You may have heard the term “dry drunk,” so what is dry drunk syndrome?
Not everyone begins their recovery journey feeling spry and chipper about sobriety. For a large number of people, a cluster of symptoms referred to as “dry drunk syndrome” can make you downright surly. That’s right, you are sober, yet you exude the signs and symptoms of your former drinking persona.
What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?
At first, it might be mystifying, this concept of a dry drunk. If you have gone to all the trouble and effort to stop drinking, why would you be so grumpy? What is that about?
It’s true that adjusting to life without liquor is not a one size fits all process. Some people might have ambiguous feelings about sobriety. They might pine for their drinking days and take it out on everyone in their sphere that they can no longer indulge.
There is no real defined reason why some people struggle with moodiness or feel unsatisfied in early recovery. Some theories suggest this mood state is more common among those who left rehab early. Some say it’s common in those who were never truly on board with getting sober in the first place. Some suggest that the person never dealt with underlying mental health or emotional issues. Others posit that the condition is just a prolonged withdrawal effect known as PAWS.
Whatever the cause, dry drunk syndrome is like being sober but not being actually in recovery. Keep reading to learn more.
Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
Someone with dry drunk syndrome will display signs and symptoms such as:
- A negative attitude.
- Mood swings.
- Living in the past and longing to drink.
- Alcohol cravings.
- Being impatient.
- Blaming others for your problems or flaws; playing the victim.
- Trouble making decisions.
- Harshly judging self and others.
- Being defensive.
- Acting self-important.
- Replacing drinking with another compulsive behavior.
- Feeling bored.
- Feeling jealous of others in recovery.
- Missing meetings or dropping out of A.A.
Is it Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?
Some may suggest that dry drunk syndrome is an offshoot of protracted withdrawal. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) refers to the most psychological symptoms that linger for months after rehab. It is thought that PAWS stems from the effects on the brain caused by prolonged use of alcohol.
PAWS symptoms include:
- Not able to think clearly.
- Memory problems.
- Being highly emotional or emotional numbness.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Sensitive to stress.
- Poor coordination.
- Mood swings.
- Symptoms of depression.
- Symptoms of anxiety.
How to Work Through Dry Drunk Syndrome
If you find you are showing signs of dry drunk syndrome, and may even fear it could lead to a relapse, try these tips:
- Stay Connected. If you are experiencing these symptoms, reach out to your sponsor or trusted recovery support network. Sharing your concerns with someone who is supportive of your recovery allows you to gain helpful insights. They most likely also went through a spell of dry drunk syndrome and can offer encouragement and guidance.
- Stay Active. One of the best things you can do when feeling the effects of the dry drunk syndrome is to get daily exercise. This can involve a simple daily walk, a workout at the gym, a hike, a bike ride, or a run. Just the process of moving your body causes the brain to release endorphins, which then improve your mood.
- Work the Program. You might have noticed that you’ve been finding excuses for missing meetings lately. In fact, dropping out of A.A. can be a sign of impending relapse. Make an effort to attend extra meetings, or to take on more study. Becoming more engaged in the program is going to be protective against relapse.
- Practice Self-Care. One way to better cope with the dry drunk syndrome is to indulge in some self-care. These are holistic techniques that improve your state of mind, reduce stress, and help you to relax. Try some yoga classes, learn deep breathing skills, keep a journal, engage in art projects, or learn to meditate.
- Get Counseling. Meeting with a therapist who can provide objective guidance is always helpful. Discuss your honest feelings about your recovery journey so far. Tell the therapist if you feel torn or disheartened about sobriety. They will provide helpful insights and will ask you to do some thoughtful exercises that will help you gain clarity.
- Find Purpose. In early recovery, it is common to feel depressed and somewhat lacking in direction. Define a couple of goals you want to accomplish in the near term. These can be personal goals, career goals, or even a commitment to volunteer your time for a good cause. Having a purpose in life can lift your spirits and help you through this bump in the road.
Warning Signs of Relapse
Because dry drunk syndrome can be a precursor to relapse, it is always good to watch out for the red flags. Take the offensive if you do believe relapse is imminent. Call your sponsor, see your therapist, or go back to rehab.
Signs of rehab may include:
- Isolating behaviors. Staying away from loved ones is the beginning of avoiding accountability.
- Dropping your healthy habits. When you have established healthy habits in early recovery, and then begin to abandon them, it’s a sign of relapse.
- Avoiding your sober support network. If you stop going to meetings, avoid your sponsor, or stop chatting with sober friends, it can mean impending relapse.
- Romanticizing the old drinking days. You may be daydreaming about your former drinking days and forgetting all the pain it caused.
- Negative mood. If you begin to display a negative mood state on a consistent basis, it is a warning sign for relapse.
- Neglecting responsibilities. You may begin shirking your work and family obligations, which is a sign of relapse.
- Hanging out with former drinking buddies. If you have started seeing old drinking friends again, you are on the road to relapse.
Dry drunk syndrome can undermine your efforts to launch a new fruitful life in recovery. If you struggle with dry drunk syndrome, getting some counseling or joining a support group can help you move forward.
Journey Hillside Tarzana for Comprehensive Alcohol Recovery and Aftercare
Journey Hillside Tarzana can help you move through the emotional challenges of early recovery. For more about our program, please call us today at (877) 414-1024.