Avoid Becoming A Dry Drunk

When individuals with addictive disorders and substance misuse issues achieve sobriety, they run the risk of developing dry drunk syndrome if they fail to address the psychological and behavioral issues that contributed to their substance misuse. Dry drunk syndrome, also referred to as post-acute withdrawal symptoms, occurs when heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking with no follow-up as to the why behind their substance misuse with alcohol. These individuals are left to cope with serious co-occurring mental health issues as well as withdrawal symptoms all without the assistance of their crutch or coping mechanism of choice. 


The syndrome was initially coined by Alcoholics Anonymous and can occur both in early recovery as well as much later on in the recovery process. It may be more common for individuals in early recovery as it is easy to enjoy the pink cloud of initial sobriety while failing to address the underlying issues that led you to drink. Many individuals in early addiction recovery still behave and think as they did while they were actively misusing substances which more often than not will lead them right back to misusing illicit substances. 


Dry drunk symptoms are generally not noticed initially through individual actions. For most, quitting drinking seems like a big enough change but dry drunk symptoms usually affect the mental faculties. The most serious dry drunk symptoms include destructive thought patterns that eventually lead to unhealthy, triggering actions. For this reason, many experience these symptoms leading up to a relapse. As mentioned previously, the dry drunk syndrome is not reserved for early addiction recovery. Individuals that have achieved long-term sobriety also run the risk of experiencing dry drunk syndrome by reverting to bad thought and behavioral patterns. This generally occurs when individuals become comfortable in long-term sobriety and begin to let their guard down.  


The biggest danger for individuals experiencing dry drunk syndrome is the increased chances of eventual relapse. Psychologically, the dangers of dry drunk symptoms will only continue to evolve as individuals delay addressing the root causes of their addiction. This form of stalling will effectively place the process of moving on to a fulfilling sober life in arrested development. If addiction recovery patients continue along this dry drunk path, they ultimately remain in the same perpetual cycle that they previously experienced with substance misuse. Being a dry drunk may be the physically healthier option to being drunk, but the recovery experience will be just as actively unhealthy for the individuals involved as well as for the loved ones that make up their support network.  


Warning Signs

The warning signs or symptoms of a dry drunk syndrome are similar to that of an addict who starts using again. Early intervention or at least acknowledging dry drunk symptoms can help in preventing a potential relapse. These symptoms include:

  1. Mood swings
  2. Superior attitude
  3. Isolation of self from loved ones
  4. Anxiety and depression
  5. Anger and resentment
  6. Negative thought patterns especially about recovery
  7. Trading addictions
  8. Romanticizing drinking/glory days
  9. Impulse control issues
  10. Complacency

These are just a handful of the symptoms that may help you recognize dry drunk syndrome in yourself or any loved ones in active addiction recovery. Next, we will detail what you can do in case you are experiencing dry drunk symptoms.


How to Help

If you feel like you or a loved one is experiencing dry drunk syndrome, the best course of action would be to first acknowledge the potential problem and then take the necessary steps to address it with a trained professional. This may involve simply attending more addiction recovery meetings at first or even just discussing your awareness of being dry drunk with a sponsor, friend, or family member. However, if you are experiencing dry drunk syndrome, this generally signifies a much larger issue —: that you are unaware of your co-occurring mental health issues and/or at least unaware of how to deal with those psychological issues without the coping mechanism of alcohol. These psychological issues would be best dealt with by seeking a trained therapist or psychiatrist who can guide you through the process of healing.


Aside from seeking professional therapeutic help, there are a few cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques that can be practiced at home to decrease destructive thinking patterns that are a symptom of the dry drunk syndrome. CBT involves dialectic and behavioral changes to patterns of thought to promote positivity. For example, simply saying, “I will stay sober.” rather than, “I will not drink” makes a huge difference in creating positive thought patterns. Taking the time to practice CBT regularly just as you might with exercise or a new hobby is an effective tool in reducing your risk for developing the dry drunk syndrome. These methods can help keep dry drunk syndrome at bay, but eventually, you will have to address the psychological issues feeding into your substance misuse.


If you or someone you love is experiencing dry drunk syndrome and needs further treatment for an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House can help. We offer men the chance to achieve and maintain sobriety through a variety of therapeutic modalities as they craft a new foundation based on love, empathy, and understanding. Our treatment services include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, as well as a chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. Our facilities are ideally located between the Rocky Mountain National Park and the bustling city of Louisville. This proximity to city life is greatly beneficial for our outpatient services allowing individuals to undergo treatment services while still maintaining gainful employment and active social lives. We also take full advantage of having the Rocky Mountains in our backyard utilizing a unique outdoor wilderness therapy that allows men to reconnect with themselves, nature, and fellow recovery patients through physical activities like hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. We feel the bonds of friendship that you will make here at Choice House will last a lifetime and prove vital to your recovery process long after you have left our facilities. For more information regarding Choice House facilities or the program of addiction treatment services, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.

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