|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 sobriety.
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
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
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
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 "badness".
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 gets done.
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
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 in life.
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: 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
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 done.
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