King Baby Syndrome


If we are around recovery and in “The Rooms” for a while, we learn some interesting new terms and concepts.
Recently I was introduced to the concept “King Baby Syndrome” relating to someone in active addiction, or sober but not working on recovery.
This is also referred to as “Dry Drunk Syndrome,” which indicates selfish, miserable thinking and behavior due to lack of an introspective, healing process.
In a nutshell—not mentally or emotionally sober.
Dry Drunk Syndrome implies that a person is (emotionally) drunk without ingesting alcohol.
Addiction is never simply about the substance, it is an illness and a disorder resulting in a set of symptoms and behaviors that the substance medicates.
Note: Just because someone comes off substances, doesn’t mean they are recovering or becoming healthy.  Doing the inner work on oneself to analyze and heal what led to dysfunctional issues is profoundly important.
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King (or Queen) Baby Syndrome was written about by Tom Cunningham at the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota.

Cunningham wrote a pamphlet for recovering addicts and alcoholics to explore the dry drunk syndrome in greater depth.

The reference of “His Majesty, the Baby,” originated from Freud’s paper “On Narcissism” (1914), the concept describes an inborn attitude.  Freud uses the tale of Narcissus as a synonym for egomania, or fixation with oneself, to illustrate King Baby Syndrome.

(Narcissus is a young man who upon seeing his own reflection in a pool of water, falls in love with himself, unable to tear himself away from staring at himself he finally dies of self-obsession.  His name is derived from the Greek word “Narke” meaning sleep or numbness.) I find that interesting!
Here’s some truth, we are born narcissists in order to survive.  Self-absorbed, only aware of our own needs and wants.
Now imagine returning to this condition; where we feel warmth, security, and comfort.  All our primary needs are taken care of and tended to by others.
We demand food, attention, and care and can expect to get it…as well as to feel taken care of, secure and satisfied.
We are the center of the universe, off the hook for all responsibility.
Through the natural maturing processes of childhood and adulthood, most of our King or Queen Baby Syndrome mentality gets discarded naturally and is replaced by more appropriate life skills.
However…some of us advance through the stages of physical growth without shedding the “King Baby” attitude.
While some got stuck in this way of thinking (or returned it), as a result of substance abuse and chemical dependency.
We stopped developing.
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The narcissistic dynamics of being at the center of everyone’s universe can be suffocating and overwhelming for those who care about this person.
And we do tend to pair up nicely:  King or Queen Baby with care-takers, rescuers, and fixers.
A huge fact is that those of us who are codependent to the narcissistic behavior are needing to take the time to do our own healing work.
Toxic patterns repeat when self-improvement work is neglected.
The more we work to heal ourselves and become wiser and stronger, the healthier our responses to King/Queen Baby Behavior will become.
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Speaking of being adjacent to a King or Queen Baby, how does this show up in my own behavior, you ask?
Allow me to lay it on the table.
As a “recovering doormat, codependent family member” with relentless tendencies to fix, help, nurture, rescue and care for; I can find myself quickly caught up in misery.
Recognizing my own patterns dysfunction, I am well aware that I tend to become unhealthy when around my son or others who are dear to me for very long; if I’m not healthy and mindful.
For example, when it comes to my adult son (who is very capable of handling and managing his own life), when we’re around one another for long I inevitably begin to focus on things like…
How is he feeling?
Is he eating healthy?
Is he driving safely?  How safe is the vehicle he’s using?
Has he had time with specific friends or family members?
Is everyone comfortable and getting along?
Is he ready, prepared and on time for what he needs to do today?
Is everything he might need while he’s here taken care of?
Is he taking care of himself?
I will even start checking that he is able to have a shower by a certain time!
If we’re around each other for too long my mind is off to the races.
That doesn’t come close to the obsession I take on if I think he’s exposed to alcohol or other mind altering chemicals, and substances.
Wine at a wedding…meeting friends who drink, even too many energy drinks or health supplements can launch my mind into madness.
Eventually…while he’s with us, he becomes all I’m thinking about.
I forget to think about myself.
I forget that these are things he needs to think about.
And I forget that whether or not he does a good, timely job of managing the day is none of my business.
The truth is, he is a grown man.
The days of tending to what he needs, wears, and does are over.  That ship has sailed.
As parents we can have standards for our home, we can set schedules and make plans…but constant overseeing, governing and checking—does not a healthy atmosphere make.
It sometimes takes an explosion for me to wake up to the need to return to thoughts of my own life and health.
I have to return to the bottom-line fact that his problems are not mine to solve.  His needs are not mine to meet.
But in the midst of having him home—I can easily forget all that.
Maybe it’s a Mom thing.
Maybe it’s a Mom thing for a Mother who has watched her son struggle through grief and heartache, dependency and despair.
I became much more fearful after that.
Whatever the case may be, the answer is that we’re all responsible for our own lives and well-being.
Control is an illusion anyway.
Life can change in a moment, we can no more predict or control how someone else’s life goes, than we can what happens within our own.


Many times, we are just making them more helpless and dependent upon us.
When we give others the dignity to manage themselves, and the freedom and space to deal with whatever accomplishment, outcome or consequence may come…they have a better chance to get the victory.
They have more room to learn, grow, heal and make progress.
And less ability to rule over us as pawns in their Kingdom.
If you’re struggling —find some support and begin the inner dive to do healing work on your life.  It’ll benefit everyone.
Seek peace for yourself and trust the process.
For more information about the above mentioned behavior, check out this article:  King Baby Syndrome
Still learning,