Where Science Meets the Steps

The new science of addiction

Five Surprising Facts About Advanced Recovery

Ten or 20 years in, you may think you know it all about addiction recovery. But here are a few facts you might have forgotten or overlooked, and that newcomers to recovery may need to hear when the future is looking uncertain. Read More


Or, a person can finally figure out that they really do need mental healthcare when they have been suffering in silence for years because they are in a 12-step program and believe that the use of something prescribed such as anti-depressants would mean they hadn't "worked the steps right". Or, they can stay sober by "sponsoring" people and trying to control their lives in order to avoid having to live life themselves. Or, they can be so scared of "picking up" that they go to meeting after meeting and obsess on the fear of relapse and don't live life for themselves.

Or, they can come to the conclusion that intense fear, shame, and guilt has been has been kept alive by the 12-step adherence for 20+ years and that this in not a healthy way to live and that they need more out of life.

Who doesn't love a "dry drunk"

It is their unrelenting pessimism and overall despondency that makes them so loveable. Here is a person that isn't just aware of all the nasty things going on in our society, they live it. They wear it like a soldier wears a medal.

The worst thing about "dry drunks" is that they provide a concrete example for people to not quit drinking. If that is what sobriety looks like, who would ever aspire to be sober. Seriously, if you are in Hell, would you rather be drunk or sober.

The other thing "dry drunks" do is demonstrate that alcoholism is much more than any mere physical dependency. If alcoholism were just a physical disease all you should need is to get through withdrawal. Dry drunks stand as the first contradiction to the "you drink because you have a disease" model. The second contradiction are the 12 steps themselves, it does not take a "moral inventory" to defeat a disease.

The "dry drunks" forced us to modify our ideas. There existence made us look farther. In my opinion "dry drunks" really started the science of addiction recovery. It took it out of the self help groups and church counseling centers and let scientists take a look at it. The scientists, of course, wanted to control variables and look for facts.

The research to explain the contradictions are making for much better recoveries. Some of the best people I know are recovering alcoholics. Somehow when you have have rolled around in the mud and then you get out, you are very hesitant to get dirty again.

These people maintain some pretty high ethical standards for themselves. I have witnessed recovering alcoholics be petty and selfish, but that is much rarer in this group of people than in others groups of people.

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David Sack, M.D. is board certified in Addiction Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine and serves as CEO of Elements Behavioral Health and Promises Treatment Centers.


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