Dry

“Do you feel sober?” She’s looking at me, eyebrows raised, head tilted, her mouth a flattish line held snug against her teeth. Even without the body language, I’ve had a lot of counselors over the years. I know the difference between a question that’s simply meant to prompt introspection and one that implies the answer is known.

This has come as a result of me sharing in group, a rare event for me, but the group was unusually small and I was swept up in an unusual burst of courage. I had been talking about struggling with my diet, the shame and helplessness of it, the feeling of being forever trapped: if not by one addiction, then another.

I have lived the nightmare of alcoholism and drug addiction with all sorts of repercussions, including a night in jail and a month in rehab, and in some ways food is worse. For me, food is a seething rat king, intricately woven into all my half-understood feelings about my own self, my body, my past, my potential; it’s pushed and pulled by the world’s powerful and contradictory messages about how we should eat and what we should look like. Even after all these years, all the self-help books and good advice and suffocating rooms painted in muted tones with strategically-placed boxes of tissue, it’s still a mess. It goes like this, sometimes: I eat because I’m bad which makes me feel bad and so I eat.

You can’t quit food. You can only try to get right with it, or at least tune out the cacophony as best you can. Sometimes I do okay, I have good stretches. Sometimes, not so much.

So I tried to talk about it, and some of the women in the room empathized and said they had similar struggles, which is the point of talking about these things, I think. It’s is a twelve-step-based facility where I go for this ongoing recovery support, so I understand that the language won’t always work for me, a non-twelve-stepper. Still, do you know what those in AA call people who are sober but not in a program? A dry drunk.

A dry drunk is described as “a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.” This is pretty much every sober person I have ever known, frankly, because I have never met a human who didn’t occasionally fuck things up, but anyway, that’s the term. Dry drunk.

“Do you feel sober?”

She’s maybe trying to tell me that I’m using food to escape or alter my feelings, which: yes. Yes, this is a thing I do. But do I feel sober? Well god damn, I sure thought so. I have a sobriety date of 11/1/16, which means I spent this entire year — every last bit of 2017, thank you very much, and I’ll just delicately mention that my marriage has drifted to completely separate political spectrums so that’s been fun — without a single mind-altering substance, at least the sort of mind-altering substance that’s generally thought to be …. look, I’m saying I for sure ate some feelings this year but I didn’t drink, medicate, smoke, or otherwise imbibe, and can I just HAVE that? Can I hold both of these things: my sobriety, which I am tentatively very proud of, and my ongoing challenge with figuring out how to eat without hating myself?

I don’t feel fixed. I feel more broken than ever, in lots of ways. Everything I spent years self-medicating is right in front of me now, in ultra 4K definition. It is ugly and painful. I don’t feel confident or at peace or like I have all, or even any, of the answers.

But: I have not used in over a year. I am kind of a shitshow, but I am healthy, I am here for my kids, I am here to work on myself.

Do I feel sober? Yeah, and it doesn’t always feel good, because that’s the way it works. It feels — awesomely, horribly — like being alive.

Comments

36 Responses to “Dry”

  1. Libby on January 1st, 2018 4:28 pm

    Congratulations on your year! Love you.

  2. Deana on January 1st, 2018 4:37 pm

    Every day above ground is a victory, and it starts over every 24 hours.

    Keep being alive.

    Deana

  3. Kendra on January 1st, 2018 4:48 pm

    I live with a therapist but I’d not heard the term Dry Drunk before. Do we have to use it? Can we find another that is maybe not trying to be this big Longaberger basket catch-all to identify someone for whom a particular recovery strategy doesn’t quite resonate, nor work at all? I’m about 15 years in recovery from disordered eating. It’s in front of me every day but I’d rather not be reminded in shaming terms that I’m a walking paradox with secrets in my pockets, because, as you say, isn’t that just being human? It would seem that this is a major thrust of recovery, finding more gentle terms to accept who we are so that we can be more accepting of others even if they did vote for the bigoted yam?

  4. Ginger on January 1st, 2018 4:54 pm

    To have been sober through the past year is such an accomplishment. Good on you. Tell your inner critic to take a break and feel some love!

  5. Andrea on January 1st, 2018 5:26 pm

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. congratulations on your year! I very much enjoy your blog and relate very closely to your life. As the wife of a “dry drunk”, I hate that term too. Sober is sober, and you’ve made it a year. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  6. Maureen on January 1st, 2018 5:38 pm

    I’m not qualified in any way except maybe in empathy-but that was a real shitty thing for her to say to you. These things are a struggle, that is true-but for her to act like this is a part of alcohol abuse? Out of line.

    For you to share and for her to say that? Hell no! I also think the term dry drunk needs to be retired. We all have our obsessions and our downfalls, should that term apply to all of us? It seems so counterproductive.

