A great post by our friend and Addiction Chaplain Ned Wicker:
Dry Drunk: Dry But Still Drunk.
My friend Joe Herzanek wrote a terrific book, “Why Don’t They Just Quit” which is a fitting title because that’s the question people always ask. If somebody drinks, why don’t they just quit? The short answer is simply that’s it’s not that easy. Just because they do quit doesn’t mean they’re not a drunk.
Before you get all riled up and offended understand one important point—just because somebody isn’t using doesn’t mean they are not an addict. People who abstain from using alcohol for long periods of time, people who have been diagnosed as being alcoholics, may be dry, but they are still alcoholics (dry drunk). All of the pieces are in place for their lives to go out of control; it’s just that the triggering element, alcohol, is missing. That is why Alcoholics Anonymous strongly advocates for abstinence. Even people who have been in recovery for years understand that all it takes is alcohol for them to be right back on a destructive path.
Over the years I have known many people who have gone through the criminal justice system and served time for DUI. The police arrest them, the judge convicts them and they spend time behind bars. However, while in jail they do not receive treatment. Yes, they are dry, but that only lasts while they are physically prevented from getting a drink. They are still addicts, but they just aren’t using the drug alcohol at the time. Jason comes to mind. He was serving after being convicted yet again of DUI, but like his first time, he was receiving no treatment. There was a program, but a waiting list to get into it was a mile long. Jason got an early release and never did get into treatment. He was a dry drunk. The first opportunity that came along was all he needed to get a snoot full.
Recovery programs are not just limited to going to meetings and not drinking. They are about the rebuilding of one’s life and learning new skills and habits. People who have honestly and openly journeyed through the 12 Step process understand that recovery is about a return to wholeness. People are transformed from drunks, to dry drunks, to recovering drunks. I do not use the term drunks in the pejorative, but instead use it intentionally to illustrate an important point. No matter the addiction, no matter the human condition, just because one is not directly engaged in an activity does not exempt them from potential danger. What is needed to prevent relapse is a change of lifestyle and a commitment to healthy activity.
It wasn’t long after Jason was released that he was in trouble with the law for another DUI. This time the judge wasn’t at all understanding and the sentence was for four years or so. He was back on the waiting list for treatment, but with more time, he finally got in. He was given the opportunity to go from dry drunk to “recovering.” As he learned new ways of dealing with his life, with his cravings and with his out of control lifestyle, he began to realize that, like millions of others, he was in need of help and could get into recovery with the right kind of support and guidance.
It was a major turning point for him. He was not longer the “victim” of the criminal justice system, but a grateful recipient of treatment for his illness. Unlike others who were going through a prison 12 Step program to earn brownie points with the parole board, Jason was earnestly and actively working the program for its long-term benefits. He wasn’t merely going through the motions. When he was released, he continued his recovery program on the outside, this time with a new sense of purpose and direction. He was no longer a dry drunk.
Abstinence is good, but abstinence along does not get the alcoholic out of the woods. You can lock them up and deny them alcohol, but they are still drunks. Treatment and the right kind of support program is what makes the difference. Jason knows that difference.
> Phone Counseling for Family Members
> Recommended Books and DVDs for families of substance abusers and addicts
> Low cost, No cost Alcohol and Drug Treatment Directory
> Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery Resources for Friends, Families and Employers
If you found this article helpful please see our “Ask Joe” posts listed at the bottom and consider reading “Why Don’t they Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.”
> Our website, “Why Don’t They Just Quit?”
> Changing Lives Amazon Storefront (buy new, from us for much less)
Recent Amazon.com reviews:
Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A
Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you better understand those dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ
I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG
> Audio Book CD (Listen to the book)
> Audible Audio Download (LISTEN TO 4 MIN. SAMPLE NOW)
> Do you have to stop seeing all your old friends in order to recover?
> Is a relapse—failure?
>Should my husband “back off?”
> If someone can stop using drugs or alcohol for weeks at a time, they “aren’t an addict—correct?
>Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction: What to do?
>How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?
>How can I tell if someone is an addict/alcoholic or just a heavy user?
>What is Methadone? What is Harm Reduction?
> Self-Tests: Codependence
> Self-Tests: Alcohol and Drug Addiction
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Dry Drunk, Dry Drunk, Dry Drunk