What is a dry drunk?

A dry drunk is someone who is no longer drinking or using but who has not changed their life, feelings or behaviour. Lots of alcoholics and addicts think that they only need to stop drinking or using and all will be well. They think their willpower will solve the problem. To a certain extent it can. Many of us can stop drinking or using but we are still thinking about our drinking and using. It frequently dominates our thoughts and therefore the chances are we cannot stay stopped.

Why is this not an option?

Dry drunks are not good adverts for a clean and sober life. Many people who need to clean up their act look at these people and judge that, if that is what life is like when they give up, they might as well stay drinking or using. I know someone who attends my local AA meetings. Every meeting he shares how he has been sober for so many years (around 18) but does not believe in anything nor need a 12 Step programme to do that. You could not hope to meet anyone more miserable. He looks it and sounds it – and repeats the same mantra every meeting.

A dry drunk is often angry, bad-tempered, irritable, anti-social and unhappy. He or she might also still be dishonest and selfish – just like when drinking or using. Often dry drunks have stopped drinking or using on their own – but not always. You can certainly meet them at AA or NA meetings.

‘Clinging on’

Dry drunks may not have accepted their powerlessness over alcohol and drugs. They are staying off the drink or drugs through their willpower, clinging on by their fingernails. Some are relieved in many instances to have got to the end of another hard day staying sober. They may not have accepted the existence of a Higher Power in their lives, nor had the revelation of their defects of character and their part in the debris of the past. They have probably not made their amends to those they have harmed in their past. This is to free themselves of all resentments, guilt and shame. They are probably not enjoying each day and learning from it. Dry drunks most likely aren’t  making sure that they are a positive influence on the people around them rather than a negative one. In other words, they do not have the benefit of a programme for life which can make them fulfilled and happy. They certainly do not have a positive message to share with other alcoholics and addicts.

Getting help

If this is you, and you are not drinking or using, but nor are you getting help and support from people working a programme and nor are you working a programme yourself, be open minded and give it a try. Life as a dry drunk is no fun and you might almost just as well be drinking or using (but don’t go that far!). Give a local recovery meeting a try. What have you got to lose?

If you have an alcohol or drug related problem, please call 01462 851 414 for confidential help and advice