Dry Drunk Syndrome

What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry Drunk Syndrome is a slang expression derived from the 12-Step fellowship and AA Big Book. The idea is that while someone is in active addiction, he or she forms problematic trains of thoughts, attitudes, feelings and behaviors, and simply removing drugs and alcohol without targeting these residual issues does not lead to full recovery.

According to this group, a “dry drunk” is someone who has given up drugs and alcohol but has not stopped behaving as they were in addiction, or has slowly regressed into chaotic and unrealistic thinking despite his or her initial efforts to fully recover. Dry drunkenness, which AA’s Big Book describes as being “restless, irritable and discontented,” is typically viewed as a strong precursor to an oncoming relapse.

If you notice attitudes and patterns that are known to indicate Dry Drunk Syndrome, pay close attention to the possibility of relapse and get back on the driver’s seat of your own recovery.

For those who are curious, here are 4 common attitudes that are usually considered symptoms of dry drunkenness and cause for closer attention.

1. Grandiosity

In 12-Step literature, grandiosity is the concept of being self-centered to the extreme.” It basically means to resume the same “the-world-revolves-around-me” attitude that the individual had during active addiction. To be grandiose doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has to believe that he or she is the best. In fact, it can also be exhibited by simply seeking attention through playing victim or sitting on the pity pot.

2. Impulsivity

Another common behavior linked to Dry Drunk Syndrome is poor impulse control. Individuals with this symptom tend to do what they want, when they want, with little regard to who they hurt in the process. Impulsivity can also be linked with grandiosity, as people may often engage in impulsive behaviors as a way of being the center of attention.

3. Overly Judgmental

Being overly judgmental can be a very destructive attitude for those in recovery, whether it be towards others or towards ourselves. For instance, when we judge ourselves to be better than others, we generally set up situations that inflate our own ego. While, on the other hand, when we judge ourselves to be much lower than others, we also wind up feeling bitter and having low self-esteem.

4. Complacency

Complacency is not only an attitude of somebody with Dry Drunk Syndrome, but also a red flag for anyone who is well into the relapse process. A key facet of being in recovery is moving forward in the right direction, regardless of how fast or slow you’re going. If you become lazy or disinterested in your recovery, the natural tendency is to fall back into addictive behaviors and eventually return to using again.

Other Destructive Actions and Patterns

If you or your loved one is predisposed to the aforementioned attitudes, you may also take note of these other common dry drunk patterns:

  • Being restless, irritable and discontented
  • Being bored, dissatisfied and easily distracted from productive tasks
  • Feeling listless and dull without any form excitement
  • Yearning for “the good old days” of active using
  • Forgetting the pain and shame associated with using
  • Feeling that nothing will ever satisfy your yearning or fill the hole in your soul

Dry Drunk Syndrome Criticisms

It is imperative to note that those who are not part of the AA program often view the term “Dry Drunk” as offensive and overgeneralizing. For these individuals, the term is perceived as a shaming label for those who still suffer in their recovery or do not adhere to 12-Step methods.

Whether or not you suspect that you or your loved one may be suffering from Dry Drunk Syndrome, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the path to recovery today.

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