Mental Health

Alcoholism: The Dry Drunk

Alcoholism The Dry DrunkWhen a loved one gets sober we can think great that's it our lives will be great now.  We have prayed, begged, cajoled, nagged, let's face it we have done anything and everything to make this day happen. We are co-dependents after all. Only now we find nothing has changed except that the alcoholic doesn't drink anymore.  It's just as bad, maybe worse. You have even thought about giving the alcoholic drink to make it better. We are now living with a dry drunk.

Alcoholics need to work a 12 step program and/or attend counselling with an addiction therapist to work through the issues and root cause that lead them to drink in the first place. If not they are trying to white knuckle it, this won't help them or their families. White knuckling is when the alcoholic tries to stay sober the hard way, they try to keep a tight rein on themselves and their surroundings. The exhibit the dry drunk personality. Some alcoholics do go to their 12 step meeting but are just paying lip service and not really working the program. These too are trying it alone and will exhibit the dry drunk personality. You as their partner still feel like you're living with an alcoholic and are walking on eggshells around them.

What are the symptoms of the dry drunk?

Here are some but I'm sure you can add your own ones too.

  1. Not seeking counselling with an addiction counselling and/or working a 12 step program. They could do with both really, as they need to not only get sober but also tackle the root cause of their addiction.
  2. Irritable with everyone and everything including themselves, although you may not notice they are annoyed with themselves. The realization has hit home. All their goals and dreams have not worked out for them. Their past behaviour is catching up with them. Reality can be a ...
  3.  Resentment and anger - even violence. Yes, they resent you, family, friends but most of all they resent themselves. Even small things can seem to make them angry. If you are unsafe in your own home please leave, get a barring or safety order. Ask for help.
  4. Anxiety, they fear now the future or making a mistake and having to face the consequences. It's not like they didn't in the past it's just that they don't have their anaesthetic of choice to take the edge off it. They fear being unable to cope with the reality of their lives.
  5. Anxiousness, again this is about the past catching up to them. They are anxious about what they have done wrong, can they fix their past mistakes, can they face the people they have hurt. Can they face themselves?
  6. Fear of failure: is about the future. What happens if they go back drinking again? What happens if they let their loved ones done again? What happens... The list goes on and on. That old washing machine can go into the high spin mode.
  7. Feeling a failure is about the past. They have hurt people they love the most, they may do it again. It can also be about work and friends too. Sometimes by the time, the alcoholic stops drinking they have burnt many, many bridges. They may have no job and no home, lost family, work colleagues and friends because of drink. They have lost themselves too.
  8. Low self-esteem. No matter how they seem, they could be a great conversationalist, great people person, but behind it all is low self-esteem. They feel like they are frauds. No one could possibly see the real them as they would run away in fear or laugh at them. They see themselves as just not being good enough.
  9. No healthy boundaries. They probably never learnt how to have healthy boundaries never mind what they are. They need help putting these in place.
  10. Lazy or lethargic or withdrawing from the world. They are afraid of what might happen so they withdraw, they can become depressed. If so please reach out to your doctor for help.
  11. Jealously. Let's face it while they were drinking others were getting on with their lives. Siblings might be more successful, so can friends and neighbours. This goes back to their feeling a failure and not having fulfilled their goals.
  12. Working to excess. Trying to keep themselves so busy that they can't go get a drink. They are dissociating too. They are also turning to another addiction for help  - workaholics.
  13. Dissociation using other things to not engage in reality such as watching TV, exercise, hobbies, etc. You can probably name loads here that hey can use to not fully engage with anyone or anything that means facing what has happened in the past.
  14. Smoking more if they did so before, again swapping one addiction for another, this can also include drug addiction and gambling addiction.
  15. Withdrawal from family and friends. Again they can do this for a number of reasons, they are feeling a failure as they have let you all down, they fear they'll lose you if you see the real them, they could also be feeling any of the reasons I've outlined above.

Personality traits can become obvious too, as they were being put down to the alcohol addiction in the past These can include Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, DID, Depression, Anxiety and Narcissism, to name but a couple. These need professional treatment and the person should be encouraged to seek help. I would like to reiterate if you feel in danger from your spouse/partner please take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your children. (See our post on Domestic Violence also)

This is list is not comprehensive. And guess what, you can probably see many of these traits in yourself too. You are not alone. Your loved one is not alone. There are many successful sober alcoholics in the world. They have made amends and continue to do so, they live happy healthy lives. But they know they have to work a program to keep it all that way. They know that they are only one drink away from going back to where they were when they drank that last drink. If you are a co-dependent you need to work on your issues too, you need a 12 step program as well if you are a family or friend of an alcoholic.

These are some steps you can take to help yourself and your loved one.

  • You can not change someone else. You can only change yourself.
  • You can not get someone to receive help unless they are willing to do so.
  • You didn’t cause this addiction and any other additional problems associated with it.
  • You can not cure this addiction but you can ask for help for yourself so you can better understand how to deal with your loved one’s behaviour and help yourself.
  • Stop covering for them, allow them to take the responsibility for their addiction.
  • Don’t interrogate the person it won’t help you or them.
  • Instead, you need to start to bring your focus to you and any children involved and get help from your GP, counselling. FLAC (can explain to you your legal rights – free advice) and MABS.(financial advice and free service they will also help talk to your creditors, as with any other addiction money issues will arise as money is spent on alcohol)
  • Stop giving or lending money to the person involved.
  • If you are earning money yourself make sure they do not have access to your bank account or any savings. Yes, it will go on alcohol.

Our Psychologist can also help. Please phone to make an appointment today 089 4373641





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