Social Question

trailsillustrated's avatar

Is there such a thing as a 'dry drunk'? Or a 'dry junkie'?

Asked by trailsillustrated (16789points) December 31st, 2011

I was talking with a friend who is very active in support groups and has been in counseling for 30 years. I was saying how I’d been very depressed on Christmas. She said I should go to N,A ( narcotics anonymous), I became kind of irritated, as my drug use was years ago and I don’t think my current problems or thinking have anything to do with it. She said I was being defensive and called me a ’ dry junkie’, and how I wasn’t looking at my recovery the right way. As far as I’m concerned I am recovered, and my angst is more from separation from my family and fear of the future. Is it phsycobabble is or it a real thing, this ‘dry whatever’ stuff?

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12 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

A dry drunk/junkie is someone who has managed to quit the actual substance abuse, but not resolve the bigger life issues that drove them to drink/do drugs in the first place. Substance abuse isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem that contributes to and severely aggravates the per-existing problems, and helps create new ones. But just not partaking in the substances doesn’t fix all those bigger issues. It’s totally legit (though, I cannot speak to if this is the case with you; I don’t really know you that well).

I don’t really know if NA is for you, but I think there’s another way of looking at this; NA is basically free therapy that focuses not just on not taking substances, but on the improvement of one’s entire life. If you have a history of substance abuse, then you qualify for NA, so why not take advantage of this resource, regardless of if you are a dry drunk/junkie or if the two are unrelated?

bkcunningham's avatar

It means you return to your old addictive thinking without actually using again. I heard someone say it is like taking the rum out of the fruitcake and you still have the fruitcake.

marinelife's avatar

It does not sound like the term applies to you. It is someone who does the addictive behavior without actually taking the substance. Your friend was not being kind labeling you.

SmashTheState's avatar

Ani DiFranco wryly makes reference to this in her song, Fuel, the lyrics of one stanza running:

We got it rehashed.
We got it half-assed.
We’re digging up all the graves
And we’re spitting on the past
And we can choose between the colours
Of the lipstick on the whores
‘Cuz we know the difference
Between the font of twenty percent more
And the font of teriyaki
You tell me
How does it make you feel?
You tell me what’s real.
They say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
Even when they’re as dry as my lips for years
Even when they’re stranded on a small desert island
With no place in two thousand miles to buy beer
And I wonder is he different?
Is he different?
Has he changed
What he’s about?
Or is he just a liar
With nothing to lie about?
Am I headed for the same brick wall?
Is there anything I can do
about anything at all?

auntydeb's avatar

Frankly, this ‘friend (I agree with @marinelife ) has not behaved kindly towards you – in fact it sounds blatantly offensive. Even bringing up a previous drug issue may be diverting attention away from whatever has been causing you problems recently. It really isn’t unusual for people to get depressed around Christmas time!

Take a breath, forget what this person said for now, her role in the support groups does not automatically make her an expert as a friend. Maybe it would help simply to look around, acknowledge that times are hard, then think about what it is that has been upsetting you. If you reckon you need professional help to deal with it, from the sounds of things, you already have the knowledge to seek that.

For the time being, enjoy the rest of the holiday and have some best wishes from me for a warm, gentle and successful time ahead. Dry or not, frankly.

rooeytoo's avatar

I tend to agree with @Aethelflaed – the addiction is never the true problem, it is the numbing that is used to cope with the problem. Neither does stopping the addictive behavior, again the real problem still exists. And usually __most__ people who don’t continue to work their program end up substituting one numbing addiction with another. The new one might be less harmful than the one that came before but it is still masking the real problem.

As was said, I don’t know you so I really can’t comment but if a friend who knows you and who is well versed on the addict and addictive behavior says this, I would give it serious consideration. I know a lot of dry drunks who think they are “cured” but anyone else looking at them can see a different picture.

Jeruba's avatar

She may or may not be right about you, but if she’s busy taking your inventory, she isn’t working her program right.

I’ve heard sober alcoholics—long-time sober, program-practicing alcoholics—talk about dry drunks, and I’d tend to trust their perception of the condition, so I do think there is such a thing.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Jeruba – I would not consider making an observation to a friend who appears to be suffering to be “taking their inventory.” That is a negative thing, and it would be applicable if the friend were curing others instead of working their own program.

Jeruba's avatar

@rooeytoo, if the friend is as described—“She said I was being defensive and called me a ’ dry junkie’, and how I wasn’t looking at my recovery the right way”—it sounds to me like she is being accusing and judgmental. That’s the way it strikes me, anyway, and so I am responding to that. If she really is being helpful and constructive, then no, of course there’s nothing wrong with that.

rooeytoo's avatar

I guess I am frightened by what @trailsillustrated said, “I am recovered.” Forgive me @trailsillustrated I am not judging you but those words are rarely uttered in the rooms without some old timer jumping up and saying, there is no such thing as a recovered alkie, junkie, etc. there are only recovering ones. So those words send up red flags to me and if the friend is an old timer, it would almost definitely do the same to them. And if it is a friend they would feel that some serious words are needed to jolt this loved one back into reality. We don’t say “It works if you work it” for fun, it is the truth for most of us. And when I stop working it I am in trouble. That is the best explanation I can give of my reaction to the words.

Jeruba's avatar

Either way, spending a little time in a meeting can’t hurt.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@rooeytoo- this friend never had a drug or drinking problem. She has been in therapy for 30 years. Her adults sons had drug/ drinking problems. I did feel that everything with her goes back to this one issue, one size fits all. I do not subscribe, althought I am aware 12 step has helped many people. She did aplologise- I am choosing not to discuss personal issues with her anymore.

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