You have finally cut alcohol out of your life.
For the first time in as long as you can remember, you are truly sober. But you might not feel any better yet. Where is the Promise Land that motivated you through those unbearable days of detox? Why are these emotional burdens still weighing you down? Does this mean that there was more to alcoholism than just drinking?
The answer is that, yes, there is more to alcoholism than the alcohol itself.
While addiction’s darkness certainly touches various parts of life, quitting the substance does not necessarily mean that everything will immediately return to its original light. Maintaining sobriety is a life-long journey. For some people, regaining—or creating for the first time—a life that was lost to addiction will take longer than it takes to detox.
A dry drunk has been able to stop their substance abuse but is still exhibiting the unhealthy behavior, habits, and mindsets that characterized their addiction. The term is not limited to alcoholism, but it is most often associated with drinking.
Signs & Solutions for a Dry Drunk
Sign: Nostalgia for Past, Intoxicated Memories – This nostalgia might manifest itself as escapist-fantasy filling your mind. You might subconsciously exaggerate the euphoria, relaxation, and community that was always exclusively associated with “being drunk” or “getting high.” Quite understandably, the first chapters in a freshly-sober life might look lonely and bleak if you do not have many happy sober memories to rely on for hope or inspiration.
Solution: Make New, Sober Memories – Just because you have cut out alcohol does not mean that you have forever cut out euphoria, relaxation, and community. You can still find rewards like happiness and belonging, you just need to use new ways to get to them. For example, regular exercise can produce natural, fulfilling endorphins while also helping you sleep better at night.
Sign: Regret and Despair Over Lost Time – Especially if you are someone who has had more years under the burden of addiction than not, the beginnings of sobriety might entail harsh awareness of a period of your life that you cannot (or do not want to) remember. This sign might also refer to lost relationships, dreams, careers, and a general way of life that you must let go of in sobriety.
Solution: Don’t Let the Sober Moments Slip By – Your feelings of loss are valid, and it is more than okay to let yourself acknowledge this and grieve. But you cannot dwell in isolation, discouragement, or shame. This is a breeding-ground for relapse. The best way you can respond is by taking hold of the present. Go after dreams that your addiction had kept from you. Make new memories, relationships, and habits!
Sign: Displaced Anger and Resentment – You might feel angry that after all of your hard work at detox and in treatment, that your life is still not how it was before you developed your addiction, or how you imagined it to be. Maybe you catch yourself resenting the loved one who originally convinced you to seek professional help or who initiated your intervention.
Solution: Apologize and Move Forward – Acknowledge your displaced anger. Talk to your loved one. Apologize to them and brainstorm together how to tackle the unresolved issues that had been hiding under your addiction. It could also be beneficial to set boundaries and expectations with your loved ones for how to deal with similar situations in the future.
Sign: Mental Illnesses like Anxiety, Depression, etc. – Maybe you turned to substances to self-medicate or to mask the root issues like trauma and chemical imbalances that can result in the development of mental illnesses. Addiction is a biological disease with many symptoms that overlap with mental illnesses (e.g. depression: isolation, impulsive and harmful decision-making, feelings of failure, self-depreciation). Thus, it follows that behavior that was once attributed to substance abuse might have had multiple sources.
Solution: A Comprehensive Recovery Plan – Choose a center that offers holistic treatment; i.e. a program which treats addiction as a biological disease, and that knows that recovery entails emotional and physical healing. The underlying issues need to be addressed before you can move forward.
How The Aviary Recovery Center Can Help
If anything in that list resonated with you, try to sit with it a little. Then talk to your support team about taking some proactive steps. If your dry drunk lifestyle is not addressed, serious consequences like developing substitute addictions and relapse could follow.
St. Louis area’s The Aviary Recovery Center offers the resources for holistic treatment and a strong post-recovery plan that includes post-treatment therapy to prevent you from becoming a dry drunk.
It might feel uncomfortable, but remember that being a dry drunk is not uncommon. It does not take away any of your hard-earned value as a sober person post-recovery.