The Psycho-Dynamics of the ‘’Dry Drunk”
The term “dry drunk” is used by alcoholics to describe an emotional state with which they must cope while maintaining sobriety over an extended period. This emotional state is characterised by depression, impatience, intolerance, irritability, nervousness, occasional confusion, and an irrational desire to resume drinking.
Avoidance of people is the most characteristic behaviour of the ‘dry drunk’. Unavoidable contacts being handled with sarcasm and personal criticism.
Some alcoholics experience broad alterations of physical activity during the period of the “dry drunk”.
Dry drunks occur irregularly and diminish in frequency as the period of the sobriety extends. The duration of the dry drunk varies from one hour to a period of from two to four months. The feeling of depression accompanying the dry drunk is frequently so intense that suicide is contemplated and occasionally planned.
Problems of “inner life” seem to be the most potent cause of the dry drunk although some alcoholics attribute this condition to a combination of home life, job life and inner life. The dry drunk seems related to the negative mood swings of an alcoholic. Each dry drunk is usually preceded by the same feeling which the alcoholic experienced just prior to his first dry drunk, for example, frustration and fatigue. The dry drunk almost invariably precedes a “slip” or resumption of drinking after a period of sobriety.
Attendance at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and consulting members of this organisation outside of meetings are effective means of combating dry drunks while the use of drugs to dispel the moods and feelings of this condition is minimally effective. Spouses and other members of the family, friends not in AA and non understanding persons are least helpful during a dry drunk.
Success in combating the dry drunk contributes to the security of the alcoholic’s sobriety and is accompanied in most instances with improvement in financial status. Each success helps in the ongoing emotional development of the alcoholic.