A Dry Drunk is a just as mean as a wet one

by Madeline Laughs
AA meeting sign

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I have a few friends that attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly. It’s never been a topic of conversation. I’m proud of them for doing this for themselves and it’s never been an issue of contention.

I’ve had two bad experiences that are directly related to AA. I learned from my first bad experience that making my boundaries clear soon after the newly engaged AA attendee decides to attack me with their dogma usually curbs the tendency to keep after me. 

The first experience was with a roommate that was in AA. I had brought home a bottle of nice wine and put it in the refrigerator for dinner. The roommate not only asked me why I felt the need to drink, but demanded I remove the bottle of wine from the house and never bring alcohol home again. I was stunned.

When did your problem become mine?

I was educated at a later date that this is classic dry-drunk behavior. The term, dry drunk, was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous to describe someone that is no longer drinking, but they have maintained the same bad behavioral problems of an alcoholic. AA came up with this derogatory slur in order to convince new recruits to stay with the 12 Step Program. Their explanation is that if a newly sober person does not practice the 12 Steps then they are essentially a walking time bomb and will soon fall off of the wagon and begin drinking again.

I have linked here to the Orange Papers about AA dogma because I believe the OP cuts through all of the bullshit that AA presents as fact. AA does have it’s merits, however I don’t think they are 100% in their teachings or in their healing powers. In some cases I think they merely exchange one addiction for another. For instance, they exchange drinking for religious fanaticism. This is something I think can be very dangerous.

If you want to stop drinking, then do that. But don’t become obsessive in other areas of your life.

Dealing with a Dry Drunk is rather simple, but takes some patience. Rather than go along with this person’s demands you should call them on it. This person needs to look within for the reason this bottle of wine stirred such a force in them, instead of attacking you.

My second experience was much more upsetting. One of my friends had decided to start attending AA after getting into a relationship with a recovering alcoholic. Through much discussion between the two of them in the fledgling stage of their dating, it was determined “Hey, you’re an alcoholic too!” I was never very clear on how this happened, but figured if it helped my friend, then it had to be a good thing.

I never expected it to take such a toll on our friendship, but it did.

Only weeks into the program and not even practicing the 12 steps yet he started preaching to me about my alleged bad behavior. I’m not talking about booze, or drugs or food either. He attacked me for living and existing. Suddenly everything I did or said referred back to some part of AA. “You’re messed up lady! You got real problems girl!”

I patiently explained dry-drunk behavior to him in the nicest possible way because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I also didn’t want him to feel judged. I only wanted him to be my friend and to stop judging me.

Nothing helped. His arguments became belligerent, he became self righteous and would quote from the Blue Book of AA verbatim. Every time we got together I was getting a sermon about changing my ways, being a better person, etc.Perhaps he was just feeling the rush of recovery? Perhaps it was the excitement of finally feeling sober and seeing the world through eyes that weren’t bloodshot? Or perhaps he was just being an asshole.

I don’t even drink alcohol that much. I don’t do drugs. I don’t even take prescription drugs. So you see, it wasn’t about any chemical dependencies I might have had.

I tried to relate to his plight by reading the Blue Book of AA and doing some research. I wanted to be a better friend, but I was not going to stand and be battered just so he could feel superior in his recovery.

I  finally realized that unconsciously he felt compelled to tear me down. In me he saw something of his past that unsettled him. The attacks he launched were not about me at all. They were about how he felt about his connection with me.

He finally destroyed our friendship.

In AA they tell you that you’ll have to find new playmates. This is Step number 12 in the program. Folks from your past, especially during your first year of sobriety, are a detriment to your recovery. This is something I totally agree with, to a point. Don’t get rid of every good person in your life just because you want to stop drinking. Don’t force your new found sobriety and beliefs on your friends. Realize that these are your problems and not your friends, before you destroy every support system you ever had.  New recruits to the AA family may find that their old friends will fade away organically once they start treating them differently. Like the way my friend started treating me.

Exactly how healthy is it that all of your friends and contacts now are all members of AA?

Since these two episodes have happened in my life I tend to shy away from folks that are new to participating in the AA program. For me it’s just a nice rule of thumb to protect myself from the fallout. I also think that someone truly interested in doing AA to help themselves should seriously consider honoring the “anonymous” part of their new program. Interaction and cultivation of friendships are not all about you. You are not the center of attention and cluing someone in to your struggles with following AA rules sends the message that you would like your friend to babysit your actions while you’re together. That is not fair to either of you.

I want to say that AA is a good thing, but there are parts of the program I do not believe are good for anyone.

And that’s my opinion on AA.

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About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A Dry Drunk is a just as mean as a wet one

  1. Ron M says:

    A very insightful post, Madeline. Everyone who has to deal with a recovering alcoholic/addict should set their boundaries, tell the recovering person what they are, and enforce them. In no way should friends and family put up with abuse or unreasonable demands from the recovering person.
    I think you are absolutely correct that in both of the experiences you mentioned the recovering person should have been looking at themselves rather than you. And by suggesting to an AA member that they do that, you are really only suggesting they go back and take another look at the 4th Step.
    For future reference, the 12th Step has nothing to do with ‘playmates,’ new or old. The AA program is actually mute on the subject. Otherwise, your advice to keep the good people in our lives and not to force our beliefs on them is sound advice for the alcoholic/addict—and everyone else.
    And thank you for the pingback!

    Like

    • Thank you 🙂 You’re absolutely right about Step 12. I’m not sure where I picked up that incorrect assumption, perhaps on a chat board, but I have heard that it is strongly advised that the person starting AA should change their playmates and playgrounds. I just looked up the 12 steps and none of them mention this. I guess it’s just something that is talked about within some of the group meetings. It’s sound advice, but advice someone can take too literally, I guess.

      I also looked up Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Good stuff!

      Thank you for visiting. Your contribution is valuable.

      Like

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  6. Aar0n says:

    You make some good points Madeline.I agree that there are some good things about AA,But your last statement is very accurate.

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