The Functioning Alcoholic Revealed!
Many of us are familiar with the idea of the functioning alcoholic. A man or woman who, contrary to popular stereotypes about addicts, manages to hold down a job, pay their rent, and otherwise maintain the appearance of a life unblemished by addiction problems.
But actual information about high-functioning alcoholics. And how to know if you or someone you love may be one, is in fairly short supply.
Sarah Benton, in Recognizing The High-Functioning Alcoholic, illustrates that many of our contemporary knowledge and interpretations of alcohol addiction and addiction leave room for high-functioning alcoholics to “slip through the gaps,” in part because of a comparative shortage of scientific studies specifically concentrated on functioning alcoholics in particular.
Understanding how this type of addiction functions is important. Because high-functioning alcohol addiction can be just as damaging to the abuser and their loved ones as very transparent and noticeable alcohol addiction.
In the most basic sense, a functioning alcoholic is one that “can manage a job, pursue a career or take care of children while continuing with his or her alcoholism;” a high-functioning alcoholic does these things with extreme success and zero apparent impairment.
Alcoholism, like all dependencies, is deceitful. It asserts to the addict that their behavior is completely ordinary and that there’s zero problem at all.
The conditions that are needed to pierce this extensive, entrenched denial– “it’s only one”, “I have a demanding job”, “I can quit whenever I want” are often quite extreme. There’s a reason why “hitting rock bottom” is a thing in the rhetoric of addiction recovery.
For high-functioning alcoholics, that moment of “rock bottom” may never realistically come.
The convention that alcoholism is necessarily deeply harmful to your financial condition isn’t actually true; only around 10 percent of all alcoholics are homeless or otherwise heavily “low-functioning.”
In the presence of apparent material safety and security, good reputation and only “small” consequences for an addiction, high-functioning alcoholics are a lot less likely to be able to admit to themselves that they have a problem. And that thinking can impede treatment and successfully taking care of it.
There is no such thing as a “good” alcoholic or someone who is “able to handle” their alcohol addiction: the capability to continue to live in a state of relative normality also means a tendency to be able to screen oneself from the truths of their addiction.
Its Impacts On Family members & Friends Are Hidden
The high-functioning alcoholic’s account is mostly one of aesthetics; the visible trappings of prosperity mask a bigger issue, camouflaging its effect from all except the nearest and most intimate acquaintances.
High-functioning alcohol addiction may not mean that the alcoholic’s family becomes insolvent or deals with alcohol-related physical violence, but it does change the emotional characteristics considerably, creating unhealthy balances as well as the extra issue that nobody outside the family really “observes” what’s going on.
The external success of a high-functioning alcoholic may, perversely, restrain their family from confronting them about their drinking; even when the alcohol abuse becomes emotionally destructive or creates profound rifts within the family members, loved ones may hesitate because “no one will believe me,” “I don’t want to humiliate them,” or “they’re doing all right, I have nothing to complain about.”
The situation is also obscured from outsiders as a result of the visible features of a successful, happy way of life, so there’s not much possibility of anybody else perceiving the reality of the circumstance.
The result? A segregating family experience that can never actually confront the matter head-on.
Some Work & School Cultures Can Help High-Functioning Alcoholics Lie To Themselves About Their Problem
High-functioning alcoholism can also have the complicity of the surrounding culture. Heavy alcohol consumption is, in certain social circumstances, entirely accepted and understood, meaning that people who are otherwise prosperous are much less likely to question their own alcohol habits and question addiction.
The American university experience is an example. Binge alcohol consumption and passing out are just “what you do” when you’re in university in many parts of the USA, and that sort of acceptance of excessive behavior can make it very difficult for high-functioning alcoholics to detect any of their own problems.
Working high-stress careers is another instance; if the workplace culture accepts evening heavy drinking sessions after deals and boozy lunches with clients. And there’s no obvious effect on work ethic or ability.
It’s not exactly going to be an area that starts to ask questions if someone’s becoming too dependent on beer.
Our notion of addiction as “obvious” implies that the non-obvious types can hide in plain sight. (Benton noted to the New York Times that managers can be exceptionally well-camouflaged alcoholics because they’re not monitored and aren’t challenged.).
Being High-Functioning Does Not Shield You.
There is a dangerous tendency, even among the high-functioning alcoholics who recognize they have a problem. To classify themselves as somehow “better” than low-functioning ones.
But having the features of a “effective” lifestyle does not make alcoholism any less destructive. Or make a drinking problem any less serious.
A 2015 study found that, of a cohort of nearly 500 highly trained young guys. 14.5 percent were alcohol-dependent and 18.2 percent reported alcohol abuse in their history.
As the research study keep track of them over the course of five years, they revealed weakness to turning into problem drinkers, despite receiving many social and educational benefits and being, as the researchers noted, “high-functioning.”
The significant predictors for alcoholic abuse in the future, they noted, were a family history of booze complications, a personal history of alcoholic abuse, and drug use. In other words, factors that being “high-functioning” does not help you escape.
And, as the famous rehab center Promises details. Alcohol addiction of any kind is never really high-functioning.
The truth of dependency will catch up to you ultimately:
” In spite of the outward aesthetics of functionality, nevertheless, alcohol addiction never fails to take its toll … Initially, and even for several years, alcohol appears to reduce stress and anxiety.
At the same time, however, it is making the drinker less resistant to stress and less able to endure pressure. Over time, the alcoholic’s capacity to cope decreases and more alcohol is needed, establishing a damaging cycle of ever-increasing stress and an ever-increasing demand for increasingly more alcohol.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Heavy drinking only gets heavier.
Though an employee may be performing sufficiently at the moment, eventually the condition will take over and usurp that effectiveness.”
According to analysis from 2016, functional dependency isn’t more prevalent in either sex, and functional abusers have the tendency to be middle-aged, have university education and stable jobs, and have both a partner and kids.
But while high-functioning problem drinkers may look healthy, there is no “good” or “reasonable” degree of alcoholism. Just because a drinking problem isn’t destroying an addict’s career or financial situation, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real.
Are you ready to deal with this problem and learn how to stop drinking today?