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How To Avoid Being A Dry Drunk in Recovery

Although not drinking, this woman displays the negative behaviors of an alcoholicA dry drunk is someone who no longer uses drugs or alcohol but still behaves in a dysfunctional way. The term “dry drunk” refers more to a condition or syndrome than an individual. Remember, being an addict isn’t just about the use of drugs or alcohol, it is also about patterns of behavior. So how does one avoid becoming a dry drunk while in recovery?

There are usually two ways that someone fits the criteria for dry drunk syndrome while in recovery. The first is they remove drugs or alcohol but do very little to address or change their internal or emotional behavior. The second describes someone who was abstinent and on a productive recovery path but slowly returns to unrealistic or unhealthy modes of thinking and acting (this also puts them at risk of relapse).

Some common attitudes or modes of thinking associated with dry drunk syndrome are:

  • Superiority, grandiosity or a self-centered attitude.
  • Impulsivity, including poor impulse control and impatience.
  • Being overly judgemental.
  • Complacency. This is true for anyone in recovery. In order for a recovery to be successful, an individual needs to take an active role in it.
  • Becoming very negative or placing inappropriate blame on people or things.

Keep in mind that periodically, whether in recovery or not, we experience these modes of thinking. But if you are in recovery, keep an eye out for destructive behaviors or actions that can result from these patterns of dry drunk thinking. This might include:

  • Feelings of being restless, irritable or discontent.
  • Becoming prone to feeling emotionally dull or, it’s opposite, overreacting to situations.
  • Engaging in “euphoric recall” about the past, or engaging in unrealistic “wishful” thinking about the present and future.
  • Losing interest in self-improvement.

All of these feelings and thoughts become even more troubling if you begin to act upon them. This is especially true if minimizing, rationalizing, and denial start to become real again. Or if you begin to act like you are above your own recovery process.

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