People suffering from dry drunk syndrome still act as though they have a drinking problem, engaging in many of the same unhealthy behavior patterns they did when they were drinking, even though they do not consume any alcohol. This syndrome is often described in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a person who has not had alcohol for many years, but still has not become sober.
Symptoms of a Dry Alcoholic
There several potential signs that a person might be a dry alcoholic. If a person exhibits a symptom occasionally, or in the very early stages of recovery, they may not have a problem. Typically, a dry drunk exhibits these symptoms repeatedly, and for a long time after becoming sober. The symptoms include:
- A low tolerance for stress
- Easily upset when things do not go their way
- Continuing to engage in the unhealthy or unethical behaviors exhibited while drinking, and might exhibit in new vices
- Feelings of loneliness, lack of interest in activities, continue to isolate him- or herself
- Denial that life needs to change, and that they are the catalyst for that change
- Romanticizing the drink; only remembering the good times they had while drinking
- Feelings of self-pity
- Overconfident about abilities, full of pride and do not seek help from others
- Resentment about not getting to ever drink again, which might be aimed at a particular person
- Overall dissatisfaction with life
- What Causes a Person to Become a Dry Alcoholic?
Many people turn to alcohol as a way to relieve stress or numb negative emotions, or to self-medicate a mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorder. These people do not learn healthy coping mechanisms to handle difficult life issues; instead, they escape reality through living in a drunken stupor. When they reemerge, newly sober, they face many of the same negative life experiences as before they started drinking. Without proper help, they will continue to struggle with these experiences and act in inappropriate ways. They have a high risk of relapsing, but even if they never touch alcohol, they will suffer through life without knowing how to cope with the trouble they experience.
Treatment for Dry Drunk Syndrome
The treatment for a dry drunk is similar as its prevention. A person needs to undergo treatment for all underlying and co-occurring conditions and learn healthy coping mechanisms and stress relieving techniques. This provides them with the skills to deal with the issues from which they escaped for so long. Aftercare, support groups, and other extended care programs help a person to their former life with a strong support system in place, which can reduce the risk of relapse or dry drunk syndrome. A person suffering from dry drunk syndrome should enter psychotherapy to get help from the underlying issues from which he or she still suffers. Another way to help a person avoid becoming a dry drunk, or overcome dry drunk syndrome, is to engage in new activities and build a new, sober life.
Many times those in recovery will look down on a dry alcoholic and just believe he or she is not working the steps correctly, and is not fully engaged in the recovery. However, many dry drunks actually suffer from dual diagnosis, which is a co-occurrence of substance abuse and a mental health disorder. If they do not receive treatment for both concurrently, then they have a high risk of becoming a dry alcoholic and eventually relapsing.