The Dry Drunk Waltz – Grapevine Article by Julie H.

She learned the dance of anger, frustration, and denial from her father, but replaced it with the sweeter music of AA

It wasn’t till my father threw my mother’s mother across the kitchen and broke her arm that he was forced to stop drinking. He had grown up with a very drunk and abusive father and violence and alcohol were all he knew. My mother told him that if he ever touched a drop of alcohol again their marriage was over. Thus, my father stopped drinking at twenty-five and became a dry drunk for the rest of his life.

Being a dry drunk is not an asset. My father never went to an AA meeting or saw a psychologist when he stopped drinking. This made my parents relationship even rockier than before. He never accounted for the psychic maladies that plagued him before he stopped drinking, and for my father these had been many. He drank daily and mistreated my mother, physically abusing her and cheating on her whenever he could. He also sexually abused his own daughter.

Father never realized that his personality was a big part of his addiction and so his problems went without any help. He thought that frustration and anger were just attributes of his manhood and he never dealt with them. He resented my mother for making him stop drinking and he was frustrated that he couldn’t drink like a “normal” person. Because of his drinking, he hadn’t realized many of his goals or dreams. He was anxious and worried and feared he’d failed. It was imperative for him to deal with the painful issues that brought him to his addiction, but he never did. His issues may seem obvious, yet it took me a long time to realize how much my father’s alcoholism affected me personally.

After graduating from high school, I attended college and it was there that I took my first drink. I loved the effect it had. At first, I drank just on the weekends. I never drank in the morning or at work. But after awhile, I was drinking every evening, starting right before dinner with an aperitif, then a half bottle of wine with dinner. After dinner I had a cognac and then the serious drinking started. First one, then two, then three bourbons on the rocks. After this, I’d usually pass out in a chair at the computer. I was in my thirties and soon had to check into rehab. I managed to stay sober for three years by going to numerous AA meetings.

After those three years, the denial kicked back in. “Maybe I wasn’t really an alcoholic.” “Maybe if I try again I’ll be able to drink successfully.” My “stinking thinking” was surfacing and this cost me another five years of being a drunk. It wasn’t till my forties that I admitted I was beaten by alcoholism. I thought that suicide was the only way out. After two suicide attempts, I checked into an AA halfway house to clean up. I stayed there for two years.

Now on my own, I made sure that I attended three AA meetings a week and have never stopped going. I have made many new friends in AA. When I realized I was a drunk and often a dry drunk, I went to meetings, got a sponsor and started doing the Steps and read the Big Book. Because I grew up in an abusive family, it was imperative that I see a therapist to help ease the anger and frustration in my life. AA meetings help me stay sober and I go as often as I can.

The Third Step taught me how to live a rich and contented life. Turning my life over to my Higher Power was very important. None of my friends drink and most are AA survivors. I owe so much to my friends in Alcoholics Anonymous for teaching me the 12 Steps and being there when I needed them. Without AA I would have never made it. Every day I thank God for those Steps and my AA friends.

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