Alcoholics Anonymous talks about an emotional condition called “dry drunk”. Recovering alcoholics and even non-drinkers may exhibit dry drunk behavior. What is dry drunk behavior? One common symptom is unreasonable thinking called “stinkin thinkin”. Stinkin’ thinkin’ is irrational, self-centered thinking that focuses on the negative and blames others for everything.
Most everyone exhibits stinkin thinkin and dry drunk behavior from time to time. During periods of illness, stress or emotional and physical exhaustion, it’s easy to engage in stinkin thinkin. The difference with dry drunk stinkin thinkin is that it becomes a Modus operandi. Negative, irrational thinking becomes more the rule than the exception.
How does dry drunk stinkin thinking manifest itself? First of let’s clarify the term “dry drunk”. Technically, AA uses this term to refer to alcoholics who have given up drinking but still engage in the old behavior patterns associated with drinking behavior. They’ve quite the alcohol, but not the ‘ism”. They are sober in action, but not in spirit. Non -drinkers can exhibit dry drunk behavior. In fact, co-dependent behavior is one of the most common types of dry drunk behavior. These folks don’t have the alcohol, but the have the “-holic”: workaholic, shopaholic, rage-aholic. Their stinking thinking manifests itself in other behaviors.
Stinking thinking is a particularly toxic form of thinking. Dry drunks with stinkin thinking are engaged in a continual match of the blame-shame game. They feel horrific shame over their own behavior (often unmerited). They are terrified by their shame. It’s the monkey on their back. It follows them everywhere and gives them no peace. Instead of expressing it as shame however, their stinking thinking twists shame into blame. Someone is at fault, but not them. Consumed with intolerable guilt, warranted or unwarranted, they engulf others in their misery.
Is there hope for stinking thinking. Absolutely. If “dry drunks” share their shame and guilt in a clean, blame-free ways, they can release some of the pressure. Little by little they can find genuine recovery. Unfortunately, stinking thinking, by its perverse and contorted nature, maintains a choke-hold grip. Stinking thinking is very convincing. It’s cunning, baffling and powerful. If a dry drunk also suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit disorder or Type A personality as so often they do, the problem is compounded and the prognosis grim.
For more information on dry drunk, visit these resources:
Emotional Health Help