People get clean and sober for many reasons, but when they do there needs to be more than just “staying clean” going on. Most say that being active in recovery and finding proper support would be a safe place to start. Many people who are experienced with places like A.A. or N.A. have heard the term “dry drunk” but some others have not. A dry drunk is someone who is actively not drinking/using, but not active in any way to better their recovery. It is very ironic and contradictory, the term dry drunk, isn’t is? Some things are better to be told from those who have experience with these situations and have lived to tell the tale. With the experience and wisdom that come from time of working on yourself you can truly say that hindsight is 20/20. Then will you truly understand. Mike S. with 31 years sober has a great deal of experience and goes on in his story and credibility to depict in its essence the life graph of a “dry drunk.”
“When I first heard the words “dry drunk” it seemed to be a contradiction in terms. If I am dry then I am not drinking; if I am drinking then I am not dry! So, how to explain this apparent conundrum?
Alcoholics generally exhibit a number of similar behaviours when drinking. We are controlling, either physically, verbally or emotionally. We are aggressive, actively or passively. We are illogical, rude, unavailable, dismissive, unsafe to be around, and generally a pain!
When I first became dry, I was a long way from being sober. There were times when my wife would remark that, in a way she wished I was still drinking, because then, at least she had some peace from me when I passed out! The reality for me was that I was far from happy not to be drinking but did not want the results of starting again – loss of family, as my wife was clear that if I started drinking again, then she would have to divorce me to protect herself and our two boys; loss of the ability to be employed; loss of friends and extended family. The list is endless but the results of returning to drinking are all negative. So I was partly staying dry out of fear, not a comfortable or sustainable place to be.
I was never a physically abusive drunk but I was verbally abusive. It was a case of “Do it my way or take the highway!” Controlling/perfectionism were ways that I was the same dry as drinking. There are many ways and “reasons” to exhibit controlling behaviour. When drinking, it was in an effort to secure my supply of alcohol; to prove to myself that I was “in control”. In “dryness” many of the drinking behaviours continue but without alcohol/drugs. For me much of “dry drunk” exhibited itself as impulsivity, anger, resentment, some self-pity [poor me, poor me, pour me a drink!], lack of self esteem and self worth. This was a time when I stayed dry [unwillingly] but fortunately went to AA meetings. There was an internal war going on, so no peace of mind and no spirituality. In part I think that I was depressed or, at least, in a depressive state of mind. So, everything was negative and I was close to taking a drink on several occasions. So, in summary, I was behaving as if I was drinking even though no alcohol had passed my lips.”
As Mike S. says that even though he got sober and stopped his alcohol use (becoming dry), his old actions and behaviors that stuck with him after he got sober. “No alcohol had passed my lips” Mike states, while no alcohol was in his system he was resorting to his abusive ways that become the controlling factor of his life. This was bringing him down deeper into alcoholism traits and lifestyle even though he was dry. Mike clearly tells us how a “dry drunk” needs to turn into someone willing and able to work the program for a betterment of not just them but their loved ones! Working on yourself affects us and the loved ones around us, for the better. Change isn’t always bad, in fact now, it’s one of the greatest blessings of working a good program is all about. Living, laughing loving, and caring in a great way that is unique and loving to your own heart.
Mike S. elaborates on the subject giving contention to working on yourself in recovery as being “vital”….
“As I mentioned, I did one thing right, I went to AA. Not only did I go to several meetings a week in the beginning, I found a “home” group, a meeting that I always attended and where I began to become involved by doing service e.g. making drinks, setting up the room and so on. It was this sense of being needed that I hadn’t felt for years [because my drinking left me feeling worthless and unneeded]. The result of this connection to AA was that I first made sense of the word “Resentment” as it applied to me. It was one of my deep resentments that, I realised, was keeping me stuck. Once identified and shared where appropriate, I began to move forward into the beginnings of contented recovery.
Contented recovery is vital. If I am truly happy to be a non-drinking alcoholic then there is a good chance that I will remain sober. My view of the word “sober” definitely includes being contented. When I am dry I am not sober, I am exactly what it says “dry”, not imbibing alcohol. The chances of being happy with this state are limited, so my behaviour reflects this. I remain behaving more or less as I behaved when I was drinking but without alcohol in my system. At this time I have a choice, one which I did not have when I was actively drinking. I can begin the journey into contented recovery or I can remain unhappy with a good chance of returning to active alcoholism. Alcoholism/addiction is a chronic, progressive and fatal disease that is treatable but not curable. Treatment for this disease is simple, stop taking alcohol and/or drugs. Sounds easy! However, the grip that mind/mood altering substances have by this point is enormous. Just stopping seems impossible, which is why most of us need help when we decide to stop.
So, moving into sobriety takes change; change of attitude; change of behaviour; change of some of the people in my life. None of this happens immediately. It took me years of “practice” to become an alcoholic so I need to understand that it will take time to recover. This is where AA helps, as there are always others who have been where I am and have moved on. How did they do it? They are ever willing to offer their story. So, during this journey I will exhibit symptoms of the dry drunk until someone points out to me what I am doing or I hear someone sharing with whom I can identify. Gradually, the dry drunk times lessen and sobriety grows. I reiterate, dry is not sober – dry is just that dry, an uncomfortable place to be.
As you read this, can you find any similarities? Are you dry or are you sober? How are your behaviours? How are your attitudes? Are you happy? How is your self-worth, your self-esteem? Are you a dry drunk or a sober alcoholic? Have you decided which you want to be? Recovery is a great adventure into the unknown as, even before we started active drinking/drugging, we exhibited some of the behaviours and attitudes that became exaggerated by our drinking. Find your way into whatever contented recovery means to you and enjoy the rest of your life!”
Mike S. concludes this story perfectly giving great life example of how to gain a good life and program (Whatever it may be) while becoming stronger each and every day. Dry is not sober Mike says and you must agree that unless we work on ourselves trully and honestly we can only then start to recover in a graifying way!
For more on Mike’s story you can read Mike’s journey on 31 years sober here: http://substanceforyou.com/how-did-you-do-it-1960s-alcoholism-to-31-years-sober/
And if you feel like sharing a story you have that can contribute to helping those in need then email me at SubstanceForYou@gmail.com and bless you for all of your courage and love!
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