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How Do I Know If I’ve Become A “Dry Drunk”?

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Home QA How Do I Know If I’ve Become A “Dry Drunk”?


“We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough,” the authors of Alcoholics Anonymous write. “Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough,” the explain, “Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.” Dry drunk is a state of ego in which someone stops “working” their program and starts to fall into pride. They’re too good for meetings, don’t need a higher power, and thinks recovery is stupid. Staying sober is enough, they tell themselves. Unwilling to commit to progressively working on themselves, they halt their progress exactly where it is. Engaging in problematic behaviors causes people to turn away from the dry drunk. Try telling someone acting like a dry drunk that they are! Caught up in self-obsession, and often self-loathing, they are unable to see the error of their ways.

Entering a stage of being a “dry drunk” isn’t a failure or a regression. Often, it’s a way of avoiding, which is a mechanism for coping. When the emotional and spiritual work of recovery becomes too challenging, many decide they want a “break”. The tides of life, the natural flow of energy which keeps time moving forward, cannot just be stopped for one individual. Though they try, they create more misery as they go.

Symptoms Of A Dry Drunk

  • Lacking in optimistic and positive attitude
  • Irritable and discontent
  • Reactive rather than responsive
  • Feeling unhappy
  • Envious of others, as though you have lost something you once had
  • Losing manageability over emotions
  • Often acting irrational and erratic
  • Intentionally hurting others through harmful behaviors
  • Being resentful and unwilling to make amends
  • Cutting off a spiritual program entirely
  • Criticizing sobriety, the 12 steps, and other recovery programs
  • Complaining, nagging, and fantasizing about the “good old days” of drinking and using

Getting Back On Track

When your ego gets in your way, the quickest route back to a solid program of recovery is through a little humility. Humility is a modest view of oneself. You don’t have to think lowly of yourself, but you have to bring yourself back down to “right size”. Remember, that recovery is vulnerable and fragile. Too much misery will just be the same as when you were drinking and using. One day your brain might ask, “What’s the difference?” Realize that each moment you spend pushing your program of recovery away, you push yourself closer to a drink or a drug. Call your sponsor, reach out to a therapist, make a coffee date with a friend, and talk it out. You’ll get back on track in no time.

Everyone is capable of recovery. Design For Change provides treatment programs and recovery services which help clients create real change in their lives through real action in treatment. For more information, call (877) 267-3646.

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