    I’m going to throw this out-because I’m someone who has struggled with my weight for 23 years. Weight Watchers has undergone a sea change, and they are focusing on everything that to me seems important. If you can find a good meeting, not just with a good leader, but understanding members-it must feel very much like a good AA meeting. Unfortunately-in my area-my meeting was run by old school (think 1970’s and 1980’s lifetime members) and a leader that wasn’t strong enough to rein them in. BUT…I read the literature, and they have really joined the 21st century. Talking about emotions and why we eat like we do. I literally have said the same thing at a meeting that you did “you can quit drinking, drugs…but you have to eat to live. You can’t quit that.”

    I grew up with an alcoholic mom-and every day you are sober is a gift for your kids. One year? You are doing great!

  7. Carrie on January 1st, 2018 6:14 pm

    That’s so unfair and shaming. Over a year without drinking or using IS a huge accomplishment. Food is hard, very hard, but it’s different. The idea that you’re not sober because you aren’t perfect is the a great way to get someone to start using/drinking again. Screw her. And congratulations!!!

  8. N on January 1st, 2018 8:54 pm

    I’ve been with you since #1 son was born and this is one of my favorite posts.

    Living is fucking hard. People aren’t perfect and everyone has issues. Most are just hidden- they’re still there though. Fucking hypocrites.

    Keep doing what you’re doing- you’ve come a long way!!

  9. Carla Hinkle on January 1st, 2018 9:58 pm

    A year of sobriety–over a year!–is wonderful. A gift to your family and yourself. You are here, you are alive, you are sober. That is a big accomplishment. As a long time reader, there have been times over the years when I was really scared for you. It is great to see you “here” with us.

    Being at opposite ends of the political spectrum with your husband must be hard. Especially these days, when politics feels so much more important than it did before November 2016. Staying sober through the various hard times and challenges and ups and downs of life is also an accomplishment. Good job.

  10. Mary on January 2nd, 2018 4:57 am

    Congrats to you! It is an honor to “know” you. Thanks for being willing to share with us the hard stuff!

  11. Kathleen on January 2nd, 2018 5:36 am

    Congratulations! You should be so proud! I have no experience with addiction but can only imagine how difficult it must be. Please don’t let people get to you because 1year+ is a huge accomplishment. She may have phrased her question in a way that we all know implies a certain thing but she didn’t say it out loud. So it doesn’t exist. Take it at face value. No interpretation.

    You are so strong and our minds can make things so much worse if we make assumptions (as right as they might be). So unless people want to say stuff to your face directly, don’t assume. You’re doing great.

  12. Sarah on January 2nd, 2018 8:20 am

    Congratulations on your over a year sober! You should be really proud.

  13. ScottHagg on January 2nd, 2018 8:39 am

    You’re not a shitshow.
    You’re human.

  14. Jennifer on January 2nd, 2018 8:41 am

    You’re doing great work, Linda! Honesty is hard, recovery is hard. Thanks for sharing with such bravery. Hugs!

  15. anne nahm on January 2nd, 2018 8:42 am

    <3

    Congrats on your year! I wish I could give you Anne goggles, so you could see yourself like I read you. Which is: F*CK YEAH! Crawled out of a pit of alligators, knees are scraped, still here and funny as hell. Pretty g_d_ good for a year's work!

  16. SaraM on January 2nd, 2018 8:44 am

    A year without drugs and booze is HUGE. Allow yourself to feel the accomplishment of that. I’m really proud of you and we don’t even know each other.
    As a fellow shitshow and garbage pile of a human being, I think we can isolate and enjoy each accomplishment without the “BUT!!!!!” thinking of all other things we perceive as being wrong with us.
    Be gentle to yourself. Feel proud.

  17. Donna Plumley Brubach on January 2nd, 2018 9:22 am

    YOU are a fucking bad ass Linda, and you just keep on keeping on. Seriously the things you’ve done, amaze and astound the rest of us. Your writing, your honesty, your training for that marathon a while back? Jeeze dude, what’s not to be proud of? But like so many of us you are harder on yourself than anyone else is. Much love to you.

  18. Kyla on January 2nd, 2018 9:53 am

    I think you’re fantastic! If you are a good enough human to be married to someone on opposite ends of the political spectrum, I bow down to you. I’m too stubborn and “have to be right” to do that so kudos to your Zen nature!

  19. Sarah on January 2nd, 2018 10:24 am

    First time commenter, here, too. I’ve been reading you since before Facebook was a thing, when I’d spend my lunch breaks making the blog rounds instead of scrolling through status updates.

    In May of this year, I made the decision to end my relationship with alcohol.

    It is so hard.

    What you said: “I don’t feel fixed. I feel more broken than ever, in lots of ways. Everything I spent years self-medicating is right in front of me now, in ultra 4K definition. It is ugly and painful. I don’t feel confident or at peace or like I have all, or even any, of the answers.”

    This rings so true with me. So often we hear of the sunshine on the other side of the sobriety bridge, how your life will improve, and things will be all rainbows and unicorns.

    They aren’t.

    The reality of why I was self-medicating for so long, and what I was running from, parts of my personality I was trying to suppress, and others I was trying to enhance – all of those things are so very much now on the surface without the numbing of alcohol.

    Overall, yes, it is better. But inside, sometimes, it is so much worse. I am hopeful that this will only bring strength to continue in sobriety, but oh, my, god, is it hard.

