Dry Drunk Syndrome

When a person suffers from addiction, we know the first step to recovery is to admit that there is a problem. Once the addict can acknowledge that he suffers from an addiction and needs help, he is usually pointed in the direction of a 12-step recovery program that focuses on that particular addiction such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Over-eaters Anonyomous. While these programs do a lot good work in helping the addict on the road to recovery and are to be commended  they don’t go far enough.

Most 12-step programs focus on the outer transformation that forms the initial basis for recovery. As the addict goes through the program, he will engage in the physical acts that can initially help him to heal: attending meetings, working with a sponsor, reading materials that can help him to better understand addiction, appointing someone to hold him accountable if he falters, etc. However, without the inner transformation that is just as important, if not more important than the outer, the addict will struggle with what is referred to as the “dry drunk syndrome.”

What this means is an alcoholic in recovery may go so many days or weeks without a drink. He is “dry” or sober. He looks good on the outside, but without a focus on inner healing, the addict may still harbor feelings of anger and resentment that staying sober won’t and can’t resolve. He will remain anxious and depressed and continue to live in a state of denial where he will blame others for his addiction rather take responsibility for it himself. This results in the addict living a double life. He seems to be getting better on the outside, but he suffers on the inside because the root cause of his addiction is not being properly addressed.

The problem of focusing only on the physical healing is that many addicts suffer from multiple addictions. For example, some alcoholics also suffer from sexual addictions. By going through the 12-step program for alcohol addiction, the sexual addiction is not being treated. The alcoholic may refrain from alcohol but continues to watch adult films or surfs the web for pornography. What he misses from the bottle he makes up for on his television or computer. Given that addictions begin with something that is missing on the inside, if this is not a part of the recovery process, the addict can easily relapse. Sadly, many do, to the point of suicide.