Dry Drunk Behavior

Dry Drunk Behavior

Do you know someone that still acts like an alcoholic, but without drinking anymore? The term for such people is “Dry Alcoholics” or “Dry Drunks.” Some dry drunks have simply replaced alcohol addiction with another type of impulsive behavior. Sometimes dry alcoholics are people in recovery who are regressing rather than progressing—this means that typical issues associated with sobriety are coming up, but the individual is using poor behavior or avoidance to dealing with them. Like Peter Pan, some of these alcoholics simply don’t want to grow up.  Keep reading to learn more about how to deal with this kind of dry drunk behavior.

What Is a Dry Alcoholic?

Some addicts simply replace one substance with another. An alcoholic who doesn’t want to confront whichever underlying issues were leading to the alcoholism, may find themselves sliding into other types of obsessive behavior or relationships. Here are three common subtypes of dry alcoholics you may encounter in your life:

  • The Romeo. This person avoids dealing with himself by sinking all of his energy into romantic relationships, even when newly sober. The Romeo may come on strong and fast, with an almost suffocating romantic energy that can seem intoxicating at first. The reality, however, is soon revealed in the form of an adult who doesn’t know how to face themselves in the mirror, take responsibility for their actions, or even be alone for the smallest amounts of time.
  • The Juicehead. While not always a bad thing, exercise can be very appealing to ex-addicts because it releases some of the same feel-good endorphins as booze or other substances. Fitness is fine, but obsessive hard exercise like running or crossfit-ing (to the point where it’s impacting outside relationships and even jobs), nasty moods on days when workouts don’t happen, or other signs of addiction mean exactly that. The person has replaced alcoholism with exercise. They may have traded in one kind of 6-pack for another, but juiceheads will continue to have unhealthy relationships with themselves and others until they face whatever caused them to start drinking in the fist place.
  • The Magician. This person believes that simply “white knocking” through recovery is enough.  They stop attending meetings, minimize problems in other areas of their lives, and may even convince themselves that alcohol (magically) no longer has power over them. The other dry drunks have a lot in common with the magician, but the magician distinguishes himself by not even having the drive to take up another addiction instead. Instead, this person has convinced themselves that complacency, doing the least amount possible, and denial/refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of what’s going on are all perfectly healthy behaviors. These people often develop very negative thought patterns and may be at serious risk of relapse, depression, or worse.

How To Help A Dry Drunk

If you have a friend or family member who is acting like a dry alcoholic, get them to a meeting! The most important thing for this person to do is acknowledge reality and re-evaluate where they are at in the stages of recovery. Remind the dry drunk to be vigilant for replacing one addictive behavior with another— if it’s not exercise, it could be eating, shopping, or other impulsive behavior. There is a reason why romantic relationships are forbidden during the first year of recovery by most program styles. Finally, complacency is one of the most dangerous threats to sobriety, especially for the more recently sober. Complacency doesn’t just involve alcohol itself (e.g. convincing oneself that it’s OK to go to the bar as long as nothing is imbibed); it can also involve emotions in the form of minimizing severity of feelings, and/or undervaluing the amount of time, energy, and effort it takes to successfully live in recovery.

Recovery from alcohol is tough, and so it’s no surprise that dry drunks pop up often. Help the dry drunk in your life avoid turning back into an actual drunk by having an honest conversation with them about what’s going on. Offer to take them to a meeting or call their sponsor. Chances are, they’ll thank you later!