The Dry Drunk Syndrome – Grandiosity

Dr. Lorin Bradbury, author of "Treasures from an Old Book, Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World".

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I don’t have a question to respond to, but I have had many people ask about the dry-drunk syndrome. So, over the next few weeks, I will delve into each of the identified characteristics in more detail.

A dry drunk is someone who has quit drinking or drugging but continues to manifest behaviors of alcoholism or drug addiction. In essence, the individual has not made the necessary emotional changes that should characterize sobriety.

Being an alcoholic or drug addict sets up many thought patterns, attitudes, feelings, and actions that are immature. You might think of it as an arrested state of perpetual adolescence. Simply removing the alcohol or drugs without changing these underlying factors produces the dry drunk syndrome. It’s often those around the non-drinking alcoholic or non-using drug addict that recognize a lack of progress toward recovery or a reversion back to the old ways of thinking and acting.

For some who have made progress, the dry drunk state can be a precursor to a relapse. Some of the symptoms of a dry drunk state are restlessness, irritability, moodiness, and general discontent. There are several attitudes associated with the dry drunk syndrome as described in substance abuse treatment literature. Last week I wrote on self-centeredness; today I will present Grandiosity.

Grandiosity: When this attitude is present, the individual can do anything, conquer any habit, and produce greater and better work than anyone else. However, grandiosity does not always mean that the individual believes he or she is the best. It may simply be a front put up to cover inferiority.

Chemically dependent people are self-centered in the extreme. Superiority or grandiosity basically means a return to a self-centered, “the world revolves around me” attitude. Grandiosity is a setup up to be the center of attention. Typically, in speech they describe themselves as superior to everyone around them. They can do the job better than the other guy. They know more than anyone else. It’s difficult to have a conversation with this person because his work is superior to everyone else, and he knows more than anyone else.

This is very risky territory because the dry drunk is only one step away from relapse. Unfortunately, family members continue walking on eggshells, just as they did when the dry drunk was actively drinking hoping to prevent a relapse.

If while reading this, you recognize this characteristic, I encourage you to reach out for help either from an addiction specialist, or through AA or another similar self-help group. If you have a loved one who is stuck in this state of perpetual adolescence, encourage them to get help. To live in a dry-drunk stated is to live in misery. There is a better way. Face your fears and let others help you. 

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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