Sober since April 6, 2006


Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Dry Drunk"

I've heard the term "dry drunk" mentioned at AA meetings before, but I didn't know exactly what it was. So here's what I've found out:


  • dry drunk: A condition of returning to one's old alcoholic thinking and behavior without actually having taken a drink. This often precedes a relapse into drinking, even if the alcoholic has been sober for years.

  • acting self-important, either by "having all the answers," or playing "poor me."
  • making harsh judgments of oneself and others.
  • being impatient or pursuing whims.
  • blaming others for one's own shortcomings.
  • being dishonest, usually beginning with little things.
  • impulsive behavior which ignores what's best for oneself and others.
  • inability to make decisions.
  • mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied.
  • detachment, self-absorption, boredom, distraction or disorganization.
  • nostalgia for the drinking life.
  • fantasizing, daydreaming and wishful thinking or euphoria.
  • less participation in a 12-step program or dropping out altogether.
Having just a few of these symptoms is enough to suggest the possibility of being in a dry drunk state.

  • Go to AA meetings
  • Get a sponsor
  • Work the 12 Steps with your sponsor

If a friend or family member has become a dry drunk, AlAnon (a support group for friends and family of alcoholics) is the best place for you to get support. To preserve your own sanity, you need to lovingly detach from your alcoholic loved one, work your own spiritual program, and let them find their own way back to real spiritual sobriety. It's very tough and painful to do. That's why AlAnon exists -- it's a huge group of people all having to do that very same thing.

For online support, I suggest the Sober Recovery Forums. [Click Here] In order to ask questions or make comments there, you will need to register -- but it's free and only takes a few minutes.


Anonymous said...

I thank God that my wife did not "detach" from me.She was always right there thru thick and thin.And still is.And I bet Bill W. and Dr. Bob Felt the same way about their wifes.Sometimes we alcoholics can pick the best spouses.Of course the way it was explained to me was that in the beginning Alanon was meant for the spouses of alcoholics who were still drinking.As one guy mentioned at a meeting I went to "now alanon is used to make the recovering alcoholics life a living hell".Hee Hee Hee.

tkdjunkie said...

From my understanding, "Detaching" doesn't mean leaving the person. It just means not trying to help them when they obviously don't want any help.

If an alcoholic is having a problem, you've got to let them "hit bottom" and decide for themselves that they need help and want help. If you keep stepping in trying to help them before they reach that point of desperation, they will resent you for it and continue their destructive behavior just to spite you.

It's kind of like me and an alcoholic friend of mine. He's sober, but has not been going to meetings for the past month and a half, and his sponsor fired him. He's been acting strangely and has been emotionally abusive to me lately. Why? He's on a dry drunk. But he doesn't believe it and doesn't want help.

When I try to help him, he accuses me of something or tells me to get therapy. So he obviously really doesn't want help right now.

The only thing I can do for him at this point is stop trying to help (detach), work my own spiritual program, and pray that he safely reaches a point of desperation that leads him to a decision to come back into AA and work a program again.

If I keep trying to interfere, it will only push him further away from wanting help and result in more emotional abuse to endure on my part. So detaching can be beneficial to both the alcoholic and his "hostage" in many cases.

dAAve said...

A good rule of thumb for oneself in determining the state of being a dry drunk ...

Look at the Twelve Promises listed on pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book. If/when none of those are true, one is a dry drunk.

tkdjunkie said...

That's a good rule of thumb, dAAve :)

Anonymous said...

How are you trying to help him Junkie?.Is this your boyfriend?Or just a friend.Speaking of boyfriends.I see you aquired this latest one after you were freshly sober. Why the heck would you want to get mixed up with somebody when your so new to recovery?Especially someone who is also in a 12 step group and does not have at least a 6 digit income.That is just asking for trouble.If you kicked your friend in his head that may help him to straighted out and fly right.Just kidding.But............... you never know:-)Seriously though.Read the chapter "Working with others" a couple times.You can pick up some suggestions on what to say the next time your in his presence or the presence of another alkie.ALot of that stuff has depth and weight.It catches a alkies attention.See YA

tkdjunkie said...

Yes, I met my boyfriend during early sobriety. I had just been dumped by a previous boyfriend and was still heartbroken at the time, so another relationship was the last thing I wanted. In fact, I felt like destroying the entire male gender. But somehow feelings just had a way of "happening" between us anyway. I love him so much ...

Thank you for the reading recommendation -- I will read that.

Name: tkdjunkie said...

An admission --

I was totally out of line for assuming that my friend was on a dry drunk. I'm very sorry that I made that judgement.

The problem was with me, not with him.

One of these days, I'll learn not to be so blind to my own defects and mistakes.

As dAAve said, the best indicator of being on a dry drunk is when the promises don't come true in your own life -- and only you can make that judgement for yourself.