  20. elizabeth_k on January 2nd, 2018 10:24 am

    I love your writing. I think you are admirable, strong and mighty.

  21. Pete on January 2nd, 2018 10:54 am

    Happy New Year. Congrats on the sobriety! Good luck with the food. My daughter is a full blown Trumpie and we haven’t talked in over a year. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with her. You have my admiration for that. (Resist).

  22. Pete on January 2nd, 2018 10:57 am

    BTW, I’m 60 and in my entire life I’ve NEVER met anyone who didn’t have serious problem, me included. We’re all dry drunks IMHO.

  23. Annie on January 2nd, 2018 10:57 am

    Congrats on your year. I too am married to someone who has slowly over the years become more and more different from me politically. We still are best friends, co-parents and co-owners of our business. I just canNOT tolerate any type of political discussion with or around him. I’ve felt alone and hurt by the move he’s made politically. It annoys me that so many couples are in sync in that way, and we are not. Over time I’ve come to realize that we don’t have to vote for the same candidates, or ever even have a discussion about our political beliefs. As long as our core values remain the same, I think it’s okay.

    Just offering up that I know how you feel in that regard (food too, but that’s another comment!). Thank you for sharing

  24. ML on January 2nd, 2018 11:50 am

    Please tell me you read Laura McKowen on instagram? She is the best voice in recovery I have ever found. (And she’s not such a fan of 12-step either.) I’m in recovery from food issues and one year is more than I have ever accomplished. You are a hero. I think anyone who stayed sober *this* last year deserves a two for one (or ten for one) medal of some sort.

  25. Jen on January 2nd, 2018 5:49 pm

    You’re definitely not a shitshow. Your year + of sobriety is a fantastic accomplishment, ESPECIALLY in light of our politically-charged year. I truly can’t fathom living in a divided household, and for that you’re STRONG. And no doubt patient!

  26. Philip on January 2nd, 2018 6:12 pm

    On the marriage thing, all I’ll say is an understated: well, damn, that’s unfortunate, and I’m disappointed that JB could somehow possibly still be on board with the current administration.

    But for your last two paragraphs: damn _straight_, you are still here and still doing your best for yourself as well as your family. Good for you! Congratulations on not just surviving the shitshow of 2017 but also staying sober through it. May you find yourself finishing 2018 even stronger and more self-assured.

  27. Lisa on January 2nd, 2018 7:27 pm

    Oh, fuck that lady sideways. Excuse me, DRY fuck that lady sideways.

  28. sooboo on January 3rd, 2018 12:41 am

    I always thought dry drunk applied to “a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways” AND isn’t doing anything to change that. Congratulations on your year+. It’s been nice to read your thoughts again. Thank you for sharing and Happy New Year!

  29. Mandy on January 3rd, 2018 3:39 pm

    A year of sobriety is amazing, particularly 2017. You are amazing. And human.

  30. Mary Clare on January 4th, 2018 10:17 am

    Woot! You worked hard on your year+ and you keep on doin’ it. Let that sink in. That counselor was being an a-hole. You’re self-aware enough to see your struggles as struggles and no one needs judgment. Hugs from across the internet.

  31. Jessica on January 4th, 2018 12:38 pm

    Fist bump of solidarity to living with someone on the opposite political spectrum. I never really thought that would be too hard, until this year and the shitshow we’ve had.

  32. Amy G on January 4th, 2018 6:34 pm

    Congrats to your over a year accomplishment!

    I don’t typically share but I felt inclined because this has worked well for me. I’ve done three sessions of Emotional Clearing with Bonita Jacque. I’ve found it instantly effective. I have her telephone number if you’d like to call & talk with her. Her email is bonitajacque@gmail.com. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

    I hope you find peace & self-love.

  33. Vic on January 5th, 2018 8:21 am

    Staying sober is a major, major accomplishment.
    And you should allow yourself to feel great about that.
    You deserve to feel great about that.

    All the rest of it? Is just the shitshow of living. Sometimes hard to enjoy! The flip side is that it gives you compassion.

  34. Cyn on January 6th, 2018 9:09 am

    Hi there.
    I’ve been reading you since Cat and Dog 1.0, since before Riley. Ahem. I feel awkward leaving a comment like this.
    I’ve been sober since 3.27.17. I use SMART online forums and r/stopdrinking on reddit.com daily, and see an amazing psychologist that specializes in addiction weekly, and sometimes attend in person SMART meetings and/or AA meetings. I, too, am not in The Program, because it’s creepy AF, but I value it at the same time.

    With all that, I feel like that lady was confronting you, and it’s appropriate to confront her right back. I vote for “Fuck off.”

  35. Cindy (Eric's Mommy) on January 8th, 2018 10:44 am

    Congratulations on 1 year!! I’ve been following you FOREVER and haven’t commented in a loooong time <3

  36. LD's Mom on January 8th, 2018 2:36 pm

    “Can I hold both of these things?” Hell, YES, you can! Sounds like a tremendous achievement to me!!

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