Lack of Emotional Sobriety Results in ‘Dry Drunk’

Understanding Addiction

lack of emotional sobrietyYou’ve poured the last of the liquor down the drain. You’ve stayed away from bars. You have quit hanging around with your drinking companions. Still, you are irritable with your family and friends. You snap at your work colleagues. You feel exhausted. You find yourself isolating, and therefore, depressed. This is the world of the “dry drunk.”

Sobriety means more than putting down the drink. It is more than what is called the “white knuckle” approach, which means depending entirely on will power and refusing to change anything in one’s lifestyle. This leads in turn to the “dry drunk,” a life of anger and resentment that a recovering alcoholic can ill afford. Hanging on to old ways of thinking prevents emotional sobriety.

Grieving the loss of alcohol

Alcoholics are not accustomed to recognizing their feelings and dealing with them. They have reached for the bottle instead, ignoring their emotional problems. For an alcoholic, giving up drinking is like losing a best friend. It is normal to go through the stages of grieving, just as one would do with the death of a loved one. Breaking through denial and acknowledging the feelings of anger and depression are a start in achieving emotional sobriety. This is a lifelong process, but a process worth doing in order to live a happy and sober life.

“Dry drunk” affects others

Because alcoholism is a physical, mental and spiritual problem, full recovery needs to deal with all those aspects. Each part needs attention, or the “dry drunk” occurs. It can affect not only the alcoholic, but also the alcoholic’s family and friends. An article in Psychology Today describes six situations that can cause relationship difficulties:


Anger towards family members, particularly when they threaten consequences if the drinking continues


Feeling annoyed about inability to drink like “normal” drinkers

Guilt and sadness

Despair of unreached goals and unfulfilled plans as a result of drinking

Facing the truth

Having to give up excuses and lies in order to admit and accept the drinking problem.


Emotional immaturity, leading to fear of functioning in the real world


Jealousy of people who follow through on pursuing their goals, coupled with failure to support family and friends who actually take steps toward their dreams.

The “dry drunk” is a normal but preventable part of recovering from the grips of alcoholism. Talking with other sober alcoholics and seeking professional help if needed will change the course.

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