Life with a Dry Drunk

When I first came to Al Anon and for awhile afterward, the term “dry drunk” confused me. I’m now somewhat wryly familiar with the signs of impending dry drunk behavior and this last episode, I almost detached enough to go about my way and not start a fight. Almost.

The dry drunk, or more specifically, my dry drunk, is a slightly watered down version of the active alcoholic without his alcohol present: basically, the asshole. The difference is that the asshole has some background now with AA and the big blue book, and seems to not escalate as furiously as the truly active alcoholic did.

In Al Anon, we learn to practice detachment with love, which is a feat only accomplished with a good amount of serenity, and therefore mother f*****g difficult. But I dare say I’m getting better at it…slowly.

When my husband is a dry drunk, he stews with anger and resentment. I call it anger just beneath his skin–it is just waiting for any instance, any small excuse to bust through. When he vents about things not having to do with me, I’ve started simply listening and not offering any advice, nor reassurance. I’m just there for support, but I keep myself from becoming part of the story. I’m getting that part, and it helps both of us.

It’s when the disagreement is between us that it is really difficult to detach because it is still so personal to me. I have noticed that our fights are nothing like they used to be when he was actively drinking: those fights were hurtful yelling matches, void of any attempts to understand each other. Our fights now still stem from poor communication, but they rarely ratchet to yelling status. More often, we try to talk through frustration, but it is still exhausting, and level-headed talk comes only after he can emerge from the dry drunk behavior.

When my husband exhibits dry drunk behavior, I honestly wish I could pack up and go on vacation until he’s figured it out, because he is just a pure asshole, not unlike a child who cannot get his way. I have to remind myself that he is trying to deal with life without the main coping tool he’s used for years. Tradition 5 of Al-Anon encourages us to understand the alcoholic. Compassion. It’s really difficult to keep feeling compassion for someone who is often angry and uncomfortable and anxious. I am so tired of living with the negativity while trying to be positive myself. I remind myself, he’s trying. He’s trying. Recovery is all uphill. And the skill of detachment? Still working on it, always one day at a time.


9 thoughts on “Life with a Dry Drunk

  1. Living with a hidden IED (improvised explosive device/land mine), is a little like living with an IED (yes, I just said that). You never know when it’s going to go off. Takes the patience of a saint and the compassion of Jesus himself to be at all “at home” with that. Bless you. You deserve a medal!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was exactly what I needed to read, at exactly the right time. No coincidences!

    You write, “…Anger just beneath his skin–it is just waiting for any instance, any small excuse to bust through.”

    That struck me. I, too, can demonstrate that very same behavior. I just had a meltdown about cooking dinner versus getting take-out. Spoiler: the meltdown really had nothing to do with dinner. I’ve been nourishing this sneaky little resentment about the quantity of sarcastic comments flying around our apartment lately.* So in the spirit of “Progress, Not Perfection,” I chose a nice, sunny Saturday to randomly blow up about something completely unrelated. #Timing

    It’s so necessary and interesting (also, dumbfounding? frustrating? appalling?) to be reminded that this disease presents itself like two sides of the same coin. I find it can be exhausting to walk the fine line between letting things go, detaching with love, having compassion… and standing up for myself, expressing my needs, communicating about the big stuff. Functionally.

    I can relate to much of what you write. And yet you gave me a smile, in the midst of a difficult day, via sharing about your difficulties. Thank you for that. And thank you for swearing. It’s fucking great.

    *Realization: I just wrote about resenting his sarcastic remarks… With a healthy dose of sarcasm: pats self on the back and contemplates Step 6, again, because, hey, why not? It’s June!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. He is blessed to have Someone who loves him enough to help him with his burden. I feel you on the negativism just keep remembering don’t take it personal. There are fathomless demons hard at work on him. But you also don’t have to take needless abuse of course

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Will you explain the fathomless demons stuff more, because I don’t think I can ever understand. I don’t get how things can be going well and he goes and drops recovery to drink. To a normie it makes no sense.


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