The events in Dry follow those in Burroughs's memoir of his bizarre childhood, Running with Scissors (see this database). Burroughs, at 24 years old and with no formal education beyond grade school, works in the high pressure advertising world of Manhattan. He's also an alcoholic, and his addiction definitely interferes with his work. Fortunately for Burroughs, he is not fired, but rather, his boss and co-workers set up an intervention. Burroughs--after telling his best friend, Pighead, who is HIV positive; his drinking buddy, the undertaker Jim; and his abusive, alcoholic father, of the plan--leaves for an inpatient rehabilitation program in Minnesota designed for gay people.

Thus begins Burroughs journey to sobriety. A journey that is replete with temptation, relapse (not only with alcohol, but also crack cocaine), love, success, loss, and grief. Burroughs experiences hallucinations, coma and life-threatening withdrawal. But ultimately, Burroughs achieves the title of his memoir. What he reveals is that, for an addict, remaining clean and dry is hard work. This daily, moment-by-moment work forces the addict to examine what is truly precious in life.


In order to better understand the obstacles that Burroughs overcame to even contemplate leading a sober life, I would highly recommend reading Running with Scissors prior to opening this book. Burroughs can be tender in his style, but he can also describe, in biting, often cynical detail, group and individual therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, therapists and clients. Knowing his background more fully allows for a greater empathy and an appreciation for his honesty and capacity to love.


St. Martin's

Place Published

New York



Page Count