Long-term recovery requires some of the most diligent work of our lives. In addition to not picking up a drink or a drug, we regularly make efforts to improve ourselves. This can seem like a daunting task. One must have faith that if he or she sticks with their program of recovery, they will find peace in sobriety. Those who don’t have that kind of faith in the steps may be able to avoid drugs and alcohol, but they might also not make much progress on deeper levels. This is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘dry drunk’.
A dry drunk may be a person who has given up mind-altering substances but has made no effort to create positive changes on an emotional or behavioral level. The term may also refer to someone who has started a 12-step program but is regressing in recovery. Without working the steps, attending meetings and doing everything possible to address the underlying causes of addiction, we can remain abstinent but still live in the same state of misery as when we were using.
The symptomology of a dry drunk may manifest in a number of ways, including poor coping skills and a lack of interest in learning how to deal with life as it is rather than how one thinks it should be. One may romanticize using, feel self-pity, find new vices to abuse or display impulsive behaviors. They may also act superior to others or overreact to normal situations.
In a general sense, the dry drunk lives in a world of negativity and feels unfulfilled in life. Avoiding or emerging from a dry drunk a requires work on oneself through a 12-step program and the develop a network of supportive friends who keep us honest and accountable. Feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled is a sign that something is not quite right in recovery, however it is not a sign that one should give up.