[Alexis' note -- this is a MOST interesting article]


Dry Drunk

By Prof. Katherine van Wormer

Ordinarily I would not use this term. But when I came across the article
"Dry Drunk" -- Is Bush Making a Cry for Help?' in 'American Politics
Journal' by Alan Bisbort, I was ready to concede ... in the case of
George W. Bush, the phrase may be quite apt.

Dry drunk is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics
Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering
alcoholic who is no longer drinking -- one who is dry, but whose
thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be 'dry' but not
truly sober.

Such an individual tends to go to extremes. It was when I started
noticing the extreme language that colored President Bush's speeches
that I began to wonder. First there were the terms -- "crusade" and
"infinite justice" that were later withdrawn. Next came "evil-doers",
"axis of evil", and "regime change", terms that have almost become
clich=E9s in the mass media.

Something about the polarized thinking and the obsessive repetition
reminded me of many of the recovering alcoholics/addicts I had treated
(a point worth noting is that because of the connection between
addiction and "stinking thinking", relapse prevention usually consists
of work in the cognitive area).

Having worked with recovering alcoholics for years, I flinched at the
single-mindedness and ego- and ethno-centricity in the President's
speeches (my husband likened his phraseology to the gardener character
played by Peter Sellers in the movie, Being There). Since words are the
tools -- the representations -- of thought, I wondered what Bush's
choice of words said about where he was coming from. Or where we would
be going.

First, in this essay, we will look at the characteristics of the
so-called "dry drunk" -- then we will see if they apply to this
individual, our president -- and then we will review his drinking
history for the record.

What is the dry drunk syndrome? "Dry drunk" traits consist of:
Exaggerated self-importance and pomposity grandiose behavior. A rigid,
judgmental outlook. Impatience. Childish behavior. Irresponsible
behavior. Irrational rationalization. Projection. Overreaction.

Clearly, George W. Bush has all these traits except exaggerated
self-importance. He may be pompous, especially with regard to
international dealings, but his actual importance hardly can be
exaggerated. His power, in fact, is such that if he collapses into
paranoia, a large part of the world will collapse with him.
Unfortunately, there are some indications of paranoia in statements such
as the following: "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their
terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of
mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends."
The trait of projection is evidenced here as well, projection of the
fact that we are ready to attack onto another nation which may not be so
inclined.

Bush's rigid, judgmental outlook comes across in virtually all his
speeches. To fight evil, Bush is ready to take on the world, in almost a
Biblical sense. Consider his statement with reference to Israel: "Look
my job isn't to try to nuance. I think moral clarity is important ...
this is evil versus good."

Bush's tendency to dichotomize reality is not on the Internet list
above, but it should be, as this tendency to polarize is symptomatic of
the classic addictive thinking pattern. I describe this thinking
distortion in 'Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective' as
either/or reasoning -- "either you are with us or against us". Oddly,
Bush used those very words in his dealings with other nations.
All-or-nothing thinking is a related mode of thinking commonly found in
newly-recovering alcoholics/addicts. Such a worldview traps people in a
pattern of destructive behavior.

Obsessive thought patterns are also pronounced in persons prone to
addiction. There are organic reasons for this due to brain chemistry
irregularities; messages in one part of the brain become stuck there.
This leads to maddening repetition of thoughts. President Bush seems
unduly focused upon getting revenge on Saddam Hussein ("he tried to kill
my Dad"), leading the country and the world into war, accordingly.

Grandiosity enters the picture as well. What Bush is proposing to
Congress is not the right to attack on one country but a total shift in
military policy: America would now have the right to take military
action before the adversary even has the capacity to attack. This is in
violation, of course, of international law as well as national precedent.

How to explain this grandiose request? Jane Bryant Quinn provides the
most commonly offered explanation in a recent Newsweek editorial, "Iraq:
It's the Oil, Stupid". Many other opponents of the Bush doctrine
similarly seek a rational motive behind the obsession over first, the
war on terror and now, Iraq. I believe the explanation goes deeper than
oil, that Bush's logic is being given too much credit; I believe his
obsession is far more visceral.

On this very day, a peace protestor in Portland held up the sign, "Drunk
on Power". This, I believe, is closer to the truth. The drive for power
can be an unquenchable thirst, addictive in itself. Senator William
Fulbright, in his popular bestseller of the 1960s, 'The Arrogance of
Power', masterfully described the essence of power-hungry politics as
the pursuit of power; this he conceived as an end in itself. "The causes
and consequences of war may have more to do with pathology than with
politics," he wrote, "more to do with irrational pressures of pride and
pain than with rational calculation of advantage and profit."

