Functioning Alcoholic: Keeping Relationships Is Possible

Studies suggest that around half of alcoholics may be described as high-functioning. That is, they are able to maintain their careers, be surrounded by a lot of friends, and even raise a family- all while being an alcoholic. Such people have been found to be very adept when it comes to disguising their abusive drinking.

Apparently, the outer trappings of their lives that often indicate success seemingly cover up their addictive habits. They also have a high tendency to be in denial of their problem, pointing to their success as components wherein a typical alcoholic would not have.

What’s more are those high-functioning alcoholics can go through years, even decades without anyone confronting them of their alcohol consumption habits. However, in the long run, most of these people will incur consequences. Maybe with an angry spouse who had to deal with the many years of alcoholism, a failed marriage that is blamed on problems except alcoholism, drinking while intoxicated and other indications that provoke the user to address his or her drinking behavior. More often than not, until a major event occurs that is directly caused by their addiction, the high-functioning alcoholic and even those surrounding him/her would not seek to address such behavior.

The dangerous drinking habits of a functional alcoholic are being concealed and kept as a secret from members of the family, friends, colleagues, boss and others.

These high-functioning alcoholics shield any underlying suspicion through their success at work, hardworking demeanor, and involvement in several hobbies and activities. However, the most tell-tale warning signs of a functional alcoholic are:

  • The need to rationalize their alcoholic consumption due to stressful situations like a work project or a personal goal.
  • The need to use alcohol to relax after a long day at work.
  • Denying that they have a drinking problem and can become defensive when they are confronted.
  • Drinking in secret. Hiding bottles of beer, wine or liquor.
  • Frequent mood changes, acting irrationally, easily annoyed or restless.
  • Participation in dangerous behaviors including DIU and risky sexual activities.

It may be difficult to identify when a person needs treatment for alcohol dependence if that individual is holding a professional, high-level career and if their alcoholic habits do not seem to have an impact on their finances.

Author Sarah Allen Benton in her book “Understanding the High-Functioning” alcoholic quoted Dr. Mark Willengring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism saying people may be dependent, but show no obvious signs of abuse problems. They can be successful students, good workers, and parents and are even mindful of their weight through regular exercise. Then, they pack up, go home, and drink two bottles of wine or four martinis.

It’s vital to recognize that alcoholism does not necessarily equate failure in life.

There are many successful people who are alcoholics; they defy the stereotype of alcohols. In essence, they lead two lives: one they show in public being doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, or Wall Street brokers and one they keep in private drinking far more than the average social drinker.

It is unfortunate that when his or her drinking habits are buried for a prolonged time, the addiction is worsened and months go by before the effects of alcoholism start to interfere with their physical and emotional well-being. Daily obligations, relationships, and other important areas in their life are then affected.

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