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What is a Dry Drunk? Everything You Need to Know

Deciding to stop drinking and seeing it through takes dedication and courage. But the grass isn’t always immediately greener when we get to the other side. More often than not alcohol use disorder is deeply rooted in trauma, and when we stop drinking the handle that that trauma still has over us doesn’t go away.

Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism, and when we choose to stop drinking we can be left facing our demons without the usual protection alcohol offers. When someone stops drinking, but they’re still plagued by the negativity they tried to escape with alcohol we call it ‘dry drunk.’

Let’s take a closer look at dry drunk syndrome, the symptoms, and what you can do to live a more positive life without alcohol.

What Is a Dry Drunk?

“Dry drunk” was originally a slang term that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous. It has negative connotations to it, however, the signs and symptoms of dry drunk syndrome are a normal part of recovery. It is often part of a broader condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

As we mentioned earlier, most people turn to alcohol to mask some form of existential discomfort. This discomfort is often created by past trauma. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. When these problems exist at the same time as alcoholism we use the term dual diagnosis.

Imagine that you use drinking to mask the symptoms of anxiety and then you suddenly stop drinking. You’ve worked hard to quit drinking, but unless alcohol is to blame for your anxiety, then when you stop drinking the anxiety will be there.

These remaining negative signs and symptoms that are left behind when we stop drinking are what contribute to dry drunk syndrome.

The Signs and Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome

It’s common for anyone how has just quit drinking to slip into a bad day now and again. The dry drunk is different because their symptoms are persistent, and often similar in character as to the behaviors and feelings you might expect if they were drinking.

Common symptoms of dry drunk syndrome include:

  • Unstable moods – irritability, frustration, or anger 
  • Be judgmental of the way others choose to live their lives
  • Not being able to properly express what they’re feeling in relation to situations they experience
  • Difficulty focusing, finding that they’re easily distracted or that they’re unable to make decisions in an efficient manner
  • Resentfullness towards the person who “made” them quit drinking
  • Inability to accept the consequences of their actions
  • Impatience and impulsive behaviors that are often detrimental to themselves and others close to them
  • Increasing dishonesty
  • Using behaviors such as gambling or TV to deal with abstinence 
  • Grandiose thoughts or behaviors – increasing self-centeredness
  • Difficulty accepting that they can’t drink again while others can drink in moderation
  • Struggling to accept the time they wasted drinking and finding it difficult to move on
  • A negative view of the future – that they won’t be able to achieve their dreams.
  • Increased jealousy of those around them who seem to be handling their lives well
  • Becoming increasingly preoccupied with thoughts about drinking again
  • Increased frustration with treatment – might skip sessions or stop entirely

If you already have mental health concerns, then adding the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome can make things much worse. It is certainly not the reward you were looking for when fighting so hard to beat your addiction.

Dry drunk syndrome commonly leads to relapsing and returning to alcohol. To avoid this it’s important to better understand the reason behind your drinking in the first place, and how to develop some healthier coping mechanisms when our thoughts turn south.   

How to Beat Dry Drunk Syndrome

Beating dry drunk syndrome is about conquering the issues that led you to drink in the first place. It’s about creating a positive framework to work from. Fortunately, there are several ways you can help beat the symptoms.

Commit to Self-Care

Taking good care of yourself will help you to face life’s challenges more easily. The saying ‘a healthy mind, a healthy body’ certainly rings true. Here are a few things you can do to take better care of yourself

  • Engage in some physical activity every day
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try and get 7-8 hours sleep each night
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Put some time aside for your friends and family

Creating a self-care routine will help with your overall well-being. Don’t try and take everything on at once. Instead, gradually try to improve in the above factors each day.

Connect With Others

Opening up to others can be difficult and even intimidating at first, but it’s an essential part of the recovery process. Talking to loved ones and other people in recovery is a great way to connect and rebuild your support network.

Develop New Coping Mechanisms

Finding a purpose and a passion is a must for anyone, especially if you’re trying to turn your life around. Investing your time in new activities that are meaningful to you is paramount to recovery. 

Try to invest your time in hobbies such as:

  • yoga and meditation
  • writing
  • drawing
  • music
  • gardening
  • sports

These can all help to keep negative thoughts at bay and keep you focused. Grounding techniques and breathing exercises are also great ways to help you manage negative thoughts. 

Identify Your Reasons for Drinking

The reasons you started drinking won’t just go away because you stopped drinking. If left unfaced they might manifest themselves in other ways. Take some time to study yourself and identify the reasons you started drinking in the first place.

Once you identify the root causes of your drinking you’ll find that you have much more control over your urges and yourself.

Seek Professional Help

Dealing with the effects of trauma can be difficult. They are often buried deep in our subconscious. Seeking professional help such as a therapist or enrolling in the 12 steps program can be a great way to tackle the underlying issues that led you to drink in the first place.

Lifelong Addiction Treatment

Detoxification is the first step to beating alcohol addiction, but it doesn’t often end there. The symptoms of dry drunk syndrome don’t present themselves in everyone, but they are a common part of recovery for many. If you’ve already gone through alcohol rehab then the hard work is done. 

While it might still feel difficult, now is the time to take charge of your life, reconnect with people and start making small steps towards a more positive life. There are times when it will seem hard, but always remember that you have already proven that you’re strong enough to do the hardest part.If you or your loved one are struggling with dry drunk syndrome or any other aspect of alcohol addiction then do reach out to us. We are here to help you lead a happier and healthier life.

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