Another "dry drunk" trait is impatience. Bush is far from a patient man:
"If we wait for threats to fully materialize", he said in a speech he
gave at West Point, "we will have waited too long". Significantly, Bush
only waited for the United Nations and for Congress to take up the
matter of Iraq's disarmament with extreme reluctance.

Alan Bisbort argues that Bush possesses the characteristics of the "dry
drunk" in terms of: his incoherence while speaking away from the script;
his irritability with anyone (for example, Germany's Schroeder) who
dares disagree with him; and his dangerous obsessing about only one
thing (Iraq) to the exclusion of all other things.

In short, George W. Bush seems to possess the traits characteristic of
addictive persons who still have the thought patterns that accompany
substance abuse. If we consult the latest scientific findings, we will
discover that scientists can now observe changes that occur in the brain
as a result of heavy alcohol and other drug abuse. Some of these changes
may be permanent. Except in extreme cases, however, these cognitive
impairments would not be obvious to most observers.

To reach any conclusions we need of course to know Bush's personal
history relevant to drinking/drug use. To this end I consulted several
biographies. Yes, there was much drunkenness -- years of binge drinking
starting in college, at least one conviction for DUI in 1976 in Maine,
and one arrest before that for a drunken episode involving theft of a
Christmas wreath. According to J.D. Hatfield's book, 'Fortunate Son',
Bush later explained: "Alcohol began to compete with my energies ... I'd
lose focus". Although he once said he couldn't remember a day he hadn't
had a drink, he added that he didn't believe he was "clinically
alcoholic". Even his father, who had known for years that his son had a
serious drinking problem, publicly proclaimed: "He was never an
alcoholic. It's just he knows he can't hold his liquor".

Bush drank heavily for over 20 years until he made the decision to
abstain at age 40. About this time he became a "born again Christian,"
going as usual from one extreme to the other. During an Oprah interview,
Bush acknowledged that his wife had told him he needed to think about
what he was doing. When asked in another interview about his reported
drug use, he answered honestly, "I'm not going to talk about what I did

20 to 30 years ago."

That there might be a tendency toward addiction in Bush's family is
indicated in the recent arrests or criticism of his daughters for
underage drinking and his niece for cocaine possession. Bush, of course,
deserves credit for his realization that he can't drink moderately, and
his decision today to abstain. The fact that he doesn't drink moderately
may be suggestive of an inability to handle alcohol. In any case, Bush
has clearly gotten his life in order and is in good physical condition,
careful to exercise and rest when he needs to do so. The fact that some
residual effects from his earlier substance abuse -- however slight --
might cloud the U.S. President's thinking and judgment is frightening,
however, in the context of the current global crisis.

One final consideration that might come into play in the foreign policy
realm relates to Bush's history relevant to his father. The Bush
biography reveals the story of a boy named for his father, sent to the
exclusive private school in the East where his father's reputation as
star athlete and later war hero were still remembered. The younger
George's achievements were dwarfed in the school's memory of his father.
Athletically he could not achieve his father's laurels, being smaller
and perhaps less strong. His drinking bouts and lack of intellectual
gifts held him back as well. He was popular and well liked, however. His
military record was mediocre as compared to his father's as well. Bush
entered the Texas National Guard. What he did there remains largely a
mystery. There are reports of a lot of barhopping during this period. It
would be only natural that Bush would want to prove himself today, that
he would feel somewhat uncomfortable following, as before, in his
father's footsteps. I mention these things because when you follow his
speeches, Bush seems bent on a personal crusade. One motive is to avenge
his father. Another seems to be to prove himself to his father. In fact,
Bush seems to be trying somehow to achieve what his father failed to do
-- to finish the job of the Gulf War, to get the "evildoer" Saddam.

To summarize, George W. Bush manifests all the classic patterns of what
alcoholics in recovery call "the dry drunk". His behavior is consistent
with barely noticeable but meaningful brain damage brought on by years
of heavy drinking and possible cocaine use. All the classic patterns of
addictive thinking that are spelled out in my book are here: the
tendency to go to extremes (leading America into a massive 100 billion
dollar strike-first war); a "kill or be killed mentality;" the tunnel
vision; "I" as opposed to "we" thinking; the black and white polarized
thought processes (good versus evil, all or nothing thinking).

His drive to finish his father's battles is of no small significance,
psychologically. If the public (and politicians) could only see what
Fulbright noted as 'the pathology in the politics'. One day, sadly, they
will."

May God bless and watch over us, every one.