The "Dry Drunk"
When an alcoholic stops drinking, it’s cause for rejoicing. Unfortunately, sobriety is not guaranteed to last. It takes hard work and commitment, and a keen eye for dangers.
One danger to the non-drinking alcoholic is the dry drunk, a set of habits and attitudes that take the joy out of life for the alcoholic and those around him or her. Those habits often precede a relapse into drinking, even if the alcoholic has been sober for years.
A dry drunk can be successfully treated. Here are some signs that will help you recognize the condition, and some suggestions of how to cope with it.
During their drinking years, alcoholics develop many attitudes and behaviors, which come with them into sobriety, and are characteristic of the dry drunk. Often, family members do not recognize the symptoms of a dry drunk as anything unusual, since they have become so used to the abnormal behavior of the alcoholic. Some typical signs of a dry drunk are:
- Acting self-important, either by “having all the answers,” or playing “poor me.”
- Making harsh judgments of oneself and others.
- Being impatient or pursuing whims.
- Blaming others for shortcomings one suspects in oneself.
- Being dishonest, usually beginning with little things.
- Impulsive behavior which ignores what’s best for self and others.
- Inability to make decisions.
- Mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied.
- Detachment, self-absorption, boredom, distraction or disorganization.
- Nostalgia for the drinking life.
- Fantasizing, daydreaming and wishful thinking, even euphoria.
- Less participation in a 12-step program, or dropping out altogether.
With help, the alcoholic experiencing a dry drunk can learn to see the world and oneself more realistically, and develop habits that lead to a happier life. The basic aims of treatment are to develop responsible behavior, patience, honesty, and self acceptance.
If you are experiencing the effects of a dry drunk, either in yourself or someone close to you, we suggest the following steps:
- Ask for guidance or referrals from your employee assistance program.
- Consult a health professional trained in chemical dependency issues
- Get in touch with Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon, and attend meeting regularly. Knowing that others understand and have triumphed over these problems can be the best help of all!