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Are You or Someone You Love Experiencing “Dry Drunk Syndrome”?
Recovering from alcohol use disorder is a very tough process, and there are challenges that you will have to overcome, such as what is called “dry drunk syndrome.” Dry drunk is a term that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is often associated with a more serious condition called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
It’s important to know what dry drunk is to negate its effects properly. There are ways to continue through recovery with it, and if you have a loved one struggling with a dry drunk, you can help them move forward with love and encouragement.
Call us today at (888) 906-0952, and we can guide you through this process of truly healing and becoming sober.
- What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?
- Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
- How to Cope With Dry Drunk Syndrome
- How to Support Your Loved One Who is Displaying “Dry Drunk” Behavior
- Why Focusing on Recovery is So Important
What is a “Dry Drunk”?
What is a dry drunk? Characteristics of dry drunk include negative feelings and behaviors that would be experienced while still using alcohol. Many assume that dry drunk is always a sign of relapse, which is a common misconception.
However, not dealing with the negative feelings and behaviors leftover from alcoholism can eventually relapse. Relapse is the process of returning to old behaviors of using substances based on triggers and stresses. Even though dry drunk syndrome is not directly relapsing, it can cause a person to fall back into old use habits.
Don’t misunderstand; not everyone will go through this type of process in their recovery. Recovery is a personal experience and can look different to everyone. While there are not many statistics, these symptoms are more likely to occur in people who have left recovery for whatever reason.
Without properly finishing and seeing through recovery, it is more likely to succumb to reusing alcohol.
The Term “Drunk” Has Negative Connotations
It’s important to remember that any terminology with the word “drunk” in it is not a positive term and has a negative connotation associated with it.
According to Cydni Turner, the co-founder and clinical director of Insight into Action Therapy and Insight Recovery Centers, in AA, the term dry drunk is often used to describe those who don’t appear to be “trying hard enough.” While talking to someone going through recovery, please do not use this term to describe them as it can hurt their motivation for continuing recovery.
Although this term has been popularized among recovery groups and communities, it should be avoided while conversing with someone experiencing the symptoms.
Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
The two common symptoms of dry drunk syndrome are changes in mood and behavior, and those two will vary in how extreme they get.
HealthLine explains that Mood Symptoms will include frequent and rapid changes while expressing emotions. Making those expressions will seem impossible or much harder than it used to be.
The changes in behavior can strain the relationships that are important to you. If alcohol has already stressed those relationships, the behavioral changes caused by dry drunk syndrome will only do more damage.
Mood Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
- Irritable, frustration, or anger
- Low spirits
- Impatient, restlessness, or difficulty focusing.
- Easily bored or distracted
- Anxiety about maintaining sobriety
- Resentment against yourself, others who can drink, or people who want you to
- Negative or hopeless feelings about your ability to stop drinking
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Aggressive or impulsive behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- A tendency to harshly judge, shame, or criticize yourself
- Frustration with the treatment process leads you to skip meetings or give up completely.
- Frequent daydreaming, often about alcohol use
- Using other behaviors like gambling to cope with recovery
If you’re dealing with mental illnesses like anxiety or depression, these symptoms will only get worse. If mental illness and the symptoms from dry drunk are mixed, there is a chance for relapse. Not everyone will show every symptom because everyone is different.
Some might be influenced more by mood symptoms than behavioral, but it is complex to determine how to deal with dry drunk symptoms. Even though the symptoms seem to hold you back from sobriety, there are ways to overcome these challenges.
How to Cope With Dry Drunk Syndrome
If you are feeling the symptoms associated with dry drunk syndrome, do not think you’re relapsing. According to HealthLine, this is a natural part of the recovery process, but you need to hold yourself accountable and maintain your push for sobriety.
You need to connect yourself with others, even if they don’t know anything about your challenges. Someone to talk to and connect with will only make the recovery process easier. Engaging with a loved one can also ease the triggers of relapse. They may not understand your pain, but knowing they are there to support you can help you avoid thinking about drinking.
It’s also beneficial to make friends in the recovery groups you’re involved with. Since everyone handles recovery differently, those around you can empathize with their challenges as well. Talking about your feelings with your treatment sponsor, accountability partner support groups will allow you to reduce the stress of these feelings building up. There’s also a chance that someone else has gone down the road you’re on, making your journey not so lonely.
Setting up coping techniques is also a great way to reduce the feelings of being sober drunk. Create a list of useful distractions that you know will lead your mind away from alcoholic cravings. Yoga, meditation, drawing, painting, journaling, sports, gardening, or home improvements are all examples of activities that can help remove negative thoughts from your mind.
Also, bear in mind that it will feel hard to maintain your hobbies in the early stages of recovery. Just remember that everyone has those same struggles.
During these times of recovery, you must commit to self-care and compassion. Engaging in certain activities such as exercise, healthy eating, sleep, and family time can limit your want for alcohol.
In turn, this can help you avoid being sober drunk. These don’t need to be daily activities, but you should consider building a schedule. This is also a great technique for staying on the path to sobriety. Along with retaining self-care, you must remain patient with yourself.
The road to recovery is not fast or easy, so having this patience will help you not relapse. If you are helping a loved one going through these challenges, ensure you nurture patience. Addiction is a disease that takes time to recover from, and they shouldn’t feel judged while working on bettering themselves.
How to Support Your Loved One Who is Displaying “Dry Drunk” Behaviors
Watching a loved one go through the pains of addiction recovery can be hard, but as a family member or significant other, you can help this be more achievable. Show your loved one support and understanding. Don’t worry if they begin showing symptoms of dry alcoholism.
It isn’t a step backward, only a part of the process of getting better. Encourage your loved one and present your support and love. This is the best gift someone struggling with addiction recovery can have. Additionally, show your patients their situation. They will be angry, and they might change moods more often than they used to but remember the process they are going through.
If they feel your patients, they will take it much better. Don’t let the rage get out of hand, though. There should be clear rules and boundaries. They are trying to recover, and overcoming these emotions is a part of that journey.
Embracing positive habits is another way to help encourage your loved ones in their recovery journey. Habits can make or break the recovery process, and with dry drunk syndrome, it’s easy to let go of new habits and replace them with old ones.
Encourage your loved ones by joining them in new hobbies and activities they enjoy. Consider drawing with them or maybe be the reason they begin eating a healthy meal every day. Participating in healthy distractions with your loved ones can take their mind off of drinking. While you’re at it, consider this time as a way also to help yourself to keep your partner on track.
You might not have an addiction to overcome, but talking to a therapist and helping with personal conflict like mental discourse can be an encouragement. Even if you don’t need therapy or help, never forget that your happiness is also important. By really putting yourself and your loved one into healthy habits, you both can succeed.
Why Focusing on Recovery is So Important to Avoid Old Behaviors
Never underestimate how effective addiction recovery is, no matter the challenges that arise over that time. You need to keep your strength and continue moving forward. Knowing what a dry drunk is can help you and your loved one not be overwhelmed.
Being able to understand the many symptoms will also lessen the impact on relationships. Being patient is the key to making this all pass over, staying the course, and not giving up on your recovery. Remember that all this is normal but will be limited to coping mechanisms.
Get involved with healthy activities like exercising or writing. These distractions will truly limit the impact of wanting to drink, creating a schedule that includes healthy recovery activities.
If you are looking to help a loved one, don’t neglect yourself either. Please get involved in your loved one’s new habits to keep them encouraged and create some new happiness for yourself.
Feel that you might need more time in a treatment program? Call us at (888) 906-0952 and press 1.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 12/27/2021
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