As habitual as a migration of birds, clients have come to me thrilled their loved one has stopped drinking, yet report that the partnership is as brittle as tinder and inexplicably worse than before. Confusion abounds as both have desired sobriety and yet now that it is here, wonder why the relationship seems to be on rockier ground than when the alcoholic was drinking.
This can be the world of the "dry drunk" whether alcoholic or drug addict, however here I refer only to the alcoholic.
So, what is a "dry drunk"? In putting the pieces together from my own personal experiences as well as my clients, the description seems to be universal; one that abstains from alcohol, but is still grappling with the emotional and psychological maladies that may have fueled their addiction to begin with, and continues to have a strangle hold on their psyche.
If any of us were to stop participating in something that we were used to doing for years, something that was a substantial part of our daily existence, we would need additional help emotionally and psychologically in working through that absence; in conjunction with the physical aspect. Remember that alcohol (and that addiction) was the fiber and a substantial, if not total embodiment, of their being.
The alcoholic needs and should want to be responsible for all aspects of their recovery whether it is through a 12- step program and/or a professional substance abuse counselor, otherwise their growth in recovery could be stunted with only one piece of the pie in check; being physically clean and sober.
Without working on (and realizing that this part of recovery needs as much work as the physical addiction does) the emotional/psychological portion, the alcoholic may become lazy, irritable, easily annoyed or quick to anger and will defend and justify at the slightest questioning or provocation.
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