There are numerous different aspects of recovering from an addiction and quitting the substance abuse itself is only the first step. Some people in recovery might focus solely on their abstinence but fail to make progress in other areas of their life that also contribute to their disease.
These kinds of individuals are said to be suffering from "dry drunk syndrome" in which they remain sober but continue to exhibit problem behavior and chaotic thinking that can put them in danger of a relapse. Even though they have avoided alcohol for a period of time, dry drunks are learning the tools and making the kind of life changes that will help them stay sober in the long term.
Dry drunks seem to suffer almost as much in recovery as they did before entering treatment and perhaps even more so because they can no longer turn to alcohol to deal with their difficult emotions. Those who are showing signs of dry drunk syndrome can overcome this problem and move on if they put all their effort into recovery strategies learned in treatment.
Problems with Being a Dry Drunk
Someone who is considered a dry drunk is not working through their emotional state or using effective tools to alleviate their stress. A dry drunk often shows signs of irritability, discontent, restlessness and even hopelessness and depression.
In many cases, their behavior is exactly the same as it was before they entered treatment and they appear to have the same personality problems that were an issue when they were drinking. A dry drunk tends to show similar attitudes that are characteristic of addiction such as superiority and self-centeredness, believing that the world revolves around them.
They might also play the victim and believe that they are flawed and inferior in a way that makes them a hopeless cause. Dry drunks also remain impulsive which is one of the biggest issues with addiction that leads to excessive substance abuse.
Alcoholics look for instant gratification through drinking and dry drunks may continue looking for immediate rewards instead of waiting for things to progress naturally. Dry drunks are often highly judgmental either of those around them or of themselves in a way that can generate low self-esteem.
All of these behaviors can result in a dry drunk becoming negative, discontent, bored and dissatisfied in a way that not only makes them suffer more but puts them at risk for a relapse.
Overcoming Dry Drunk Syndrome
Even though being a dry alcoholic can be a difficult and unpredictable path it is possible to become a more functional person in recovery that begins to alter and improve their behavior. In order for a dry drunk to get more out of recovery they need to focus on being more self-aware and in touch with their emotional state.
Analyzing their emotions and understanding their feelings can prevent them from letting anger or frustration get out of control. A dry drunk also needs to rely on a support system of people who will provide more emotional stability and motivation.
They need someone like an AA sponsor or a close friend to talk to who will provide support or challenge them when necessary. Most importantly to reduce suffering in recovery and overcome their dry drunk syndrome an addict must be proactive about turning around their emotional state instead of being resigned to their feelings and behavior.
Recovering from addiction is not only about abstaining from substance abuse but also about personal growth and transformation. A dry drunk must move forward and make necessary progress so that they can achieve long term recovery.