Jun 8

What is a “dry drunk”?

If you’ve at all researched anything addiction-related, you’ve probably seen the term “dry drunk” floating around in blogs, articles, forums, self-help books, and other literature.

For those of you who don’t know the term, it is one frequently used in the addiction treatment and recovery field and refers to a person who is physically free of substances or alcohol (e.g. abstinent), but still exhibits behaviours connected with addiction and ways that support it. A sober person upholding old thoughts, beliefs, defenses, behaviours, and attitudes associated with addiction is a common example of someone who may have “dry drunk” traits.

Depending on the modality, professionals have different ideas on the cause of “dry drunk”. Most commonly, it’s believed that such persons lack spirituality or belief in a higher power/faith. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is most popularly known for a similar description. The reasons a person still maintains addictive behaviours and attitudes while being void of actual substances will vary. Addiction and substance use is a very individual, unique condition. Thus, what motivates them will differ among everyone.

Other therapies, see the “dry drunk” identity as someone who may be abstinent from drugs and alcohol, but continues to lack personal meaning and purpose or has unaddressed psychological and mental issues. As a result, these individuals may continue to display qualities such as a lack of interest, frustration from boredom, social issues, and continuing mental and emotional frustration.

Depending on the program, therapy will try we focus the cause of addiction to prevent this “dry drunk” condition. AA, for example, focuses on a reconnection with spirituality, psychological program address mental health issues and personal struggles, and meaning therapy adheres to principles of meaningful living to help clients develop a sense of personal meaning that will help him or her excel and flourish in life.

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