Alcoholics who have stopped drinking but have not done the psychological work to heal their thought patterns are not-so-affectionately known in Al-Anon social circles as “Dry Drunks”.
In person, they resemble a healthier physical version of their previously compulsively sotted selves, but when and if you have the unfortunate opportunity to get trapped into a lengthy conversation or hearty social debate with one, their toxic thinking patterns and propensity to argue irrationally comes out.
If you are wondering how to spot a dry drunk at a party, listen for the person who is not drunk but who makes the most conspicuous spectacle of themselves in public. Whether a man or a woman, expect them to be loud, boorish, and have a know-it-all demeanor.
People who stop drinking but fail to spend time introspecting about the core reasons why they were prone to using and abusing alcohol in the first place are considered socially and psychologically toxic. The personality type tends to be egocentric, able to express little to no ability to circumspect, and they have very little clue or compassion about the impact of their obnoxious, haughty, or socially intolerant behavior on the people around them.
Dry Drunks have all the answers. If there is a topic to be discussed, they know it all and cannot wait to tell you why you don’t. No matter what your field of expertise personally or professionally in life, they know more about it, have done more than you, and they all “used to” be considered what they say is the top person or specialist to speak to as an authority figure — no matter what the field.
One need not discuss politics or religion to start an argument with a Dry Drunk — although those two topics of discussion are sure to bring one on in full view of every collateral damage victim forced to listen to the rants at family get-togethers and friendly gatherings.
Once you wind one up in a conversation, Dry Drunks will all totally miss the social cues that a topic of debate needs to be shut down by proffering every speaker in the conversation validation followed by a swift and adept shift of topics.
[Does anyone smell something burning? On the grill or in the oven, perhaps? I think I had better excuse myself for a few moments to check on the cook and the barbecue chef to see if they need any help. Excuse me. Or perhaps I can get you a refill of that non-alcoholic beer you are drinking? Some more black coffee perhaps?]
According to Psychology Today, a helpful self-help academic themed resource for victims of Narcissistic Abusers and Domestic Abuse advocates in training, there are six common traits of people who suffer from what is known as Dry Drunk Syndrome. Their personality traits, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, education level, or personal job history always seem to mimic the following stereotypes for toxic people.
The six traits noted by the psychologist’s resource include but are not limited to the following “symptoms” of Dry Drunk Syndrome:
1) Resentment at a spouse, parent or whomever that has made them stop drinking or else…
2) Annoyed and frustrated with the realization that they can’t drink like a “normie” or ever again.
3) Realizing that because of their drinking, they may have not realized goals, dreams and potentials and wondering if it is too late, or if they are even capable of achieving those goals or dreams.
4) Having to accept and take responsibility for the wasted years due to drinking sans an excuse or justification.
5) Anxious about venturing out or challenging themselves for fear of failure. The alcoholic may not have had any normal life experience with failure and success, which in turn would make them stronger and wiser. Instead those years were void of dealing with life on life’s terms due to the alcoholic addiction.
6) Jealous of others for their stick-to-itiveness, perseverance and strength. Resenting the family member or friend for their dreams and punishing them by not being supportive, questioning their ability and striving to clip their wings of creativity.
No matter how much they avoid ingesting alcohol, if the root causes that pushed them to behave in compulsively egocentric, self-entitled ways are never addressed, a family or spouse can typically expect a lifetime of being forced to listen to the Dry Drunk bully, shame, and engage in clearly unenlightened rants.
Learn how to spot the warning signs that a person who brags about all their past life night club war stories and partying with friends in their younger days might have tipped the scale one too many times in the favor of alcoholism to have been a “social drinker”.
Even if they attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings more faithfully than they do church or synagogue every week, understand that attending all the A.A. meetings or Sunday Sermons in the world is nothing more than acting like a voyeur peeking if and when a Dry Drunk fails to properly work out their own personal life issues with the help of a life coach, personal therapist, or working with a specialist who helps them engage in the process of actively participating in their own behavior management and psychotherapy.
Dry Drunk people are emotionally underwater. Even though they quit drinking, Dry Drunks still think, talk, and act like their head is in the bottle.
Be mindful when confronting one, though — as they all tend to respond to helpful, caring, and concerned constructive criticism with furious wrath or suppressed anger. As Psychology Today notes, “An open mind and positive attitude is a good place for the recovering alcoholic to start and it is imperative for them to deal with the painful issues that might have brought them to their addiction in the first place. This is the only way for any real progress toward a clean and healthy lifestyle that can take form.”
But an unhealthy person who vehemently holds on to toxic thinking patterns (or actively embraces “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ patterns as they call it in A.A.) are some of the most difficult personality types to communicate with effectively about anything — let alone to convert from a behavioral standpoint into a person who is as loving, self-aware, and able to hold themselves accountable for their behavior as well or better than the average norm. For that reason, any potential scapegoat or target for them to obsess over arguing with or bullying should consider themselves forewarned.
The best way to deal with a Dry Drunk is to point out pro-active and pro-social life behaviors they are engaging with and to simply walk away and pay no heed to them when and if they start engaging in attention-seeking antics that do nothing but leave them feeling like they are in a position of power and control.
If a person needs to bluster, bully, or self-aggrandize while making a conspicuous spectacle of themselves, understand that only toxic people and the most covert of Anti-Social predators will ever spend the time to sit and listen to them while making efforts to validate their thinking or attitudes.
Dry Drunks themselves should be very aware when they are being set up to play court jester at a party as well. Anti-Social predators, meaning people who by nature or nurture have a Sadistic streak, love manufacturing social chaos, and who understand how to bait and provoke people into either doing or saying stupid things love to sit back and rubberneck while a person or set of people make asses of themselves completely.
If a Dry Drunk (or an actual drunk or drug abuser) has been socially targeted for behind the scenes ridicule by someone with a Narcopath or Machiavellian personality type, the signs tend to be clear. Watch for the person egging them on to make bad decisions on social media or look for the person at the bar or party who is watching the attention-seeking characters.
When a drunk or Dry Drunk is being coerced into dancing for a puppet master, typically there will be that one guy or group of toxic peers who sit back, laughing, and egging them on to louder or more embarrassing actions.
The glint in their eye and slight sneer of contempt in their microexpressions tends to give them away — but if you miss seeing those red flags, listen to how they talk about their attention-seeking friend when and if that person turns their back, stops posting so much on social media for a night, or walks away.