What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) coined the term dry drunk to describe a person who is no longer consuming alcohol but still exhibits behavioral and emotional problems of an alcoholic. Some of these behavioral and emotional problems include irritability, impatience, impulsivity, and passing judgment on others. Some dry drunks exhibit grandiose behaviors or an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They like being the center of attention and often are dishonest and overreact to seemingly normal situations. Dry drunks often fantasize about drinking and they may not attend 12-step meetings or participate in recovery programs. These symptoms and characteristics of a dry drunk are chronic, not temporary changes in mood and behavior.
An integral part of AA is to work through the 12 steps to recovery that help those who wish to seek sobriety and a productive, healthy life. This is accomplished not only through abstinence from drinking but by making a spiritual transformation. This transformation is done by admitting powerlessness over the addiction and having a higher power for removal of character defects and beginning spiritual care.
AA suggests that individuals who abstain from alcohol but do not fully engage themselves in the process of recovery, will continue to experience spiritual, emotional, and relationship difficulties. Dry drunks will not drink but they also will not learn the strategies for managing their lives. AA believes that a person cannot truly recover from alcohol dependence if they are not willing to look at their lives holistically. A dry drunk will stay drunk even if they are not drinking.
Sobriety cannot be achieved simply by not drinking. An individual must incorporate a program of recovery through acceptance of a problem and implementation of the 12 principles of AA. This level of sobriety leads to spiritual transformation.
Outside of AA, a dry drunk can also refer to those recovering from drug abuse. The individual may not be using drugs but they too are not working a program of recovery. For problem gamblers, the term dry drunk is also used. It has become customary for anyone who abstains from drinking, using drugs, or gambling but who does not work a program of recovery to be called a dry drunk.
The dry drunk does have a higher risk for relapse as there is no program to teach them how to live without drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Their program of recovery is abstaining and that is the extent of their recovery.