Why giving up the drugs and alcohol didn’t make you happy

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

What being a “dry drunk” means.

It’s a common problem; someone gives up the drugs and the alcohol. Time goes by and they are still miserable and their lives are a mess. They expected to quit and things would be better. They quit and things did not get better. They ask “Why?”

For most people who arrive at substance recovery, the drugs, and the alcohol are not the problems. For far too long they have been that person’s solution. The problem is they don’t know how to live life without drugs and alcohol.

People with a mental illness fall into the same trap. They see a doctor take a pill or complete a therapy program. They expect it to help. It may help a little, for a while, but then they feel worse and the recovery they have begins to slip away.

You may know deep down you need to give something up. Is it a drug, alcohol or is it Anger and feeling sorry for yourself? Yes, others may have wronged you. But they are gone and you are still suffering. The past fills up your mind with pain and suffering, leaving no room for a happy contented present or future.

You may have lost a relationship, a job, or been to jail or prison. Some people lose their children because they can’t stop drinking and drugging. Your doctor may have told you “one more drink and you will die.” None of those reasons are good enough to stop and stay stopped if life after drugs was dull, boring, and unhappy.

Some people quit, they stay off the sauce for a period of time, but they are still miserable. You can see someone like this at most any A.A. meeting, you see them in churches and self-help groups. Five years or ten without drugs and they are still angry, hate themselves and others. They know they can’t drink or drug but they wish they could. In recovery language, they are called dry drunks.

Anger, fear, and resentments, those are the poisons that keep people sick. Hard to let go of that resentment. Who wants to admit that holding on to that grudge may make them feel “right” but it also makes them feel miserable?

A dry drunk has all the behaviors of a drunk. They don’t like life and can’t cope without something outside themselves to make them feel better. Sometimes they move from addiction to addiction, they try gambling or spending, sometimes it is sex or a new religion. What they don’t do is try to change themselves.

Recovery is more than putting the plug in the jug. It is more than taking medication or completing a program. Recovery takes work. There is a process you need to go through to make peace with yourself and the past. Recovering people most often find they need to work on themselves a lot. Recovery is an inside job, you hear the recovered people say. Looking at yourself is painful sometimes. The pain of self-examination leads to healing. The pain of substance abuse leads to failed relationships, jails, prisons, psych hospitals, and eventually death.

Therapists have a saying “never work harder than the client.” What we mean by that is that recovery is not something we can do to a client. Recovery is a process we can guide someone through but they need to do the work.

As long as you hold on to that addiction, the anger, the blame, you don’t have to begin to take the responsibility for your own recovery.

Living with an addiction requires a skill set. So does living with a mental illness. People learn those skills whether they intend to or not.

Recovery requires learning a new set of skills, getting a new toolkit. It also requires putting those tools to work; you need to get your recovery tools dirty by using them.

What new skills have you learned? Have you gotten honest with yourself? Do you write about things in your journal? Do you talk with your counselor, or sponsor? Have you stopped running from crisis to crisis and started making up longer-term plans, not plans of what you will have, but plans for what you will do?

Recovery is a journey. If you stick to the route you will find that the trip gets better and better.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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4 thoughts on “Why giving up the drugs and alcohol didn’t make you happy

  1. Pingback: What is a dry Drunk – putting down without really getting clean | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Getting some recovery – preventing relapse | counselorssoapbox

  3. How exactly should one get their recovery tools dirty? Giving up something that is bad for one, you do expect to feel better but when you don’t you feel disheartened. What’s left is yourself and your problems. So you read all the self-help books and try and work on yourself but how do you connect the practice to the theory? All those learned responses and ways of coping are very hard to unlearn – is it about keeping a record, making new goals or just trying to get through without going backwards?


    • Some great questions, thanks for commenting. Recovery is about more than just giving up harmful coping mechanisms. You need to replace the things in your life that were not working with new improved coping strategies. Then you need to practice these new skills until they become more natural than the old methods. In future posts I want to write more about how you make recovery work and how you make it fun. Please stay tuned for more on those topics. David.


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