotions, and they may even involve your family in family therapy or support.

These sessions can also help to instill a greater sense of self-worth and introspection. A counselor or a therapist will work with you in developing a set of coping skills that you can use within your life so that you can be more mindful and directed about handling your problems instead of being reactive and letting them rule you.

The Necessity Of Good Treatment To Help Alleviate This Risk

Time and time again, you hear the benefit of rehab programs touted, but again, some individuals may be quick to think this is only to ensure a person’s abstinence from alcohol. One of the largest reasons why alcoholism treatment programs are essential towards cultivating a state of wellness, both physically and mentally, is because they seek to treat and alleviate co-occurring disorders concerns.

Co-occurring disorders can stem from addiction or contribute to it. For the best recovery and to achieve emotional and mental stability, individuals need appropriate care. Without it, their treatment may suffer, leading to issues like being a “dry drunk.” Receiving treatment for co-occurring disorders significantly improves their chances of a successful and balanced recovery, addressing both alcohol use and mental health. Woodland Recovery Center provides compassionate, comprehensive care for these disorders.

Get the Help You Need Today From Woodland Recovery Center

If you or a loved one exhibits any of the signs of being a dry drunk, please reach out to our caring staff at Woodland Recovery Center. We can offer you insight and resources to help you stay centered and focused so that you have a better chance of avoiding relapse. Also, if you’re currently using alcohol in a way that is harmful to your health, reach out for help.

Woodland Recovery Center can help you overcome your alcohol use or addiction in a way that best prepares you for whatever you encounter along the path of recovery. Call us today at 662.222.2989 or use our online contact form.