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Understanding and Dealing With Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is behaving and thinking in the same way as you did when you were drinking or using drugs – except now you’re no longer drinking or using drugs. It sounds like a clever description without saying much – so what does that mean exactly because surely stopping drinking is a good thing?

There is a lot more to overcoming alcoholism or drug addiction than merely the physical act of quitting drinking or taking drugs. Successful recovery requires you develop and grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Except as a dry drunk you do none of these. You stay the same spiritually bankrupt, emotionally stilted and mentally volatile person you were when drinking or using. Selfishness, impulsiveness, grandiosity, discontent, restlessness and irritability are all traits that remain. Being critical and judgemental are also common characteristics of a dry drunk.

So as an alcoholic or addict – nothing has really changed – except you’ve stopped drinking or using. Showing dry drunk syndrome can also be a massive warning sign for someone that’s been on a solid path of recovery – to falling back into old thinking and behavioural patterns that can end up in relapse.

That’s why embarking on an alcohol addiction recovery program is so important because you need to move beyond the destructive mental, emotional and behavioural patterns that kept you in a life of addiction. To simply quit drinking is not enough.

If you're living with an alcoholic who now shows dry drunk syndrome – it's common to feel that your life has gotten worse since the person you love stopped drinking. The alcoholic or addict in your life is now even more unbearable than they were before.

So how can you avoid falling into the dry drunk trap?

Follow an addiction recovery program that has a spiritual basis at its core – whether it’s a formal 12 step program like AA or something else you feel fits more comfortably to your needs and beliefs. Because ultimately addiction is a spiritual problem – so to successfully overcome it and build a meaningful life in recovery – you need to adopt a spiritual approach.

I started with AA and NA, but after a couple of years still felt something was missing. That doesn’t mean I don’t think AA is a fantastic program – and I recommend everyone at least give it a fair go before passing judgement, especially if you’re new to recovery.

But for me the missing piece of the puzzle was learning how to meditate. Meditation is the spiritual practice which forms the foundation on which I’ve built my life. I know of no method more powerful to heal and transform on all levels than meditation – and it’s something that perfectly complements all religious denominations and beliefs.

To find out more about tools that I use that can help you meditate and create lasting and meaningful growth and change – check out the addiction recovery toolbox section.

What else can you do?

Develop an interest in personal growth and development. Use the pain from living a life of addiction as motivation to want to better yourself. Become a student of life by reading and questioning – and then pass on what you learn to others. Check out the books I recommend.

Develop a support network. One of the benefits of participating in a 12 step program is that you’ll automatically develop a support network of like-minded people. But there are plenty alternatives – from other spiritual or religious groups, to mentors, to friends, hobbies or clubs. The key here is to surround yourself with good, positive people – not those who drag you down.

Find a passion – whether it be a sport, hobby or activity. Something that allows you to let go and have a good time without needing alcohol or drugs. These days my passions are developing this website, hiking, playing golf, going to the cinema, taking drives into the countryside and reading. It’s usually the simple things that give you the most pleasure.

The possibilities to avoid falling into the dry drunk trap are literally a function of your imagination. Step outside of yourself, use your imagination and then start taking action – and your life will be transformed before you know it.

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