A dry drunk is someone who has stopped drinking alcohol and gone through withdrawal, but whose behavior and attitude is the same as it was while they were drinking or using. Even though the term dry drunk was originally intended to refer to alcoholics, it’s important to remember that being dry can refer to addicts to.
Getting sober from drugs and alcohol is hard. Going through withdrawal, changing your friends, going into a recovery house like Breakthrough Recovery Outreach are all big changes and big steps. They alone can feel overwhelming, but our work does not stop there. In fact, the time for us to really get to work is when the withdrawal wears off and we feel a little freedom. If we make the mistake of thinking that stopping our addiction is all we need to do for our recovery, we run the risk of becoming dry drunks.
Don’t sell yourself short. Kicking a habit is worth celebrating. But, recovery is about much more than not drinking or using. It is about an internal transformation that the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as a “psychic change.” It is also about The Promises which say that our whole outlook on life will change.
These changes come through working with a sponsor, working the steps, going to meetings, and listening to the stories of people who were dry drunks and remained miserable without the drink.
Could you be a dry drunk? It’s possible. Being a dry drunk can happen to all of us – including people who have stopped drinking and experienced the joys of recovery. If we find ourselves falling back into negative past patterns of behavior again, we may be experiencing dry drunk syndrome.
Like every part of recovery, determining if you are a dry drunk requires introspection and complete honesty. Do you feel any of the following things listed below? If so, you may be a dry drunk (don’t worry if you are, there IS a solution).
Are you sober, but filled with anger and resentment at people who have harmed you in the past?
Do small things set you off and upset you, make you anxious, or angry?
Are you miserable about not using or are you mad at the world?
Do you have trouble trusting people, and opening your heart to new friendships and stronger familial relationships?
Are you still acting the way you did before you got sober? Are you refusing to look for active employment, are you lying to people for no reason, are you shoplifting and stealing?
Personal example: I have worked the Twelve Steps several times. I’m not generally a dry drunk, but my disease will creep in if I am not vigilant. While I was using, I was a horrible employee – when I actually had a job. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about doing well. It was about not believing that I COULD do well. When I become dry in sobriety now, and it impacts my work performance, I have to ask myself the key question. Are you afraid to succeed, have you lost confidence? Because I’ve experienced long periods of recovery, I have the ability to see my behavior change, call my sponsor, and change it before being dry takes me to a place I don’t want to go (like using or losing a job I love).
If you are dry drunk and have never immersed yourself into recovery, you’ve not failed. You’re not drinking; you’re not using. That means the word HOPE belongs to you. It means you can change and find the happiness YOU deserve. And, you do deserve it. Wasn’t the hell of addiction enough pain? Let’s think about how to find happiness in sobriety.
Get a sponsor who can take you through the steps. Even if you’ve been sober for ten years, have never gotten a sponsor, and never worked a single step, there’s still time. And, for the record, there are millions of people who do that. If you put recovery on the back burner and just stopped drinking and using, you are far from alone. Nobody will judge you for asking for help now.
If you have been afraid of working the steps and stirring up feelings from the past, you are also not alone. The Twelve Steps take time and work. They will bring up old emotions, but at the end of all that work, you WILL find freedom, a new attitude, and purpose. You won’t have to feel those old feelings again. You’ll have cleared them out of your life. Room for happiness, joy, and optimism will open for you.
Get outside help if you need to. Some of us need outside help, like psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. If you need extra help, get it. Again, remember, you are worth it. You deserve to use every tool at your disposal to excavate your past and clear the way to a brighter future. Don’t feel ashamed – even if your family has always believed outside help is for other people and not you. You are entitled to do whatever it takes to heal.
Be rigorously honest in your step work. This complete honesty is required for both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Leave no stone unturned. I know from my own step work that this takes COURAGE, especially if you have experienced past trauma. As I worked my Fourth Step (while I was working with Chris Jacobs), it was very hard.
I remembered things I didn’t want to remember. I felt pain that I’d never allowed myself to feel before. I walked my way back through every past trauma and I cried. When I was overwhelmed, I took a day off, and was patient with myself. And, if you believe in God and pray, I said the same prayer every night as I was working that step. “God, please let me see what I need to see to heal – and walk with me as I do.” It helped tremendously. I talked about my feelings in meetings, I got experience, strength, and hope from others who worked the steps before me. I called my sponsor. I had forty yeas to work through. I made it, and I’ve never had to work a fourth step like that again.
When you are no longer a dry drunk, you will KNOW it. The weight of your soul becomes lighter. The leaves on the trees become greener, the sky is bluer, and you will feel joy. This is not to say that you won’t have a bad day ever again, but your pattern of behavior that accompanied your using will stop. In its stead, you’ll find yourself doing things you never imagined. You’ll be more generous with your feelings, more open to trust and love, more compassionate towards others, more faithful, more confident, more proud. More.
Work the program the way it is mean to be worked and that’s what you’ll find. MORE.
If you or a loved one has a problem with drugs and alcohol, Breakthrough Recovery Outreach has two Atlanta locations and is here to help you. Fill out the contact form below and start your recovery journey today.