Wet Bar or Dry Drunk?

It’s been a while, but i’m updating the GlosAAry page with a new definition:

Dry Drunk

Used 2013-05-08 Don't rain on my parade (AlKHall Anonymous sobriety recovery)

Don’t rain on my parade

An alcoholic who’s sober but still an asshole.  Someone who put down the booze but still clings to the issues that put it there in the first place.

Used 2013-05-08 Sobriety Unicorn (AlKHall Anonymous sobriety recovery)

Sobriety Unicorn


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on May 8, 2013, in Alcoholism, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Ah the dry drunk…oh how many have taken offense to that term! Great long debates have erupted over recovery forums regarding that term…interesting reading, for sure. But in the context of AA, of course that is someone who is merely abstaining, and that is it. nothing has changed, in terms of perception or mental / spiritual matters. Still angry, still resentful, still stewing in their own juices. My buddy has been sober about 3 years. Is hesitant in working the steps. And boy does he get angry. A lot. Its difficult to talk to him sometimes. I knew him when we both drank, and it’s almost like it was better when he drank (well, not really, but you know what I mean). anyway, if I were to call him a dry drunk, he’s lose his marbles on me. But that’s ok – I wouldn’t sit there and call him something like that. The middle-of-the-road just don’t drink and go to meetings thing goes for only so long, and then we hit that wall of self that refuses to go away. And that is where the relapses occur. And often the dry drunk is the one who struggles the most. I can’t imagine just not drinking and not having a plan of action that would free me from it all…but that’s my deal. It’s different for everyone.

    But peeing in the waterfall is still pretty funny!


    • Hey Paul!

      Totally agree, though for me it’s more general than just AA. A dry drunk is anyone who’s the same as they were when they were drinking; just they don’t drink anymore. i’ve seen some dry drunks and healthy sobriety in and out of the program.

      What’s true for me is what you said about the action plan. My drinking was a symptom of a deeper and darker disease, and the 12 Steps are giving me a very clear and specific plan of action to deal with that. And it works–i’m getting better every day.

      Thanks for the visit, brother, and keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  2. I’m no expert on AA’s labeling policy but I think you are a bit off with your definition. As I understand it, AA dogma says there is a distinction between “dry” and “sober.” Someone who is “dry” has merely quit drinking. Someone who is “sober” has both quit drinking and worked through the steps to correct their “defective thought processes” and achieve “serenity” and all that other stuff.

    This “dry” vs. “sober” distinction turns me off. Apparently in AA dogma, someone who is “dry” (or successfully moderates) but not “sober” and returns to a point where alcohol is no longer a problem in their life without working the steps was never a “real alcoholic” in the first place. And those who are “dry” without working the steps but still act crazy are “dry drunks.”

    I just don’t see it in such black-and-white terms.

    • Hi Boat!

      Nice to see you again, brother!

      Sorry my definition wasn’t very clear. The definition i posted was my own, not a copied or sanctioned one, and i didn’t mean to imply it was related specifically to AA. i was trying to say that a dry drunk is someone who isn’t drinking but is still unhappy or angry or whatever. For me, “not drinking, sober, dry” are synonyms, but the term “dry drunk” is someone who acts like they did when they were drinking, even if they’re dry / sober.

      Also, i’m not saying there’s “AA sober” or you’re doing it wrong. i’m a fan of the program but that’s just me. It works for me but i know there are many many people, like you, who have turned their lives around without AA.

      As for what AA has to say about this, i did a quick search online and came up with,

      A “dry drunk” is an AA slang phrase that refers to “the twisted alcoholic thinking, toxic emotions and abnormal behaviors that are exhibited in an alcoholic that is sober and not drinking alcohol…. and isn’t treating their alcoholic malady.”

      i think this is what i was going for in my definition, the twisted alcoholic thinking, toxic emotions and abnormal behaviors that are exhibited in an alcoholic that is sober and not drinking alcohol…. and isn’t treating their alcoholic malady. Treatment comes in many forms, and i didn’t mean to imply AA is the only way. The best way to be sober is the way that works.

      Thanks for the thoughts, man!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. inthesameboatla

    Thanks for the clarification. But it still bothers me.

    Take Eskimos in Alaska. The further north you go, the more likely it is that an Eskimo village has outlawed alcohol because in the winter months it gets colder and there is less sunlight, if any, during the winter. Consequently, people who are locked up in their modern-day igloos all day, get depressed, and can go on benders, which leads to all kinds of problems like violence and suicide. Even without alcohol, the violence and suicide rate is higher in the winter, but when you add alcohol, it gets worse. Are the people who aren’t drinking anymore (or who have never drank), but still violent or suicidal, “dry drunks?” Or is it simply the case that they’re batshit crazy from not seeing the sun and freezing their asses off for months?

    I’ve never met anyone that I would care to label as a “dry drunk” so it’s not in my vocabulary. The first time I encountered the term, it was applied to George W. Bush, who likes to brag how he overcame alcohol, gained spiritual enlightenment, and claimed God wanted him to be President. Then he acted like an asshole, pissing the world off, and, well, you know the story. But honestly, I don’t know if alcohol, and his prior abuse of it, really had anything to do with it. The guy just seemed like an asshole. On the other hand, he is high on my list of people I wished hadn’t quit drinking.

    At any rate, it is quite a pejorative term and I can’t see how calling someone that, even if they’re acting like an asshole would help. In my opinion, the term should be used sparingly, if it all and only in “extreme” cases.

    • Yeah, i totally get your point and see why you’re bothered. And again, let me just say that what i wrote is my own shit and not anybody else’s. i wouldn’t want you to get the idea i’m quoting from AA. i’d hate to think i was fueling any AA-related disparagement.

      As for the Eskimos, i’d say that if they said they wanted to stop drinking to improve the quality of their lives, then stopped drinking in order to recover from their disease of alcoholism yet continued a life of violence, then that would qualify as a ‘dry drunk’ by my own personal definition.

      As for G W, i’d say his boasting was him just being an asshole, not a dry drunk. There are 2 people in the program here and one not in it that immediately come to mind when i hear the words “dry drunk”. One guy i already posted about, and another is someone who acts as though he’s too good to be with us but at the same time has very big anger issues as concerns women and enjoys mocking people in the program. The one out of the program is a (now deceased) father of a friend who was sober for decades but continued to berate his spouse and children until he died.

      i myself had brushes with dry drunkenness. One of the reasons i drank was to hide from the world, and in my sobriety i started looking for other ways (sleep deprivation, porn, food) to hide from the world. Fortunately, i had my sponsor to call bullshit on that, and he helped push me in the right direction.

      And i totally agree as well that it’s a highly pejorative term. It’s used in the sober community as an equivalent of “asshole” and i’d never call anyone an asshole, or dry drunk, to their face. Most of the time i hear it used, and the sense i intended here in this post, is simply cautionary. As in, “Be careful, you don’t want to end up a dry drunk.”

      Thanks for questioning this definition, brother. Intelligent dialog about recovery is a wonderful thing.

      Keep coming back, Boat!

      Al K Hall

  4. inthesameboatla

    Again, I disagree. I’d call the Eskimos “dry ice drunks.” Just kidding.

    I see the point. People who can’t control their anger or their self-pity or their impulses for immediate gratification can be as or even more destructive to themselves and others when they are dry than they were when they were drunk. A guy who sobers up, and now comes home from work and beats his wife is worse than when he would come home from work, drink a 5th of vodka, and pass out on the couch.

    I guess I don’t understand it because it didn’t happen to me. My live improved after quitting drinking.

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