If you’ve known someone in recovery or heard people talk about recovery, you may have heard the phrase “dry drunk.” It refers to someone who continues to behave aggressively, recklessly, or irresponsibly even though they have stopped drinking. While the concept of “dry drunk” can be useful, it was coined in a different time. Today, it is generally considered unkind and inappropriate to refer to a person who struggles with alcohol abuse as a drunk.
What is a “Dry Drunk”?
When someone stops drinking alcohol but does not make other meaningful changes to their life, they continue to live the life of an alcoholic, making no attempt to repair relationships or foster their own health and well-being. “Dry drunk” behavior can result from not having yet learned the necessary skills for sobriety; from deciding that once you have stopped drinking, nothing more is needed; or from being unable to sustain healthy changes because of other complications, like mental health disorders or high-stress environments.
Common Traits of “Dry Drunk”
A study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry outlined these common traits of “dry drunk” experiences:
- The majority of alcoholics have at least one period of behaving like a “dry drunk”
- It is common to see “dry drunk” behavior in the first year (especially the early months) of sobriety.
- Symptoms can recur in later sobriety, but they don’t tend to last as long or be as intense.
- When someone gets through a “dry drunk” period without drinking they often feel relieved and thankful that they continued to stay sober.
- The people most alcoholics found helpful to them in getting through a “dry drunk” period were other sober alcoholics.
- The people who were in “dry drunk” status described it as feeling similar to late withdrawal symptoms.
What is the Difference Between Not Drinking and Being Active in Recovery?
While it might be argued that the most important thing an alcoholic can do is stop drinking, if they do not address underlying issues that led to the alcohol dependence, they are leaving themselves precariously open to relapse. People who are successful in active recovery do the following:
- Develop healthy coping skills to replace alcohol
- Take accountability for their decisions
- Work on their communication skills
- Move past anger and resentment toward the loved ones who intervened to help them get sober
- Acknowledge the problems caused by their drinking
- Learn to accept constructive criticism
How Does Active Recovery Begin?
In order for a person to be in active recovery and strengthen their sobriety, it is important that they change their lifestyle and the way they interact with the world. They also need to spend some time thinking about the factors that may have led to their addiction, which could include:
- The way they were conditioned by their home life and society
- Lack of coping skills
- Personal beliefs about themselves or their life
- Mental health concerns
What are the Tools People Use to Recover?
For a person to move into active recovery, they must undergo a shift in perspective. Many people find these resources to be helpful in making that change:
- Recovery Groups – While Alcoholics Anonymous is the most well-known option for people who are giving up alcohol, a variety of other recovery groups are available for mutual support. These groups are free and often available in person or virtually.
- Therapy – Because alcoholism can result from trauma, insufficient coping skills, faulty beliefs, and untreated mental health concerns, therapy can often be beneficial in providing tools to maintain long-term recovery. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one modality of therapy that is often used to support people in recovery from addiction. Group therapy can also be helpful. Therapy is often covered by insurance or may require a copay. Sliding fee scales may be available in some cases. Therapy can be offered in person or virtually.
- Treatment – Whether it is inpatient or outpatient treatment, seeking out the expertise of trained substance abuse professionals and working intensively on building a long-term recovery plan can be hugely beneficial to people who want to stop drinking and build lives centered around staying sober. Treatment is generally done in person and may be covered by insurance.
If you are interested in learning more about how treatment can help you or a loved one to build a stronger recovery plan, the team at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, is happy to assist.