What Is The Difference Between Dry Drunk and Sober?

What Is The Difference Between Dry Drunk and Sober?

When asked what ‘sobriety’ means, most people-even former addicts-will respond that it is the condition of abstaining from alcohol or other addictive substances and behaviors. When asked to define a ‘dry drunk,’ the same respondents may answer ‘a person who abstains from alcohol or other addictive substances and behaviors but who is not sober.’

How does one differentiate between a person who is a dry drunk and one who is sober? How would we classify ourselves?

To understand the concept of a dry drunk, begin by envisioning the concept of a drunk-yourself or another. Think of the common personality characteristics and character defects: dishonesty, pride, grandiosity, anger, unpredictability, deceptiveness, selfishness and ego-centrism. Recall the common behaviors: lying, stealing, hiding, grudge-holding, isolating, making false promises, manipulating, temper tantrums, abusiveness, and other episodes of extreme emotion. Certainly it was the drinking, we assumed, that precipitated, or at least intensified, these negative traits and displays.

And then we, or the other person, gave up drinking either on our own or with the help of rehab or A.A. We assumed the behaviors and character defects would vanish with the elimination of alcohol. But they didn’t. In some cases they got worse. Other defects of character cropped up. How is this explained?

In the above description is the definition of a dry drunk. It is an individual who has given up alcohol but who has failed to recover from alcoholism. Alcoholism is not simply the condition of consuming excess alcohol. It is a disease and a condition that alters and bears upon the entire life of the alcoholic. A simple elimination of alcohol from the equation does not equate with recovery, for the addict remains sick in nearly all areas of life even without the booze.

For whatever reason, they have failed to recognize their need for a total life overhaul. Perhaps the individual went to meetings for a while or did the ‘A.A. thing’ for a time, but with limited engagement or commitment. Pride keeps them from owning up to their true selves. Laziness and fear block them from doing the work that will result in the development of their character, their spiritual life, and their recovery.

Sobriety, on the other hand, goes beyond the elimination of alcohol. It is the adoption of a program of recovery, and a lifestyle that instills a new way of relating to God, ourselves, and the world. We recognize that alcohol was a problem but it was not the problem. We were the problem. Alcoholism was merely a symptom of that.

In sobriety we recognize that we have more character defects than we could list and that our alcoholism has masked our inability to cope with and confront life as it is. Now that we have given up alcoholism, we must also work on giving up our alcoholic worldview and our alcoholic methods of dealing with the world. There is a lot of catching up to do.

We recognize also that we are not doing this alone. We are taking part in a fellowship of people who have walked the same path we are now on. We are attending meetings regularly, following our plan of sobriety, engaging with other members, reading program literature, helping other alcoholics, and seeking the guidance of others.

A sober person knows that the road to recovery and character overhaul is slow, but we are on it and we are showing consistent growth and development. We are changing the way we react and behave. We are learning to trust ourselves, and others are putting their confidence in us as well. We realize that sobriety is not a finite destination, but the journey of the rest of our lives. Though time consuming and labor intensive, we know it is the best path.

This is a picture of sobriety—an illustration of recovery. While putting down the bottle is the first step for any addict seeking to be free of alcoholism, it cannot be the only step. Cessation of drinking is the very beginning. To move beyond the classification of ‘dry drunk’ we must be willing to grow, examine, develop, tear down, and rebuild. Far from a momentary action, sobriety is a lifelong pursuit.

Where are you on the path of recovery? Are you an alcoholic who has merely stopped drinking or are you a recovering individual who is humbly seeking to grow and develop? Are you a dry drunk or are you sober?

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