A dry alcoholic is a person who has stopped drinking but is still plagued by the emotional issues that contributed to the addiction in the first place. Moreover, these problems continue to hijack their psyche even though they are sober. In a nutshell, dry alcoholics are individuals who have overcome physical dependence on alcohol but haven’t committed to living a healthy, fulfilling life in recovery.
These impairments undermine a person’s ability to completely leave their addiction in the past, despite being abstinent. This failure to overcome these issues causes those who are suffering to remain entrenched in a subpar day-to-day life less satisfying or happy than it should be. Dry alcoholics have not addressed past trauma, resentments, or guilt, and as a result, many will eventually relapse back into substance abuse.
What Is a Dry Alcoholic or Dry Drunk?
As noted, a dry alcoholic or “dry drunk” describes someone who, despite their sober lifestyle, continues to behave as if they’re still trapped in the cycle of addiction. It’s not uncommon for dry alcoholics to appear to be eternally unhappy, and uncomfortable with sobriety. They are often sober for others or legal purposes, but they feel as if they were forced into it rather than a wholly willing participant.
Who Becomes a Dry Alcoholic?
There are numerous reasons why an individual in recovery would continue to experience many of the same psycho-emotional symptoms they did when they were actively using. Factors that contribute to becoming a dry alcoholic may include the following:
The person in recovery…
…has a comorbid mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety that has not been adequately addressed or managed.
…assumed that the simple act of becoming would be enough to resolve most problems, and did not develop improved coping skills beyond their previous dysfunctional solutions.
…failed to exert enough effort into their emotional well-being and thus, has become trapped in a less-than-ideal way of life.
…did not take full advantage of behavioral therapy, counseling, or external support systems such as friends, family, peer group meetings, etc.
…is spiritually lacking, which has less to do with actual religion but instead reflects a core belief that achieving inner peace is not needed or possible.
…are resentful that they cannot drink “normally” like other people, and regard sobriety as, more or less, a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Dry Alcoholism vs. Healthy Recovery
Comparing a dry drunk to a person who is having a successful recovery isn’t hard. It’s all in the attitude they present to the world around them.
For example, dry alcoholics…
…exhibit resentfulness and anger, and have a low tolerance for stress.
…have enacted few changes in behavior and lifestyle other than sobriety, and at times continue to isolate themselves despite feelings of loneliness.
…are often criticized by loved ones who regard the person to be every bit as unpleasant to be around as when they were actively drinking.
…believe their lives are not much better than before they stopped drinking, or are, in fact, worse.
…cling to the erroneous belief that their dysfunctional coping skills in some way improved their lives.
…engage in self-pity and behave as if they were forced into abstinence.
…continue to romanticize drinking.
…continue to ignore life’s challenging in the same way they did when they were active alcoholics.
Conversely, individuals who experience a healthy recovery…
…exhibit forgiveness, resilience, and self-respect.
…engage in healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes such as enacting effective coping mechanisms and reengage in a positive, active social life.
…are noticeably different in their attitude and behavior to others close to them.
…experience more enjoyment in life than when they were drinking, and accept that their prior coping mechanisms were unhealthy.
…understand that in recovery, life is not supposed to revert back to what it was like before alcoholism, and instead, it needs to be considered in the context of a new paradigm of living.
…confront life’s challenges head-on and constructively, exhibit self-confidence, and bounce back in spite of setbacks.
Dry Alcoholic Prevention
Those in early recovery are still at risk for succumbing to the emotional pitfalls that are characteristics of a dry alcoholic.
A person can avoid these by…
…becoming an expert at identifying the signs of dry alcoholism vs. a healthy recovery.
…being prepared to revisit early recovery, figure out where things went wrong, and seek resolutions for them.
…being fully dedicated to recovery and monitor progress on a life-long basis, if necessary.
…refusing to “romance the drink” or consider that previous unhealthy coping mechanisms were working in some way.
…continuing to seek meaningful connections oneself and others.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that negatively impacts the lives of those who suffer as well as loved ones close to them. Fortunately, alcoholism is very treatable, and using effective therapies and a comprehensive approach, people with this condition can recover and go on and live happy, healthy lives without alcohol.
Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive, evidence-based programs that include services essential for the recovery process, such as counseling, psychotherapy, group support, and more.
If you or someone you love is dependent on alcohol, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible. Discover how we help people reclaim their lives and free themselves from the chains of addiction, one day at a time!