real life

If you've given up drinking for Feb Fast you might be a 'dry drunk'.

Do you fast in February, go dry in July, and get sober in October?

Do you find yourself reaching for a glass of wine as soon as the clock ticks over to midnight on the last day of the alcohol free month?

You could be a dry drunk.

A dry drunk is someone who abstains from binge drinking for a period of time, only to take it back up again as soon as their ‘dry’ period is over.

For this kind of drinker, giving up alcohol for a month doesn’t really change anything for them in the long term.

A dry drunk is stuck in a cycle of self hatred and guilt. They drink too much and feel guilty, so they stop drinking for a month (under the guise of raising money for charity) and then as soon as the month is up, they start drinking again, and the cycle repeats itself.

For this kind of drinker, giving up alcohol for a month doesn't really change anything for them in the long term. Image via iStock.

For dry drunks, initiatives like Dry July are more than a fundraising opportunity, they are a much needed lifeline, a reprieve from their every day drinking habits.

"Sometimes (often) we drink alone and sometimes (often) we don’t eat much with it because we are, after all, middle class, professional women who know the caloric value of every thimble. Truth be told many of us were borderline or closet anorexics or bulimics in our youth and this is our “transdiagnosis” in full throw," she wrote.


"In other words, as perfectionistic, anxious striving teenagers, we didn’t eat at all or we ate too much and purged. Now, thirty years later, we drink too much (and hate ourselves) then stop drinking (and love ourselves) then fall off the wagon and self-loathe, then check into a spa (the new rehab) and feel smug until we’re back to where we started again," she added.

Helen suffers from an Alcohol Misuse Disorder (AUD).

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States aged 18 and older had an AUD in 2012. This includes 11.2 million men and 5.7 million women.

To be diagnosed with an AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

dry drunk
More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t? Image via iStock.

To assess whether you might be in danger of being a 'dry drunk', the NIAAA suggests asking yourself the following questions. The past year, have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

Stop telling people to eat or booze up at Christmas on Mamamia Out Loud. 

If you or a loved one is suffering with alcoholism or feels you may have a problem with alcohol, Mamamia urges you to contact 1800 888 236 or visit the DrinkWise website.