Dry Alcoholic, What Does It Mean When an Alcoholic Is “Dry?”
Detoxing from addictive substances and beginning a sober life is just the start of a lifelong recovery process. If getting and staying sober involved only a medical detox, substance abuse would not be the problem it is today.
For most substance abusers, getting and staying clean and sober is a full time job. Recovering from substance abuse typically involves a “psychic change” that literally transforms an alcoholic or addict into a whole new person. This “psychic change” can manifest early in recovery, or it might require years of work. Regardless of when it happens, it must be nurtured and maintained throughout life to produce optimal results.
Avoiding this work, whether in the context of a 12-Step program, an outpatient treatment group, or in one-on-one therapy, usually produces a clean and sober addict who behaves exactly like he or she did before detox. This person is said to have “untreated alcoholism” and is manifesting the characteristics of a “dry drunk.”
What Causes An Alcoholic to be Dry?
A dry alcoholic is an unhappy alcoholic. Substances abusers use drugs and alcohol to cope with life. After detox, substances are no longer an option. Without a program of recovery, addicts quickly return to the level of functioning they had before turning to drugs and alcohol for relief. Maturity levels and coping skills are often quite low.
The addict has to basically start all over again. This can be a lot of work, and not everyone in recovery is willing to do it. Those who do are rewarded with emotional well-being and happier lives. Those who don’t usually get stuck in stagnant conditions where they feel unhappy and resentful and no growth occurs.
Many addicts believe that recovery means getting back the life they had before addiction. If life before addiction had been all that great, substance abuse would probably not have become a problem. Feeling irritable, miserable and discontent, and having few coping skills was what drove addicts to abuse substances in the first place.
The objective of recovery is to create a new life that’s satisfying and happy. However, it takes a lot of work, and it’s a lifelong process. Those who refuse to do the work will find themselves in the same place they occupied before becoming addicted. Living the life of a “dry alcoholic,” they are not only miserable but also at great risk for relapse.
Common Characteristics of A Dry Alcoholic
We all have difficult days, but a dry alcoholic is having a bad day every day. Here are some other symptoms of being “dry:”
o Low tolerance for stress
o New addictions to replace old ones
o Refusing to do the recovery work required for a fulfilling sober life
o Refusing to admit to feeling unhappy in recovery
o Romancing the “good old days” of drinking and drugging
o Self-pity and resentment because being sober is no fun
o Unwilling to seek help
o Chronic negativity
Dry alcoholics have one thing in common; they aren’t motivated to put in the work it takes to be happy in sobriety. Sometimes this is because the addict has only gotten sober to please a loved one or to avoid legal problems. Sometimes it’s the belief that abstaining from substances is all that’s required for recovery. Getting sober and staying sober will always be a work in progress, but it has to be something that the alcoholic wants and is willing to work for.