Oftentimes when one quits drinking, the effects can be devastating and range from dry drunk syndrome to seizures. As body and brain begin repairing all the damage done to them by the drinker, the detoxification can be difficult and sometimes dangerous. For example, seizures have been known to happen in the early stages of alcohol withdrawal and Atavan is often used to prevent them.
On a psychological level, if the alcoholic does not seek some form of therapy or counseling when they are quitting, they may also get stuck in an area of their mind where they are focusing on the feeling that sobriety is not the better option. The death of your life as a drinker can mimic the stages of grief you go through after other deaths.
Initially, many alcoholics are in denial about what the substance has done to their bodies or lives. They are often angry that they cannot drink like other people they know, and at first try to cut down their drinking in increments before realizing that it doesn't seem to work for them, which is known as "bargaining."
Many dry drunks are in the midst of depression and find it difficult to accept that they are unable to drink at all without negative repercussions. Dry drunks who quit on their own have a tenuous sobriety and risk of relapsing if they have no support system. It is difficult to battle demons that have tormented you for years all by yourself.
What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?
Dry drunk syndrome, also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is the term given to conditions that affect those who have stopped drinking and no longer have a physical craving for alcohol, but who still have unresolved psychological and emotional issues stemming from their alcoholism. This can occur especially if they have not received counseling or therapy following their detoxification.
How Does It Feel to Be a Dry Drunk?
When someone has been drinking heavily for years, there is always some chemical disturbance in the brain. When the person stops drinking, they will need to adjust to the chemical damage and remaining toxicity. Dry drunk syndrome can have side effects that make the person going through it appear intoxicated. Their reflexes may still be slowed, or their balance and coordination may need improvement.
The reason many people stop drinking is that they become unpleasant to be around while drinking. Unfortunately, a person with PAWS may still act the same as if they were drunk. A dry drunk may be difficult to be around as they often become depressed and can have mood swings. It becomes even more frustrating since they can no longer blame their actions on the alcohol.
Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
As a person goes through PAWS, they may experience any or all of these symptoms. Each person going through this will be different, but most of the symptoms are typically the same. Here are some symptoms to look out for if you think you or a loved one may be experiencing dry drunk syndrome.
Sometimes a person going through PAWS will feel resentment towards the friend or family member who talked them into giving up alcohol.
Anger and Negativity/Fear of Failure
They may feel annoyed that they cannot drink anymore, or think they were better off drinking. This can cause the person going through dry drunk syndrome to be angry or negative toward those that are trying to help them retain sobriety. They might also be angry as they realize that they are expected to take responsibility for their actions.
Depression and Anxiety
A person going through dry drunk syndrome will typically go through a range of emotions and mood swings. It could depress them that they can no longer drink when they go out, or they may feel uncomfortable without alcohol in social settings.
Jealousy of Non-Alcoholics/Regret
If a person with dry drunk syndrome knows someone who is successfully abstaining from alcohol, they may get jealous of their strength or perseverance. On the other hand, the dry drunk could also be jealous of their friends and family who can still drink with no detrimental effects. They may also have regrets about choices they made in their own lives while drinking.
Romanticizing Drinking Experiences
The person with PAWS will probably reminisce about the drinking days, often romanticizing that time.
Replacing Alcohol with a New Vice
Many people may replace drinking with another vice such as excessive food, sex, or video games.
How to Overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome
Take a Class or Otherwise Stimulate Your Brain
Many a dry drunk finds themselves unhappy because once the alcohol has been removed from their lives, they are left alone with their thoughts for the first time in years. As the toxins from the alcohol go out of the brain, they think more clearly than they have in years. At these times it is good to work on rebuilding your brain power in a variety of ways.
The brain has a remarkable ability to recover once you have ceased drinking entirely, and you might want to consider taking a class to learn something new or to brush up on old skills. Many people enjoy doing puzzles or playing strategy games, and both of these things are good for helping reestablish your neural connections.
Explore Spirituality or Religion
This is a very important avenue for many people who quit drinking. Whether they are religious or not, most human beings need meaning in their lives. In AA, this is referred to as the "higher power," and it can be anything that you would like. It is important since it provides you with a new perspective on how to view life.
Develop or Rediscover a Hobby
Whether you are returning to something you once enjoyed that you stopped doing while drinking, or exploring a new interest entirely, it is always good in to find something that fills the time you would be drinking. This can be a mental pursuit such as reading, volunteering, or doing something artistic. It can also be a physical pursuit as suggested below.
Focus on Your Overall Health
This can refer to either mental or physical issues. One way to assess your problems in relation to those of other drinkers is to attend AA meetings. Alcoholics Anonymous actually suggests that you attend 90 meetings in 90 days, since the likelihood of relapse for dry drunks usually occurs at around three months of sobriety.
Physical health is important during this time, too. As your body repairs itself, you can engage in sports, dancing, or other leisure sports to replace drinking. An added bonus is the endorphins that will elevate your moods naturally when you make physical activity part of your routine. Health benefits of quitting drinking include
Spend Time With Loved Ones
It is very important to reestablish your relationships with family and friends when trying to maintain sobriety. There may have been damage done that you did not even realize was happening at the time. You will be surprised that once you have apologized to them, many of them will be ready to start a renewed relationship. Take advantage of the time you have together and create new memories rather than reliving past dramas.
Consider Going to Rehab, Therapy, or Alcoholics Anonymous
The best thing about a therapeutic environment is that it allows you to resolve your issues without picking up a drink. If you are still a dry drunk, it may be difficult to learn to regulate your emotions, control your behavior, and deal with problems while maintaining sobriety. You need to remain focused on long-term goals to gain perspective on your current situation. One excellent reason to try therapy if you can afford it is that people often find the underlying cause of their addiction to be clinical depression or bipolar disorder, which can be treated along with the alcoholism.
Quitting drinking is one of the hardest things many people do in their lifetime. To sustain sobriety, you do not want to fall prey to having PAWS, or being a dry drunk, and risk relapse. If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the symptoms of PAWS, it is best for you to help them using one of the suggestions we listed. The most important thing in their recovery is that they overcome the syndrome. This is most commonly done with an attachment to a recovery community or therapeutic sessions with someone experienced in the field.
One of the most problematic aspects of recovery is conquering the feeling that you are alone in it. This is why so many recovery groups are modeled after AA. It has been around for almost a hundred years, and a meeting is a cheaper alternative to find people who are going through some of the same experiences as you. The dry drunk needs to know that it will likely get worse before it gets better, but there are always people who understand what is happening to you.