This time out, we are doing a little bit of rhyming to help you remember three situations that you must be on the lookout for when you are in recovery from a substance use disorder.

Our little bit of doggerel goes like this:

If it is sobriety you seek to try
You can’t be high, dry, or even standby

Okay, okay. So it isn’t the work of Walt Whitman. Or even Dr. Seuss. But it might serve as a catchy reminder of three situations you want to avoid. Those three situations? 

  • Trying to bluff your way through a substance use disorder as a high-functioning alcoholic.
  • Maintaining the bad habits of alcohol dependency as a so-called “dry drunk.”
  • Succumbing to a standby activity—a substitute addiction—that takes the place of your drug or alcohol use, but is still quite problematic.

Let’s look at all three.

What is a High Functioning Alcoholic?

When you spotted the word “high” as one of the things you should avoid in order to achieve sobriety, you may have thought to yourself, “Well…duh.”

But in this case, we don’t mean “high” as in taking drugs to achieve a high. Instead, we intend it as a reminder of a condition some people find themselves in that can cause them to delay getting help for a substance use disorder.

A high-functioning alcoholic is a person who has, in fact, become dependent on alcohol, but whose outward, day-to-day life appears unaffected by this fact. To others, a high-functioning alcoholic may look successful, happy, and in control of their lives. In reality, however, the alcohol use is becoming more and more problematic.

Ideally, a person in this situation will recognize it and get treatment for their substance use disorder right away. Too often, however, a high-functioning alcoholic will deny that they have a problem. When that happens, things are going to get a lot worse before the person decides to try to get better. Again, it is far better to recognize the situation for what it is and to get help sooner rather than later.

What is a Dry Drunk?

We do not like to use the word “drunk” to describe people in this blog. It is unkind and unhelpful, but the phrase “dry drunk” is a common name for a particular situation.

A dry drunk is a person who has gotten sober but who is still exhibiting many of the behaviors and emotions related to a substance use disorder. Those behaviors and emotions can eventually lead to a relapse, so it is essential to spot them and address them as quickly as possible.

For example, the newly sober often experience feelings of anger, irritability, and impatience. They might be angry they had to give up alcohol. They might be angry about the parts of their lives that were adversely affected by their drinking. They may even have been using alcohol to “self-medicate” against feelings of anger (in this case, there is a good chance a mental health disorder is in play).

Further, a dry drunk may spend too much time replaying fun or exciting memories from their drinking days. They may exhibit poor impulse control or feel overconfident about their ability to have a drink or two without relapsing. As we have noted, all of these things can lead to a relapse, and so addressing them with a therapist or with your treatment center when they arise is extremely important.

What Do We Mean by Standby Addiction?

Have you ever said something like, “And if plan A falls through, I have plan B on standby”? If so, you already have a sense of what we are referring to here. The notion of a standby addiction–more frequently called a substitute addiction—is a way to think about behaviors that can take the place of substance use in your life.

You might find yourself working all of the time, for example. Or maybe you workout to excess. Perhaps you pursue a series of one-night stands. Or maybe you find yourself gambling—even when you cannot afford to lose.

These substitute addictions can be as destructive to your life as a substance use disorder, and so they require immediate treatment. There is no such thing as a good standby addiction.

Do Not Let a Substance Use Disorder Upend Your Life

At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we are in the business of helping people reclaim their lives. We combine expertise, experience, and compassion as we see you through detoxification and rehabilitation. Following your time at our Indiana facility, you can count on our continuum of care to provide ongoing support and resources as your recovery journey gets underway. And in the event of a relapse, you can count on us to help you restart your journey without judgment. If drugs or alcohol are threatening to upend your life, Wooded Glen is always here to help.