Am I a Dry Drunk?

In addiction recovery, complacency breeds old behavior, which can quickly lead to unnecessary problems, including relapse.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains complacency on page 85. It says, “It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

In my early days in recovery, I heard old-timers sharing that our addictions were right outside the door, waiting for us, and they were doing pushups to get even stronger. They told those of us who were new in recovery, floating on that pink cloud of contentedness, that we needed to stay vigilant because alcoholism is tricky. It loves an alcoholic who is no longer paying attention.

I would be willing to bet that many alcoholics who relapse after having a period of sobriety do so because they become complacent. It happened to me. I had nearly seven years of sobriety and didn’t think I would drink again. But I got complacent with my recovery, and guess what happened? Yep. I relapsed. I had stopped going to meetings, didn’t have a sponsor, and certainly wasn’t living according to the principles of the program. That was almost three years ago. Thank God I haven’t taken a drink since then, but that doesn’t mean I have remained vigilant. In fact, I haven’t. I let my guard down, and my spiritual condition suffered. I fell into old, unhealthy behaviors and got resentful. And that all happened without my noticing.

Fortunately, my husband, Austin, noticed. He saw the signs and said, in the most loving way he could, that he thought I might be headed toward being a dry drunk. I think he was right. I knew that I was sometimes hard to be around. I was restless, irritable, and discontented. But I hadn’t put it together that what I had was untreated alcoholism. I had all the symptoms; I just hadn’t taken a drink yet. I had begun to take my recovery for granted. I think that subconsciously I believed that going to recovery meetings, church, Bible studies, and the like were enough to keep me spiritually fit. I got complacent with my recovery program.

When my husband called my attention to it, I was shocked. Really! I was so surprised to hear him say the words that I didn’t know how to respond. That didn’t last long, though. We talked about it, and I could definitely see the points he was making. I wasn’t doing anything at all to proactively maintain my recovery. I went to meetings sporadically, hadn’t opened my Big Book for a long time, didn’t have a sponsor, and was not practicing AA principles in all my affairs. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same scenario that I was living in 2019 when I relapsed. But this time, I had the opportunity to do something about it before I made things worse.

I knew I had to get a sponsor and get back to actively working a program. So, I asked a friend in the program I trust if he knew any women with healthy programs who sponsor people. He did. He introduced me to my new sponsor, and we’ve been working together for a couple of months. It feels great to get back into the literature and the steps. I need that. I need a program. I need a sponsor.

Where would I be if Austin hadn’t dared to say those difficult words to me? I don’t know. Probably still sober, but maybe not. But whether I relapsed or not, I would still be living with untreated alcoholism.

Thank God I don’t have to live like that anymore.

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