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Dry Alcoholic Symptoms

author image J. Lucy Boyd
J. Lucy Boyd, RN, BSN has written several nonfiction books including "The Complete Guide to Healthy Cooking and Nutrition for College Students." She is frequently called upon to provide career guidance to medical professionals and advice to parents of children with challenges. She also loves teaching others to cook for their families.
Dry Alcoholic Symptoms
Abstinence does not completely change the personality of the alcoholic. Photo Credit: gawriloff/iStock/Getty Images

The subject of whether there is such a condition as "dry alcoholism" is scientifically controversial. The term refers to a condition in which a person is no longer drinking alcohol but continues to have similar thought patterns and behaviors as an alcoholic who is drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that alcoholism is a disease that continues for a lifetime. It is likely that the basic personality characteristics of a person do not change because they no longer drink alcohol. Some of the symptoms of being a dry alcoholic might result from being coerced to quit drinking alcohol.

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A person who stops drinking alcohol may still become as angry as he did when drinking. Instead of directing anger at his alcoholism, the dry alcoholic is often angry at whoever forced his life changes, whether it is the spouse who threatened to leave or a court system who threatened to incarcerate him if he did not abstain from alcohol. This resentment often comes to the surface after a few weeks in the honeymoon period of new sobriety. Unchecked, it can lead to resumption of drinking alcohol.


The dry alcoholic may settle into a state of unhappiness or depression due to seeing her life's circumstances in a sober light. While drinking, she may have had thoughts of her life improving. Sobriety can bring a different view—a realization of age, missed opportunities, health condition and career status. Sobriety often brings new lifestyle modifications as well—a promise to be monogamous, to babysit the children, to attend church or family gatherings, to do well at work. Pretending to be happy through these changes can leave the alcoholic quite dissatisfied with life.


Refraining from alcohol does not change the alcoholic's basic impulsiveness. Cigna Behavioral Health explains that this impulsiveness may involve actions contrary to the alcoholic's best interest. Abstinence, especially if brought on by personal desires, may lead to rash behavior in other areas. This transfer of irresponsible behaviors may manifest as promiscuity, gambling or risky sports activities such as illegal street racing. This behavior may be fed by a family attitude of "as long as she's not drinking, we don't care what she's doing."


The alcoholic often misses out on many of the opportunities that a mature life offers. This is due to his overuse of alcohol as a coping mechanism. He may not be ready to handle a job, a healthy relationship or parenthood. He may seem like a perennial teenager who hasn't grown up along with his peer group. He may demand to have his wants met immediately. His immaturity may manifest as manipulative or passive-aggressive behavior when charm doesn't help him meet his objective.

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