There is a condition which almost sounds like a contradiction in terms. It may seem like the strangest complaint you’ve never heard of, but Dry Drunk Syndrome is surprisingly common and impacts many people.
It exists where someone with alcoholism who may have stopped drinking for some time, acts as if still addicted. They appear to exhibit the same behaviour and characteristics they displayed while under the grip of dependency.
The term “Dry Drunk” is a reference to Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step rehabilitation programme. It relates to the physical signs you show while in the throes of the condition.
If you have Dry Drunk Syndrome, you may appear under the influence, even if you have not touched a drop in weeks. You may wobble or stumble when you walk or slur your words when you speak. These are some of the physical indicators which could point to Dry Drunk Syndrome.
The condition also has emotional or behavioural symptoms, which can affect your personal relationships, be it with your partner; close friends or loved ones. You may become irritable or argumentative with your family and show a propensity to lash out.
Acting Drunk When Sober
You may be prone to rash, impulsive decisions, with potentially far-reaching consequences. It could also have serious connotations for your professional life, your job, career and working relationship with colleagues. It can feel as if your efforts at recovery have come to nothing. On the other hand, you may find it hard to accept your life has changed, and you are no longer living with addiction, which may be at the very root of the problem.
Many people living with Dry Drunk Syndrome ironically struggle to adapt to their new life, free of alcoholism. They may have difficulty adjusting or making the emotional and behavioural changes associated with recovery.
It is as if the behaviour they displayed when drinking became so commonplace it has then become hard to stop. Unfortunately, if unchecked, it is not uncommon for Dry Drunk sufferers to regress and start drinking again.
People in recovery often find it hard to alter their behaviour, particularly if they have emotional or psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression. They may have also experienced a recent upheaval, be it a bereavement, financial worries, work or relationship problems, which may have caused them to drink to begin with.
The Effects of Untreated Addiction
They may still be plagued by the same negative thoughts and feelings which led them to consume alcohol in the first place. Without a suitable coping mechanism in place, they may fall back into old habits and start drinking again.
The syndrome can occur when someone understandably assumes attending rehab and undergoing detox will resolve their problems with alcohol addiction. Recovery is an ongoing, possibly life-long commitment. However, some feel once they leave rehab their rehabilitation is over and everything can go back to normal. This can sometimes lead to Dry Drunk Syndrome.
This can be intensified by failing to attend support groups or recognising the signs of relapse when you leave drug or alcohol rehab. It is also recommended you choose behavioural therapy or enter a 12-step or other alcohol rehabilitation programme. There you can meet with fellow addicts to talk about your problems.
Some 12-step fellowships refer to the syndrome as “untreated alcoholism”, as the condition shares many characteristics and can be treated through similar techniques. It is possible to overcome the effects through continual rehab and addiction counselling, where you can explore both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.
There are steps you can take to avoid Dry Drunk Syndrome and free yourself from the shadow of alcoholism. It might be a difficult journey, but you have already shown the strength to stop drinking, and can overcome this obstacle. Don’t give up hope.