What Is A Dry Drunk?

dry drunk

The road to recovery from alcohol use disorder can be long and arduous. Stopping to drink represents a significant first step in your life. It is more complicated than giving up alcohol most of the time, however, to become sober.

It may be challenging to deal with “dry drunk syndrome,” a term from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Throughout recovery, these characteristics and behaviors are common after alcoholism.

Someone who stopped drinking alcohol might still “act drunk” or have the same issues that led him or her to quit drinking.

This condition is usually associated with a broader condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Language Surrounding the term “Dry Drunk”

When used negatively, “dry drunk” is often associated with alcohol abuse. In AA, for example, it’s sometimes used to describe someone who isn’t trying hard enough or working hard enough. As well, calling someone in recovery a “drunk” isn’t helpful.

Avoid using this term when speaking about or to people in recovery. Rather than generic symptoms, specify specific behavior.

There is nothing shameful about the symptoms of ‘dry drunk’; although the term has received quite a bit of controversy, the symptoms it prescribes are part of a normal recovery process for many people.

Symptoms Of A Dry Drunk

Feelings and behaviors associated with this phenomenon may be analogous to those you’d experience while still drinking.

As some treatment professionals have noted, symptoms may also resemble those of a late withdrawal.


You might experience some changes in your mood or emotional state, including:

  • Anger, irritability, or frustration
  • Feeling down
  • Having difficulty focusing, being impatient, or restless
  • You are worried that you will not be able to stay sober
  • Anger at yourself, alcohol-consuming friends, or those who want you to quit drinking
  • Feelings of hopelessness about quitting drinking
  • Boredom or distraction

Additionally, you may experience rapid or frequent mood swings. It might seem hard to express your emotions so that you become even more frustrated.


This syndrome can be characterized by specific behaviors and experiences, such as:

  • The tendency to act aggressively or impulsively
  • Sleeping problems
  • Hardly forgiving yourself, blaming yourself, or blaming others
  • You might stop attending meetings or counseling sessions because of frustration with treatment
  • An incessant desire for alcohol and frequent daydreaming
  • Untrustworthiness
  • Using other behaviors to cope with abstinence, such as TV or gambling

Your relationships and interactions with others can be strained by these behaviors and emotional concerns, especially if the effects of alcohol have already been felt.

This can make matters worse if you’re already suffering from depression or other mental health issues. It’s common for this to lead to relapse, especially when more helpful coping mechanisms aren’t available.

Will It Happen To Everyone?

Not always. Individuals recover at different rates. Depending on who you are, it may look different.

There is some evidence that people who leave treatment programs early or do not address underlying factors that contribute to alcohol misuse are more likely to develop this syndrome.

It hasn’t been proven, however.

There are also factors such as underlying mental health issues and a lack of social support that can contribute to homelessness.

Can It Result In Relapse?

The presence of the syndrome is sometimes assumed to mean someone is about to relapse and drink again; this isn’t always the case. In the event that relapse occurs, it can be predicted and characterized before use takes place.

It seems that dry drunk syndrome may serve as a sign that someone has relapsed, even if they don’t drink anymore.

You should keep in mind that relapse is a normal, common occurrence during recovery.

Coping With It

You should not be too harsh on yourself if you suspect you feel you are a “dry drunk”. The process of recovering is a part of many people’s lives.

Even so, there are ways to minimize the effects of these symptoms on your life and manage them.

Connecting To Others

Even when people don’t have experience with alcohol or recovery, it can be difficult to open up about it, but it’s crucial to the process.

When you share with loved ones what you are experiencing, you may be able to help them understand. Additionally, it will make it easier for them to offer empathy and support when your feelings and emotions cause you to think about drinking.

You may also find it helpful to talk to others recovering from addiction. While many people don’t recognize or talk about this part of recovery, it is a common part of recovery.

If you would like to speak to your recovery sponsor, accountability partner, or similar individual, you should do so. It is likely that many people have walked this same path.

Self-Care Routine

You can weather any challenge more easily by taking care of your health, including urges to drink.

Here are some tips for a self-care routine:

  • Make sure you are physically active every day.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Eat nutritious meals.
  • Make sure you get enough rest.
  • If you can, go outside.
  • Spend time with friends and family.

