What Is A Functioning Alcoholic?

What Is A Functioning Alcoholic?

Not All Alcoholics Are Obvious

When we think of alcoholics, we often get a picture in our minds of homeless people talking to themselves or violent offenders who are in and out of jail and prison. In reality, these types of people make up for a smaller percentage of alcoholics.

The majority of people who engage in alcohol abuse are young adults and middle-aged people who are able to cover up their addictions. Functioning alcoholics are probably the most difficult people to try and help. They are less likely to seek treatment, and even less likely to admit they have a problem. 

What is a functioning alcoholic? Functioning alcoholics, also referred to as “high-functioning alcoholics” are people who are able to keep their personal lives relatively intact despite a high amount of alcohol abuse.

These people are typically able to hold down a job and maintain relationships all while actively engaging in alcohol abuse. They usually have a much higher tolerance for alcohol, so they may not come off as drunk as they actually are. 

Despite being able to function in everyday life, this does not mean being a functional alcoholic is without consequence.

Your body and your mind do not care how well you do at work. Eventually, the issues associated with alcohol abuse are going to come out. There is usually a high amount of enabling that comes from family members.

If a person’s drinking isn’t affecting their job performance or other responsibilities, it is easier to make excuses or explain it away.

What Are The Signs?

What Are The Signs

There are a lot of signs that someone is a functional alcoholic. They may not be as obvious as a chronic alcoholic living on the streets, but if you have any experience with addiction, they can be very clear.

Denial is usually the number one sign in most of these cases. If everything in your personal or professional life is going smoothly, it can be very easy to deny that you have a problem. How do you help a functional alcoholic in denial? There is no one answer.

If someone can pay your bills and you aren’t ending up in jail as a result of their drinking, it’s assumed that all is ok. What you don’t see is the silent war going on within your body. Alcohol may not be affecting your obligations, but over time it will do long-term damage to your body and mind.

Another functioning alcoholic symptom is needing alcohol to relax or build confidence. If you are at a point where you can’t tackle the day’s tasks without drinking, there is a big issue. A lot of functional alcoholics will be moody and less energetic when sober, and the only thing that temporarily snaps them out of it is alcohol.

Drinking earlier in the day is another sign of a functioning alcoholic. Forgetting what you said or did while inebriated is another tell-tale sign. 

Because alcohol is so readily available in our society, it can be easier for functioning alcoholics to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. You don’t ever have to deal with the issues that go along with withdrawal if you can go to any store and obtain alcohol.

If you find yourself getting agitated or irritable because something is preventing you from that next drink, that is also an obvious sign of a problem. 

There is a high probability that someone you work with is a functioning alcoholic. What are the signs of an alcoholic at work?

First and foremost, if you have a co-worker coming in every Monday with a huge hangover and a lack of energy or productivity, that is a clear sign.

Although functional alcoholics may continue to be productive, it can be pretty obvious they have a problem when you can smell alcohol on their breath, or they become increasingly disheveled. 

High Functioning Alcoholic Recovery

High Functional Alcoholic Recovery

Getting treatment for functional alcoholics can be extremely difficult when denial is such a huge part of the process. Getting someone to admit they have a problem is usually the first step of the process for anyone suffering from alcoholism.

For high functioning alcoholics, this is a particularly large hurdle to overcome. We all make up our own minds, so the only thing you can do to help a functioning alcoholic is to be non-judgmental and let them know you are coming from a place of compassion.

It’s easy to get frustrated with people who do not want to help themselves, but ultimately it is up to them to seek help. 

The recovery program at The Discovery House was instrumental in helping me overcome alcoholism. Although one of the most important pieces, it was only one piece of my recovery. 

Having support from family and friends is a vital part of the process as well. It can be easy to continue engaging in alcoholism when everyone in your life is enabling you or making excuses. It’s made even more difficult if there is any level of co-dependency.

Having significant others or large friend groups who engage in heavy alcohol use can be a big deterrent. If you are lucky enough to have a family who will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear, that’s a big plus. 

Another key to helping a functioning alcoholic is simply to educate yourself. It’s easy to tell someone they should quit drinking.

If you are coming from a place of knowledge and/or experience, they may be more likely to listen to you. It’s also very important to give the right amount of support before, during, and after treatment.

A lot of people will be driven to drink if they don’t have a good enough support system. If you are quick to pass judgement, this can be a huge roadblock toward getting someone the help they need. Support, compassion and encouragement go a long way.

It’s not up to you whether a functional alcoholic seeks help, but you can certainly make the process easier. 

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