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The Dry Drunk Syndrome: A Hazard to the Non-drinking Alcoholic


When an alcoholic stops drinking, it’s cause for rejoicing.

Unfortunately, sobriety is not guaranteed to last. It takes hard work and commitment and a keen eye for dangers.

One danger to the non-drinking alcoholic is the dry drunk, a set of habits and attitudes that take the joy out of life for the alcoholic and those around him or her. Those habits often precede a relapse into drinking, even if the alcoholic has been sober for years.

A dry drunk can be successfully treated. Here are some signs that will help you recognize the condition, and some suggestions on how to cope with it.

Warning Signs

During their drinking years, alcoholics develop many abnormal attitudes and behaviors, which come with them into sobriety, and are characteristic of the dry drunk. Often, family members don’t recognize the symptoms of a dry drunk as anything unusual, since they have become so used to the abnormal behavior of the alcoholic.

Some typical signs of a dry drunk are:

  • acting self-important, either by having all the answers, or playing poor me.
  • making harsh judgments of oneself and others.
  • being impatient or pursuing whims.
  • blaming others for shortcomings one suspects in oneself.
  • being dishonest, usually beginning with little things.
  • impulsive behavior which ignores what’s best for oneself and others.
  • inability to make decisions.
  • mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied.
  • detachment, self-absorption, boredom, distraction or disorganization.
  • nostalgia for the drinking life.
  • fantasizing, daydreaming and wishful thinking or euphoria.
  • less participation in a 12-step program or dropping out altogether.


Talk to your sponsor, go to meetings, meditation, seek out therapy, and don’t drink.
This syndrome is unfortunately very common, and highlights the untreated emotional issues underneath the addictive disorder.

From: Falling Back: The Dry Drunk Syndrome Discussion Guide
By:  Jeanne M. Englemann



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