Get 24/7 Help Now. 800-654-0987

The Dry Drunk: Why Not Using Isn’t Enough

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, things get complicated. While the first step is always to stop using, sobriety does not equal recovery. What does that mean? It means that while not using drugs or alcohol gets you sober, it’s not enough to get you into recovery.

What Is a Dry Drunk?

Recovery is more than abstaining from drugs or alcohol. It’s about changing the self-defeating patterns and behaviors that addiction has created. When people are addicted, they do things they would never normally do. This can included lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulation.

Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol and looking for help? Call 800-654-0987 today to talk to someone about finding the help you need and getting your life back in order.

When addicted, people’s mental status isn’t well. They have negative self talk, feelings of worthlessness, and plummeted self esteem and confidence. And quitting using doesn’t help with any of these things. It just puts you into a dry drunk.

A dry drunk occurs when you’re no longer using, but you haven’t changed or addressed any of the dysfunction in your life. You’re doing the same things, engaging in the same habits, patterns, behaviors, and thoughts, you’re just doing it sober.

To utilize a 12 step cliché, you can sober up a horse thief and all that you get is a sober horse thief, meaning that the person is still the same unless he or she makes drastic thought and behavior patterns.

A Sign of Regression

The Dry Drunk

True recovery can’t take place until underlying issues are addressed.

While dry drunks are common in the early part of recovery, as learning to live sober is hard to do, they can also happen after a person has been in recovery for an extended period of time. It’s easy to become complacent, to become so overconfident in your sobriety that you let it slip from being a priority. When this happens, it puts you on the path to relapse, often without you even realizing it.

When this happens, a dry drunk often occurs. You neglect going to meetings because “you don’t need them.” Your negative thinking begins to grow and you maybe you start to isolate yourself. Even if you don’t see them, relapse warning signs begin to appear.

According to the AA Big Book, a dry drunk is “restless, irritable, and discontented.” This can manifest in the fact that yes, you’re sober, but it’s almost as if you’re unhappy and grouchy about it.

What’s the Problem with a Dry Drunk?

Some people may not think being in a dry drunk is a big deal. After all, they’re not using drugs or alcohol and that was what was causing the issues, right?


When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, there’s typically underlying issues that led you down that road, and if you’re experiencing a dry drunk, you’re not dealing with those issues and you’re not making yourself a better person. You’re not healing. Which is necessary to live a life of recovery.

As a matter of fact, dry drunks typically exhibit the same characteristics of addiction including superiority, grandiosity, self-centeredness, being a victim, terminal uniqueness, impulsivity, impatience, attention seeking behaviors, instant gratifications, judgmental attitudes, pessimism, manipulation, and complacency are just a few.

How to Stop a Dry Drunk

If you think you may be in a dry drunk, the first thing to do is hit a meeting. Reach out for help. Become active. Because if you’re not active in your recovery, you’re recovery is not active.

Are drugs and alcohol making your life unmanageable? Then it’s time to take a stand and fight back. Call 800-654-0987 today to learn about your treatment options and get started on the road to recovery.