| Dry Drunk
Most people who have
experienced a dry drunk reach this point from not going to A.A
Go to meetings, (lots of meetings) Get a sponsor, and get
involved in A.A
Sobriety will necessarily have its ups and downs, its good
times and its bad times, if only because we live in a world
which we are inseparably joined. One doesn't always sustain
sobriety at the same level. There are fluctuations, shocks and
setbacks which, when addressed within the context of the A.A.
program, so not in themselves imperil the totality of one's
The Dry Drunk Syndrome is a term that should not be used as a
catch-all when one has a bad day or a bump in life throws us
for a while. Those are ups and downs that everyone experiences
and shouldn't be labeled to be anything more than what they
truly are. The Dry Drunk is a condition far more serious than
the highs and lows of our day-to-day existence.
The phrase "dry
drunk" has two significant words for the alcoholic.
"Dry" refers to the abstinence from drinking,
whereas "drunk" signifies a deeply pathological
condition resulting from the use of alcohol in the past. Taken
together these words suggest intoxication without alcohol.
Since intoxication comes from the Greek word for poison,
"dry drunk" implies a state of mind and a mode of
behavior that are poisonous to the alcoholic's well being.
OBVIOUS TRAITS Persons
experiencing a full-blown DRY DRUNK are, for that period,
removed from the world of sobriety; they fail, for whatever
reason, to accept the necessary conditions for sober living.
Their mental and emotional homes are chaotic, their approach
to everyday living is unrealistic, and their behavior, both
verbal and physical, is unacceptable.
This lack of sober realism
manifests itself in many ways.
1. Grandiosity, put very
simply, is an exaggeration of one's own importance. This can
be demonstrated either in terms of one's strengths or
weaknesses. In either case it is blatantly self- seeking or
self-serving, putting oneself at the center of attention, from
the "big me" who has ask the answers to the
"poor me" whose cup of self-pity runneth over and
wants all of our attention.
2. Judgmentalism is mutually
related to grandiosity. It means that the alcoholic is prone
to make value judgments - strikingly inappropriate evaluations
- usually in terms of "goodness" or
3. Intolerance leaves no room
for delaying the gratification of personal desires. This is
accomplished by gross confusion of priorities with the result
that a mere whim or passing fancy is mistakenly given more
importance than genuine personal needs.
4. Impulsivity is the result
of intolerance or the lack of ability to delay gratification
of personal desires. Impulsivity describes behavior which is
heedless of the ultimate consequence for self or others.
5. Indecisiveness is related
to impulsitivity in the sense that while the latter takes no
realistic account of the consequences of the actions, the
former precludes effective action altogether. Indecisiveness
stems from an unrealistic exaggeration of the negative
possibilities of the action ; so one wavers between two or
more possible courses of action, more times than not- nothing
These conditions, grandiosity,
judgmentalism, intolerance ,impulsivity, and indecisiveness
taken separately or together can lead to the following: a)
Mood swings, which are unrelated to the circumstances to which
one tries to link them. Alcoholics zero in on what they want
others to think is the cause of the mood swing, when it isn't
that at all. More often than not it is something much deeper
than the reason given. Inversely it can also be something
totally insignificant with no substance at all (e.g. the sugar
is too sweet or the donut is too round). Any excuse will do.
b) Unable to demonstrate emotions freely, naturally and
without constraint. No emotional spontaneity, no genuine
spark. c) Introspection. A very healthy thing to do is
difficult if not impossible for the "dry drunk". It
means to look inward to one's examining each thought and
desire, which is linked directly to one's attitude. d)
Detachment. Become aloof, display indifference, don't care one
way or the other, no special likes or dislikes, they withdraw.
e) Self-absorption- with a tendency to call attention to
whatever they have attained. Narcissism which is quite simply
self-love. They become pompous asses. f) The inability to
appreciate or enjoy themselves - nothing satisfies. g)
Evidence of disorganization, is easily distracted, complains
of boredom, and nothing seems to fit. h) A nostalgia sets in,
a kind of wistful yearning for something of the past, such as
freedom from care associated (falsely) with drinking, bars,
drinking associates, and friends; the music, blue lights, and
tinkle of the ice cubes in a glass in the neighborhood saloon.
i) There can be a kind of romanticism, which includes
unrealistic valuations of lifestyles and character traits
which can be and usually are objectively dangerous to one's
sobriety. j) Escapism. Fantasizing, daydreaming, and wishful
thinking are very much in evidence in the dry drunk syndrome
as the individual slips farther and farther from reality.
Since the abnormality of the
alcoholic's attitudes and behavior during the drinking career
is generally recognized, the persistence or these character
traits after stopping drinking (or the reappearance after an
interlude of sobriety) is equally abnormal.
The term "dry drunk"
therefore denotes the absences of favorable change in the
attitudes and behavior of the alcoholic who is not drinking,
or the reversion of these by the alcoholic who has experienced
a period of successful sobriety. From these conditions, it is
to be inferred that the alcoholic is experiencing discomfort
The self-destructive attitudes
and behavior of the dry drunk alcoholic are different in
degree but not in kind. The alcoholic, when drinking, has
learned to rely on a deeply inadequate, radically immature
approach to solving life's problems. And this is exactly what
one sees in the dry drunk.
ANALYSIS OF DRY DRUNK BEHAVIOR
The alcoholic who rationalizes their own irresponsible
behavior are also likely to find fault in the attitudes and
behavior of others. Although not denying their own
shortcomings, they attempt to escape notice by cataloging in
great detail the transgressions of others.
The classic maneuver of the
dry drunk is over-reaction. The alcoholic may attach a
seemingly disproportionate intensity of feeling to an ordinary
insignificant event or mishap.
Some alcoholics who experience
the dry drunk seem to know all the answers, are seldom at a
loss for words when it comes to self-diagnosis. Their
knowledge is quite impressive, their apparent insight, as
opposed to genuine insight, is convincing.
CORRECTIVE MEASURES: #1 Go To
Meeting. Those undergoing a dry drunk lead impoverished lives.
They experience severe limitations to grow,, to mature, and
benefit from the possibilities that life offers. They lack the
freshness and spontaneity that genuinely sober alcoholics
manifest. Their life is a closed system, attitudes and
behaviors are stereotyped, repetitive, and consequently
Alcoholics learn early that
humility and a power greater than them- selves are the bedrock
for a genuine and productive sobriety. An unusual measure of
self-discipline must accompany the ego deflation process.
Needed is self-discipline in honesty, patience and
responsibility towards the recovery process [and acceptance of
their disease]. [To improve long term goals of sobriety be
aware of mental stressors, get more involved in the recovery
program, get active in the 12 steps, get and use a sponsor,
talk things out.] Hopefully. they will begin to appreciate the
ironic folly of those alcoholics who think life has suddenly
become manageable again; whose sanity is beyond question; who
see no need of turning their lives over to a power greater
then them- selves; who find personal inventories unnecessary
since they are seldom in the wrong and are no longer subject
to the embarrassing need of repairing the wrongs they have
When dry drunk alcoholics
awaken to this irony that they, still unmanageable, still
powerless, are the ones who have made this remarkable
"recovery," they may feel sufficiently mortified to
want to change.
with permission of The A.A. Grapevine, Inc.
owned by a Friend
of Bill W.