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What Is a Dry Drunk?

Your husband stopped drinking a few months ago as part of a court-ordered mandate. He was arrested for his second DUI and has since been ordered to five years of probation with 50 hours of community service. On top of that, he has to take a 21-hour DUI substance abuse course. The problem with this is that he no longer has a license for the next five years. Despite all of these adding stress to your life, you support him in every way you can and reassure him that he is loved.

what is a dry drunk

You can see he is beyond unhappy. You take him to his classes, AA meetings, and community service, but you see the guilt and anger on his face. Simple questions like “What would you like for dinner,” are met with yelling and hostility. Every day you do your best to be supportive, but his negativity is really taking a toll. You decide to try an Al-anon meeting for support. The stories you hear sound similar to yours, and you hear the words “dry drunk” being said around the room. What is this? Does it mean your husband will begin drinking again?

In 2021, impaired driving caused 15,349 accidents in Florida, killing 799 people. Clean Recovery Centers has been working in the Suncoast area to help those living with alcohol use disorder. Our unique, three-phase approach addresses all aspects of addiction. Those who complete our program join the active and supportive alumni community where you will never have to feel alone again. So, what is a dry drunk and how does it happen to someone in recovery? Let’s take a look into this further.

What’s A Dry Drunk?

Dry drunk is a term created by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is used to describe someone who has stopped drinking but is still exhibiting behaviors they did when they were. Oftentimes, the person has not dealt with the causes of their alcohol use, leading to negative behaviors. They may still experience cravings for alcohol and reference memories when they were drinking. Though not always the case, a dry drunk may be on the path of returning to alcohol.

The Causes of Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is not a medical condition, but the symptoms are very real and can affect everyday life. One of the causes of dry drunk syndrome is post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can last as long as 2 years after the person has stopped drinking. Symptoms range in severity and frequency and pose a challenge to mental health. Addressing PAWS through therapy, support groups, and medical professionals is the best way to stay on track with healing and success in recovery.

Another cause of dry drunk syndrome is the person refraining from drinking while not changing their behaviors. They may have gone to treatment and/or entered AA, but they do not continue to build on their success and revert to negative coping strategies. Dry drunk syndrome often happens to those who have stopped working on their recovery and do not seek support. This is especially true for those who have not addressed their past traumas or mental health conditions that led to their alcohol use disorder.

Dry Drunk Syndrome Signs and Symptoms

Many signs of dry drunk syndrome involve mental health and behaviors. They tend to occur consistently and can cause relationship strain, difficulties at work or school, and risks of returning to alcohol. Physically, dry drunk syndrome does not cause many symptoms. Insomnia and memory problems are the most common.

Mood Symptoms

Mood symptoms of dry drunk syndrome can vary. The person will experience mood swings quite often, and they can easily go from irritated to sad to angry. Anxiety and depression may develop from dry drunk syndrome and make it difficult to interact with others. Energy level variation will increase mood fluctuation, causing mental health dips. While mood symptoms are not usually dangerous, loss of friendships and family members from negative mood swings can weigh heavily on the person. If ever depression becomes severe and thoughts of suicide occur, seek medical attention.

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms of dry drunk syndrome can sometimes mimic narcissism. Even if the person did not exhibit these behaviors before, they can develop with dry drunk syndrome. Common behavioral symptoms include:

  • Needing to be the center of attention
  • Having a victim mentality
  • Resenting those who helped you stop drinking
  • Frustration involving the past and the future
  • Reminiscing and glorifying past use
  • Ignoring problems alcohol use caused
  • Jealousy of both those who still drink and those who are finding success in their recovery

How Can You Overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome?

The first step in overcoming dry drunk syndrome is to recognize and admit that there is an issue going on. Whether you have not addressed past mental health concerns or are experiencing PAWS, you must be able to admit there is a problem and your recovery is at risk. By doing so, you will be able to fully accept help from those offering and be able to change your ways of thinking. Therapy can help address mental health while support groups such as AA can give guidance and advice. A medical professional can help with physical symptoms and may prescribe medication to help with mental health.

Is Experiencing Dry Drunk Syndrome A Sign Of Returning to Use?

Not everyone who experiences dry drunk syndrome will experience a return to use. However, the longer the person does not accept help, the more likely a return to use will occur. Loved ones who are worried about a family member or friend experiencing dry drunk syndrome should try to talk about options for help. Refer the loved one to a therapist or a local AA chapter for guidance. When talking to the loved one about seeking help, always remember they are a person first. Alcohol use disorder takes a toll on mental health, and recovery can be an emotional rollercoaster. Avoid stigmatizing language and be compassionate and firm. The term dry drunk often carries a stigma, and directly accusing the loved one of having it may send the wrong message. Instead, refer them to resources explaining the term and how it may help them understand what is going on within themselves.

Finding Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Options in Hillsborough County, FL

Stopping alcohol use alone is often not enough to keep a person in recovery. Finding an alcohol use disorder treatment program that has resources for aftercare can make the biggest difference in lasting recovery. Support is one of the biggest components in preventing a return to use, and knowing you have people to turn to in times of crisis will help keep you on the right path. Rediscovering your passions and meeting new people who share them can give you the spark you need to stay focused and live your life alcohol-free.

If you or someone you love is managing an alcohol use disorder, or is showing signs of returning to use, help is available today. Clean Recovery Centers has been a leading provider of alcohol use disorder treatment for years in the Gulf Coast region. Our dedicated staff not only treats addiction but can also diagnose and treat mental health conditions at any phase of treatment. We help you address your past and discover the root causes of your addiction. Even after treatment is complete, our team is always available for support if you ever feel like you are alone. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program offerings.

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