Are You a Dry Drunk? 5 Ways to Tell
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Are You a Dry Drunk? 5 Ways to Tell


This post was originally published on April 9, 2014.

“Dry drunk” is a common though somewhat judge-y term used in AA-land. It’s meant to denote someone who’s abstinent from drugs or alcohol but who doesn’t follow a program or have a “spiritual solution” to their addiction (the poor dear!) It’s an expression that’s used often but it’s fairly unique to 12-step—you don’t commonly hear “normies” throwing it around, probably because most normal folks aren’t as constantly consumed by judgment, pettiness and blind hatred as many of us addict-y types. Here are a few ways to tell if you deserve to wear the dubious “dry drunk” badge of honor yourself!

1) You wonder (with more than a slight twinge of rage-y terror) whether you might be a dry drunk.

Imagine accepting the fact that you can never drink again. Ever. Did you just experience a moment of panic? Stomach drop? Chest get tight? Feel a hot surge of fear burn through your bitter heart? If you’re spending energy shoving down those gut reactions about the notion of never drinking again—and if the term “dry drunk” annoys the living crap out of you—congratulations! People generally don’t have a strong enough reaction to question labels that aren’t applicable to them; in other words, if I accuse you of being a compulsive gambler, you’ll probably only bother fighting me on it if you are, indeed, a compulsive gambler. Catch my drift, dry drunkard?

2) You routinely date or hang out with people who are “worse” than you.

Dry drunks looooove comparing themselves to others, especially when they’re comparing themselves to people who seem more crazy, miserable or fucked up than them. It’s an egocentric ritual that helps them feel momentarily better about themselves before they once again succumb to the blind tide of hatred that consumes their every waking moment. If you routinely attract (or, uh, collect?) friends or lovers who are seemingly “worse off” than you on the addiction or crazy-pants scale, congrats again!

3) You’re a little nuts about the individualistic, self-possessed self-disciplined thing.

They call it “white knuckling” for a reason. If you’re an addict, relying entirely on your own self-will to prevent yourself from using drugs and alcohol is, well, incredibly hard. It’s no fun, man, and we totally understand why you’d be annoyed about ostensibly having to do it. But we can’t help but notice how you mask your fear and pissiness with lots of lofty talk about independence, willpower and self-discipline—in other words, you’re arrogant and think you know better than absolutely anyone else. Your reluctance to even momentarily consider other methods for conquering your demons can only mean one thing: dryyyyy.

4) You go out of your way to prove that you’re absolutely, totally fine.

You try to hammer home the idea that you’re A-okay by going out of your way to show off how perfectly fine you are without alcohol—i.e., you make a point of still hanging out with all your old drinking buddies, going to the same old parties and haunting the same old bars that made your drunken days the wretched mess they eventually became. If you can prove this okay-ness clearly enough, maybe all those assholes will finally get off your back and just let you be, for God’s sake. Right? Am I right?

5) Your No. 1 fave pastime is pointing out everyone else’s flaws. 

You might be a loner type when it comes to your sobriety but when it comes to knowing everyone else’s intimate business, you’re all about sticking your nose where it shouldn’t be. You’re the first person people call to ask whether there’s “any good gossip” going down in your group of friends and every time they call, oh boy do you ever have some juicy stories for them all about everyone’s sad, unmanageable lives. You don’t do this because you’re a terrible person (okay, you might be a little terrible); you do this because you’ll try any means necessary to deflect attention from yourself and your own unmanageable life. Dry prize for you!

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.