Living with a Dry Drunk

Life with a dry drunk can be difficult, to say the least. You may be delighted and relieved that your partner has managed to stop drinking (or using drugs), but you frequently feel like you’re walking on eggshells to avoid conflict on the home front. Sometimes, living with a dry drunk seems even harder than living with a person who is actively using.

What is a Dry Drunk?

The term “dry drunk” refers to a person who has stopped using addictive substances, but who has not worked on the physical and emotional changes needed for long-term recovery. These elements are every bit as important as the physical aspects of being clean and sober.

Even though the substance has been removed, the behavior is still just as dysfunctional. Dry drunks may be self-absorbed, restless, negative, irritable, quick to anger, judgmental and intolerant, or they may experience depression or mood swings.

Dry drunks are frequently angry and resentful at the person who encouraged them to stop using, or jealous of friends and family members who still use. They may be bored and dissatisfied with a life free of something that has demanded their time and energy for so long.

If this describes your situation, there are things you can do to help your loved one – and yourself.

Seek counseling or therapy. Living with a dry drunk can threaten your own happiness and wellbeing, but counseling can help you gain understanding and learn strategies that can help you cope with a very difficult situation.

Create personal boundaries. Determine your own personal value system and what you are willing to accept, then hold your ground if your partner lashes out or picks a fight. You may need to remove yourself from the situation until your partner is more rational.

Join a support group for friends and families of alcoholics or drug addicts. Support groups are a great way to share experiences with others and to gain insights that will help you understand and cope with your loved one’s situation.

Learn about the disease of addiction. Knowledge is power, and understanding how the disease affects the mind and body can help you know what to expect and how to take action. Books such as “Codependent no More” or “Passages Through Recovery” may help.

Make time for yourself. Don’t dedicate all your time and energy to your loved one. Carve out time for things you enjoy. Take time out for yourself or get out in the world and enjoy being with friends.

Consider an intervention. Sometimes, a carefully planned intervention involving a select group of caring friends and family members can help an alcoholic or addict who is stuck in denial and refuses to seek help. Consult a drug and alcohol treatment center or rehab that can help you throughout the intervention process.

Encourage your loved one to seek help. A dry drunk may need drug and alcohol treatment or rehab to address the psychological and emotional issues to improve the chance of successful, long-term recovery.

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