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Many sober people find themselves depressed, anxious, and lonely as they struggle to find happiness in a life of sobriety. Sure, they might not be drinking or using drugs anymore, but everyday life is dull and meaningless. These are typical symptoms of an issue called dry drunk syndrome, and it’s much more common than you might think.
What is a Dry Drunk?
A dry drunk is someone who has stopped drinking or using drugs but is still behaving like an alcoholic or drug addict.1 The term was first coined by Alcoholics Anonymous and later expanded upon by researchers like R.J. Solberg in his book “The Dry Drunk Syndrome.”2
Prior to our current understanding of Dry Drunk Syndrome, it was often assumed that someone exhibiting these behaviors was just stubborn and unwilling to change their behavior. However, as we understand the syndrome today, a dry drunk still experiences the severe mental and psychological issues they had when they were abusing alcohol or drugs. These mental issues may have even started before the drug-abusing behavior began and then intensified as the substance abuse worsened.
In addition, many addicts initially start abusing drugs or alcohol because they lack the coping skills to deal with trauma or emotionally overwhelming and stressful life circumstances. Once they’ve kicked the habit and the drugs and alcohol are no longer a part of their life, they are suddenly left without a coping mechanism to help them deal with the problematic issues in their life.
4 Common Causes of Dry Drunk Syndrome
Dry Drunk Syndrome doesn’t affect everyone who gets sober, but there are certain factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing it. Among the various causes of Dry Drunk Syndrome, here are four of the most common.
Unhealthy coping behaviors
Many people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms very early in life and continue these behaviors as they begin using drugs and alcohol. When the substance abuse stops, those unhealthy behavior patterns don’t just go away on their own, and the person often continues in this manner.
Unresolved behavioral issue
If someone decides to quit rehab early and leaves before they have completed their addiction treatment, they may experience some severe consequences, such as Dry Drunk Syndrome. It takes time and professional support to overcome the underlying causes of a substance abuse problem, and leaving rehab early can result in unresolved behavioral issues and a person may exhibit dry drunk characteristics.
A lack of sobriety support
Everyone needs personal support to make major life changes, and getting sober is no different. If a person quits using drugs or alcohol but doesn’t have sober peers and mentors to support and guide them, negative thoughts can take over, they can become unmotivated and hopeless, and they may suffer from a lack of community to belong to.
False assumptions about life in recovery
Unrealistic expectations about sobriety can be detrimental to recovery. For example, the idea that recovery will be a breeze, or that you’ll always happy can be very harmful because the reality is very different. Some days in sobriety will be difficult, staying sober won’t always be easy, and it’s hard work to maintain the personal growth that’s required to stay sober.
Dry Drunk Behavior Patterns
If you find yourself wondering if you or a loved one is a dry drunk, here are some common dry drunk behaviors and characteristics to look out for.3,4,5
- Resenting the person (or people) who have encouraged you to get sober
- Being frustrated or annoyed that you can’t drink or use anymore
- Wondering if it’s too late to achieve goals due to the damage and time lost drinking or using drugs
- Being anxious about challenging yourself or trying new things due to a fear of failure
- Being jealous and unsupportive of others’ determination, perseverance, and strength
- Blaming other people for your general dissatisfaction with life
- Isolating yourself and not going to recovery support meetings
- Being self-centered and selfish
- Feeling numb
- Replacing drugs and alcohol with other addictive behaviors like shopping, food, sex, or gambling
Although not all dry drunks will exhibit the same traits, these are some of the most common dry drunk characteristics and behaviors to watch for. Often, a loved one behaving this way can make friends and loved ones to feel uncomfortable or like they have to tip-toe around the person to avoid conflicts, fits of anger, and irrational, unpredictable behaviors.
Do I Have a Dry Drunk Personality?
There is no such thing as a “dry drunk personality.” Instead, dry drunk traits consist of a particular set of negative attitudes and patterns of behavior. Although you may feel like you or a loved one has a dry drunk personality, it’s more likely that you’re recognizing symptoms that have persisted over the course of several months or years. Long-lasting negative behaviors and attitudes become deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche, leading others to believe that their personality is that of a dry drunk.
Detox is Just a Part of the Recovery Process
Chronic abuse of drugs or alcohol causes physical dependence and withdrawal, which can be a very uncomfortable and difficult process. In most cases, a person needs to complete a detox program to get sober. Medical detox provides assistance overcoming uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and kick-starting the physical healing process, as the body rids itself of the toxins and begins to repair itself.
After detox, although a person may technically be sober, they are still very likely to have behavioral and mental issues they need to address. Continuing addiction treatment with a drug and alcohol rehab program can help people address the underlying causes of their addiction(s) and modify unhealthy behaviors.
To put it simply, a healthy and happy life in recovery requires more than just maintaining abstinence from an addictive substance. While that is one piece of the puzzle, full physical, mental, and spiritual recovery requires several other puzzle pieces to complete the picture.
How to Overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome
If you’re suffering from Dry Drunk Syndrome, you may feel like you don’t need help since you’re not drinking or using drugs anymore. You may even find yourself thinking that residential or outpatient rehab is a waste of time and energy.
These negative attitudes are characteristic of a dry drunk and can overtake any positivity about being sober or living a lifestyle of sobriety. However, it is possible to overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome in the following ways:
- Continue with your addiction treatment – Whether you stopped after detox or you quit rehab early, you can always pick up where you left off. There’s no shame in going back. In fact, many people complete several rounds of drug rehab before they successfully maintain their sobriety on a long-term basis. There’s no cookie-cutter solution that will guarantee success in sobriety, but comprehensive and individualized drug rehab can help you overcome your personal battles and build resilience in your personal life with relapse prevention strategies, behavioral therapy, group therapy exercises, and more.
- Get involved in a community support group – A community of sober individuals can provide a sense of hope and essential personal connection. Being a part of a sober community can also help you establish your own identity as a sober person and develop healthy, mutually-beneficial relationships in recovery.
- Develop new hobbies or rediscover old ones – Anxiety and depression are common issues among newly sober individuals. These disorders can be difficult to overcome and may contribute to dry drunk behaviors. Trying new things or reigniting your excitement for old hobbies is a great way to combat anxiety and depression, while also cultivating relationships with other people and moving beyond your comfort zone.
If you’d like more information about a comprehensive drug and alcohol rehab program that can help you overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome or chronic relapse, contact Nova Recovery Center today. An admissions representative can provide treatment recommendations and answer any questions you have about the program, amenities, and payment options.