While this is true for many people in early recovery, there are exceptions. Particularly in the first year, some recovering addicts experience “dry drunk syndrome” – a period when they become inexplicably angry, depressed and distant and are at increased risk of relapse. Much to the dismay of loved ones, a new way of life that began in treatment can take a reversal, resulting in even greater dissatisfaction and instability than before the addict stopped drinking or using.
Not to be confused with the inevitable ups and downs in early recovery, dry drunk is a high-risk stage marked by drug cravings, distorted thinking and emotional dysregulation. Although the recovering addict manages to abstain from drug or alcohol use, they either haven’t made the changes in other areas of their lives essential for a fulfilling, productive and sober lifestyle or they made progress only to return to long-held negative attitudes and patterns.
A dry drunk is characterized by: