One would think that a memoir about battling alcoholism and struggling to maintain sobriety isn’t supposed to funny, but Augusten Burroughs’ dry wit and sarcastic tone when recounting events and people during that time of his life make it so in Dry.
While in rehab he gives people nicknames like Dr. Valium, Big Bobby, The WASP, and Marion the Low-Esteem Leader. During one of his first outings out on the town not drinking, he “feels as cosmopolitan as skim milk.” When he meets new people, he sizes them up by how many drinks it would have taken in his drinking days to hook up with them.
Burroughs doesn’t have a woe is me attitude, nor outright blame his having been raped for years by his mother’s psychiatrist’s son for his alcoholism, though he does express anger at his mother for it happening. When he was twelve, she left Burroughs with her psychiatrist. Before that, Burroughs watched his father get drunk on a daily basis. His own path to alcoholism began at a young age when he would cap a bottle of liquor using his flattened palm, flip it over, and after recapping the bottle lick the contents from his palm. The stolen small amount went undetected by his father, who angrily warned him not to touch his bottles.
As a reader, you cheer for Burroughs’ months-long stretch of sobriety to continue especially after the many times he doesn’t give in to temptation. Fresh out of rehab he agrees to meet his old drinking buddy at a bar to meet his new girlfriend, but leaves when the craving to drink becomes too strong.
Relapse is inevitable not only because the thirty days he spent in rehab were his first and we know it takes many attempts, but he stops attending AA meetings and is only friends with other addicts once he comes home. He has a stressful life as an advertising copywriter in New York, his best friend ‘Pighead’ is dying of AIDS, and he enters an all-consuming against-the-rules relationship with another recovering alcoholic and crack addict from Group, yet you’re still disappointed, though not surprised, when the relapse happens.
You root for him to get back on track and seek healthy relationships. Of course he does, but it’s the manner in which he gets his life together and writes about it that makes Dry a good read.