A “dry drunk” is a slang expression used within the sober community. It means that the person is no longer abusing drugs or alcohol but still continues to act in a way that is dysfunctional and harmful to their lives.
When a person removes alcohol or drugs from his or her situation, it’s a great success. However, without the underlying habits like negative feelings or thoughts being altered, they may continue to exhibit many of the same behaviors as they did before they stopped drinking or doing drugs.
What Kinds of Behaviors Do These Individuals Exhibit?
Dry drunks make no behavior or emotional changes internally; this is a defining factor in this diagnosis. They may be sober, but they still act the same. A good example would be that if you have a drunk thief, then you take away the alcohol, you still have a thief.
These individuals may also be people who have chemical dependency issues but are regressing in recovery. They may still be sober but may be missing 12-step or support group meetings, failing to talk to sponsors, or failing to keep up with other substance-abuse related treatments. Some common activities that could be a sign of this include:
- Isolating behaviors
- Uneasiness with life
- Negative thinking
Why Do They Still Behave the Ways They Do?
When attitudes and behaviors aren’t changed, the negativity and mental concepts a person has will return over time, even though drinking or drug abuse has been quelled. The symptoms of the condition can begin to harm the person’s life, and it can even lead to relapse or other more serious conditions.
People who get stuck at this stage of recovery may feel they are superior to others for stopping their substance abuse without realizing they’ve missed a major part of recovery. They may be impulsive, and they may be negatively judging those around them. They believe that because they stopped drinking, they’re better than the people around them, even though those people may have been advocates for the person’s recovery from substance abuse. They have poor impulse control, which is an underlying sign of addictive tendencies. The lack of impulse control shows how they do what they want when they want to; this is exactly why addiction has caught up with them in the past. When being impulsive is combined with attention-seeking behavior, it can be a volatile combination that leads to relapse and substance abuse as a way of relieving the dissatisfaction with life.
Negativity is a side effect of addiction, but it can also be part of the reason why a person becomes an addict in the first place. When you go to a substance abuse recovery group meeting, you’re meant to judge a person no better or less than yourself. You are meant to feel equal to those around you, in other words. Those with negative judgment tendencies may cast others or themselves in a bad light, leading to isolation. This invites regression, which can then lead to relapse down the road.
Another dangerous attitude that may be exhibited is complacency. This is an attitude that they have already achieved sobriety and need no further help from the people around them that they’ve become close with. They believe that they no longer have to put the work in to stay sober, and that group meetings or sponsorships mean little to them. This is a destructive thought; it can lead to regression and relapse very quickly as situations, stressors, and other factors in life erode on the person’s sobriety.
Losing interest in self-improvement may be a sign that you’re depressed or complacent; in either case, it’s a sign that more help is needed to keep moving forward. This help may come from meditation, talking to others, focusing on community service, or taking steps to be more positive in your everyday life.
How Can a Dry Drunk Recover?
Like any other situation a recovering addict faces, reflection, meditation, mindfulness, and help from a supportive environment can help reduce the risk of complacency and other habits that erode your self-confidence and make it more likely for you to relapse.
If you’re struggling with being negative or judgmental, it’s important that you talk to your therapist or 12-step program group about your feelings. Your journey may not be the same as others’, and you may need additional help to change the thoughts and behaviors that have led you to the actions you’re taking today.
What To Do If You Think You’re Struggling With an Addiction
To learn more about dealing with addiction, it’s important to talk to someone who specializes in recovery. Our specialists can be reached at 1-844-489-0836, or you can visit us online at www.firststepsrecovery.com to find out more about the rehabilitation facilities located near you.