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Having an alcoholic family member is difficult. It is perhaps not as difficult as struggling with alcoholism yourself, but it is nonetheless emotionally taxing. But some people have loved ones who are functional alcoholics.

This does not make their situation any better. We can say that functional alcoholics may not be suffering financially because they are able to hold down a job. We can also say that there isn’t much effect on their relationships because they can maintain friendships. They may not be suffering as much as a regular alcoholic. But it does not hide the fact that their health and body is in danger.

Having a high functioning alcoholic in the family is even more difficult because their condition is confusing for most people. Alcoholism can take a devastating toll on their health—and yet they won’t even admit that they have a problem. They don’t know that their problem is serious. They may not even realize that they have a drinking problem. But over time, they can develop serious psychological and emotional damage.

And yet we must treat their condition with as much care as a regular alcoholic. We need to help them address this problem now. But how do we do it?

How to Help a High Functioning Alcoholic

The first step is understanding their condition. Alcoholism is a disease, regardless of how functional an individual is. But when we think about alcoholism, we picture someone whose life is in ruins because of their drinking habits. It’s important to see the other side of the coin: the alcoholic who isn’t struggling as much to get their life together—but drinks excessively nonetheless.

In fact, 20 percent of all alcoholics can be classified as functional. This is not as uncommon as you think.

A person who cannot control their drinking and doesn’t know when to stop is probably an alcoholic. They will drink in the middle of the day. The will drink alone. They will even try to hide their drinking.

Their success and functionality may even give them the illusion that they are not alcoholic. It may convince them that they have their drinking under control, when it’s not the case.

Understand what your loved one is going through. You have to know that there are people who don’t fall into the stereotype of the alcoholics we see on TV (and in real life). This does not mean they are not destroying their body with alcohol. The effects of alcoholism will eventually catch up with them.

Do not enable their behavior, and do not tolerate bad decisions. It can be frustrating to help them, but you need to play an active role in building a healthier future for them.

You can begin an intervention. You can gather their friends, family members and loved ones, and allow them to realize that their drinking habits have become a problem. You need to let them understand the consequences of drinking—even when they don’t see it yet.

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Convince them to seek help for alcohol abuse and set the ground rules and consequences if they refuse to do so. A person who has been drinking for a long time may have already developed dependence, meaning quitting abruptly may cause withdrawal. This is why they need to detoxify under the supervision of medical professionals.

An intervention typically involves getting the alcoholic to see how drinking has harmed their loved ones, as well as themselves. Present a plan for recovery so they won’t feel so hopeless about the situation. With your support, they can get through this challenge in no time.

Look for an alcohol addiction treatment facility near you today and help your loved one get on the path to sobriety.

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