What is Dry Drunk Syndrome and is there a solution?
Addicts who do not receive the necessary treatment for the emotional and psychological aspects of their addiction in sobriety can often struggle with what’s known as dry drunk syndrome. Heading into the light of sobriety after being accustomed to the darkness of addiction or struggle with alcohol can be extremely harsh. Therefore, getting someone to begin therapy and rehabilitation is a great victory for them and for all those loved ones affected by the addiction. We have the most common asked questions and some great tips and tricks to learn more about this difficult syndrome, so that recovery, real long-term recovery and avoiding dry drunk syndrome is possible for you or a loved one.
There is a bit of a wake-up call though. It takes way more than the physical act of sobriety to overcome alcohol addiction. In fact, it is remiss to call sobriety, true sobriety a physical act. Recovery from alcoholism is a long-term process that can be difficult to see the end of at the best of times, and even when a person is not drinking. This journey to the land of recovery has its own set of hazards; bright, blinding lights which can put the journey back a few unwanted steps. Things like; how much support a person has, how long they were dependent on alcohol, and whether they sought professional treatment can all make a difference avoiding dry drunk syndrome.
There are people who have sobered up who will continue to behave in ways similar to when they were in a state of drunkenness. This doesn’t mean they have hit the bottle again and relapsed, but it can point to a bigger issue. It may be a sign that someone is struggling with dry drunk syndrome.
Dry Drunk Syndrome -Defining a dry drunk.
A “dry drunk” is an alcoholic who is sober but continues showing unhealthy habits that often defined their drunken state. Non-drinking alcoholics with dry drunk syndrome often tend to look out on life and their recovery in a negative manner. This, as you can imagine, makes it hard to mend relationships with loved ones and establish normal, regular day to day routines.
It is also important to note that dry drunk syndrome can also be a warning sign for relapse. It is not uncommon, it is actually more likely for someone with negative habits and behaviours to revert into a previous pattern of drinking than it is for someone who is more positive and has healthier coping strategies.
What is the cause of DDS?
There are a large amount of people who have not been in recovery or who don’t know about the process of rehabilitation. These people find themselves confused about how a person can be sober and still behave as they did while drunk. It seems more reasonable that, once a person becomes sober, things can only get better, right? Wrong.
When a person receives the correct treatment, the outcome is generally positive. However, when someone only stops the physical act of drinking, and forgoes the treatment which looks at the underlying causes of their addiction, this can make it harder for them to change their dry drunk habits when sober.
Dry drunk syndrome then can often occur as a result of someone not getting the complete care they need to fully overcome their alcohol addiction. In many cases, this is a person who has attempted to stop drinking on their own without professional treatment.
People that don’t receive treatment for their alcoholism may be able to stop drinking, but may still struggle with the negative dry drunk behaviours and emotions tied to their addiction.
Dry Drunk Symptoms and Signs
Dry drunk syndrome is different from moodiness or having an off day in sobriety. It is normal to have days that are more challenging than others.
Many symptoms of a dry drunk are similar to those of someone who is still addicted to alcohol. While a person may not be physically dependent on alcohol and actively drinking, many emotional or behavioural symptoms may still be present.
Some common signs and symptoms of dry drunk syndrome include:
- expressing longing for their past drinking days
- acting selfishly
- General negative outlook
- making harsh judgments about themselves or others
- having unrealistic expectations about recovery
- avoiding friends, family, and other loved ones
- replacing alcohol with another vice (e.g. drugs, food, sex, excessive internet use)
- Jealousy of others without addiction troubles
- engaging in risky or dangerous behaviours
- Challenges in the ability to function while pursuing day-to-day tasks
In some cases, a dry drunk may act as if they going to addiction support groups like AA and 12-Step programmes are beneath them. They refuse therapy and remain in denial of the fact that they need to stop and investigate the factors that triggered or contributed to their drinking.
Alcoholism has levels. It is not plainly about the bottle’s content. Think of it like a cake, full of layers. Getting sober is the top layer, the icing and is a crucial first layer to cut through on the delicious road to recovery. Under that initial layer there are many more, such as dealing with past and present traumas, confronting abuse and neglect. Alcohol use disorders of a dry drunk also commonly co-occur with depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental and medical problems. These are all layers that the cake of sobriety is filled with and should be given as much time and effort as the act of putting down a bottle receives.
Getting physically sober isn’t a magic want that solves all the problems. It doesn’t eradicate previous or ongoing struggles. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other unresolved issues and give up drinking, you will still struggle with those issues and may indeed suffer from dry drunk sysndrome if you don’t go for treatment.
How do I prevent DDS?
Dry drunk syndrome doesn’t just make a non-drinking alcoholic more difficult to be around. It can also be dangerous, increasing the risk for relapse or falling into other addictive patterns.
Alcohol addiction is complex, and recovery can be challenging. It’s important to remember that those dealing with dry drunk syndrome shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about their struggles. This can, and inevitably will worsen their behaviours.
The severity of “dry drunk” symptoms can vary from person to person, here is a breakdown of the more sought after things you can do to push people into positive places through acts of encouragement:
- encourage them to go to therapy and daily support groups
- talk to them about how they are feeling
- introducing new interests or hobbies
- help them find employment
- drive them to counselling appointments
- Take them along to social functions and events
- Social support paired with professional treatment from outpatient providers can sometimes be enough of a positive motivation to move a person towards recovery.
It must be noted that this is not a blueprint for overall successful recovery for everyone that practices these positive reinforcements. For those who are experiencing more severe symptoms or are at high risk for relapse may need more severe and intense support.
What’s the best option to prevent DDS?
Good question! Simply put, the most effective way to prevent or treat dry drunk syndrome is to get professional help by entering an inpatient rehabilitation programme. Typically, inpatient programmes offer a wide array of treatment services that help to treat the whole person, rather than just the alcohol dependency itself. Rehab centres are quite special. They offer supervised, structured settings where a person can receive 24-hour comprehensive care.
Some of the services offered within an inpatient programme include:
- medication-assisted treatment
- individual cognitive behavioural therapy
- relapse prevention
- dialectical behaviour therapy
- family counselling
- aftercare support
- group therapy/support groups
When a patient enters inpatient treatment, it provides a place for them to address all aspects of addiction and pursue lifelong recovery. It’s almost a no brainer!
For more information on DDS or substance abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532
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