This list is not something you have to do every day. Consider building a few of them into your routine instead.

Perhaps you would like to start by just going to the gym every day at a certain time. Focus on getting yourself there, not on doing a massive workout.

Coping Methods

You can handle distressing emotions and thoughts about drinking better when you have helpful coping mechanisms in place.

When dealing with difficult thoughts, grounding techniques can help, as can breathing exercises to help you cope.

Trying something new isn’t always part of coping, though. Taking time out for your favorite hobbies can be one of them.


  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Pottery
  • Journaling
  • Sports
  • Home Projects
  • Gardening

During the early stages of your recovery, it may not be quite as enjoyable to enjoy these hobbies. The first few days may be difficult for you. In the future, you can always try a new coping technique or explore a new hobby if you still feel the same way.


When you recover from addiction, you may feel hopeless. You may also carry some feelings of pain and have plenty of sharp words for yourself if you’ve ever done something that injured you or someone you love while you were drinking.

Your best efforts are aimed at treating an addiction that is a serious illness. Be patient and kind to yourself, especially on the days you are feeling those emotions the least.

Is it not working for you? Ask yourself what you’d tell a close friend in your situation.

Reasons for Drinking

People who turn to alcohol need to be treated for the underlying reasons why they did so.

It’s not enough to eliminate alcohol from your diet. A qualified therapist can help you explore the causes and habits behind your drinking.

You will often be able to resolve your alcohol problem by understanding the why.

Seek Professional Help

If you are recovering from addiction, you will benefit from having some type of extra support, such as a 12-step program or sessions with an addiction counselor.

A successful recovery program is a result of finding one that works for you and sticking with it. Taking a step back and considering a different strategy is a good idea if one does not feel right.

Supporting a Loved One

Having someone you love in recovery can be frustrating. Maybe they are taking a step backward, not forward. The process of recovery is normal, and this phase won’t last forever.

Until then, you can support them in a few ways.


Encouragement can be powerful.

It’s easy to start focusing on all the negatives when you’re in recovery. After several months of sobriety, they might have slipped up and drunk some drinks. Perhaps they feel excluded from social events.

When you commend them for their accomplishments or acknowledge their choices to avoid potentially tempting situations, such as an office happy hour, you can help them see the bright side.

Be Patient

In many cases, the emotions associated with recovering from alcoholism and addiction are painful and difficult to deal with. Feeling frustrated or angry, struggling to control their drinking, or expressing many negative thoughts are common signs of depression. Alternate moods may occur frequently and abruptly.

You can still be affected by their emotional state even if they direct them toward themselves. Remember that they might not have chosen to be in this situation.

Setting and enforcing clear boundaries around behaviors that affect you negatively, such as angry outbursts and dishonesty, is crucial. As they work toward making changes, they must also cultivate patience.

Support Positive Habits

It may be beneficial to your loved one to spend time with them doing activities you both enjoy. This will help them feel more optimistic and positive about the world. It is also possible to divert your attention from drunken thoughts by engaging in hobbies.

Join a hiking group, volunteer, or even take cooking classes together.

Despite not sharing the same interests or pursuits, you can still encourage them to pursue activities and hobbies they enjoy.

As they learn new skills or reach milestones, like completing a 5K or making fancy dishes, show your support.

Get Support For Everyone Involved 

It may be best to participate in treatment with your loved one whenever possible, but you should also seek out psychological assistance on your own. This applies especially if you are experiencing problems with your moods or specific behaviors on a daily basis.

Abusive behavior is not excused by alcohol addiction. Talking to a therapist about abusive or toxic behavior is the best way to keep yourself safe.

Be sure to look after yourself outside of therapy. While they are recovering, ensure you take care of yourself.

If you’re burnt out and neglecting your own needs, you won’t be much help to your loved one.

Start Recovery Today

Recovering from addiction is a challenging, complicated process. There is more to quitting drinking than just giving it up. As part of your explorations, find out how your lifestyle contributes to your drinking patterns and behaviors.

You may face a long and painful road to recovery, but paying attention to the challenges along the way will help you better navigate obstacles.

Contact us today, at ReAlign Detox, to get the help you or your loved one may need.