September 14, 2023
Stop Drinking Expert Review

Living With A Functioning Alcoholic

Are you concerned that you may be living with a functioning alcoholic but can’t quite read the signs?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about 20% of alcoholics are considered to be high functioning, making it difficult to diagnose and even harder to approach and get help for the person in your life who is dealing with the disease.

Alcoholism not only takes a toll on the physical and emotional health of the person abusing alcohol, but it affects the people around them; friends, family, and coworkers.

Here’s how to handle, help and cope living with a functioning alcoholic.

Beat alcohol cravings
Beat alcohol cravings

What Is a Functioning Alcoholic?

When the word alcoholic is mentioned, you probably think of someone whose life is falling apart. They drink all day, can’t get out of bed, are in financial ruin, and their personal and professional life has already been affected.

The thing that makes a functioning alcoholic different from a severe or non-functioning alcoholic is their ability to maintain the appearance of normal life. They often will seem to have it all. They can hold down their job, and maintain personal relationships. They’re punctual and dependable and convey the appearance of business as usual.

They very rarely create a severe problem as a result of their drinking. That would cause those around them to question their sobriety. They can somehow balance over-drinking with their personal and professional lives without sounding any serious alarms.

This is why people can live with a functioning alcoholic for a long time before they feel the need to act.

Are you enabling?

Sometimes, loved ones and friends can even help to enable the alcoholic’s behavior.

Maybe they’re the life of the party when you socialize. So, there is no effort to prevent putting this person in a tempting situation where overdrinking will likely occur. Maybe you also enjoy sharing a bottle of wine after work and are willing to overlook their excessive consumption in favor of continuing this ritual.

This form of alcohol dependency can be particularly tricky to spot because they are able to hide their problem easily. Unless you spend lengthy amounts of consecutive time with this person, their behavior will likely not appear problematic.

As you begin to recognize the signs of a functioning alcoholic, it’s important to also examine your own behavior and the behavior of the people closest to this person to discover if any modifications can be made on your end in an effort to help their recovery.

Quitting Alcohol
Quitting Alcohol Is A Great Decision

What Are the Signs?

The behaviors and signs signaling you are dealing with a functioning alcoholic will not be the same as the signs of a full-blown alcoholic and it’s important to know the difference. The signs will be more subtle, making it harder for the loved one to point out the problem or reference an overt change in behavior.

Here are some things to look for.


Living with a functioning alcoholic is difficult because they will refuse to acknowledge when they overdrink. They may say they partied too hard or things got out of hand, but they will never take personal accountability for their behavior and admit that it needs to be thoroughly examined.

They’ll also refuse to stop drinking or seek help because they don’t believe there is a real issue which needs to be addressed. They will often consider alcohol consumption to be a reward for hard work at the office. Or as something they deserve after a particularly stressful day.

Lastly, they likely believe that because they are functioning well in life, they cannot have an alcohol problem.

how to spot an alcoholic
How to spot an alcoholic


With excessive alcohol consumption comes dishonesty about that consumption. A functioning alcoholic is a master at hiding how much and when they drink. This is because their behavior may appear to be normal even though they are intoxicated.

When a functioning alcoholic is drinking, they may even go out of their way to present a normal, more polished version of themselves in order to prevent those around them from becoming suspicious. The drinking may also occur in private and you can expect to receive a dishonest answer if you ask about it.

A functioning alcoholic can also lie by living two separate lives. Perhaps at work, they are one person and when they come home, another side of them comes out. A person who can drink excessively and still manage to show up to work on time the next day. Most problem drinkers are like this!

In this instance, they lie to their co-workers and partner at home or anyone deeply involved in their personal life.

Drinking Habits

When you’re living with a functioning alcoholic, be aware of their drinking habits. Do they have an exceptionally high tolerance? Have you watched this tolerance slowly increase over time?

When a functioning alcoholic enters a social situation, their drinking patterns will become obvious if you’re paying attention. Some other things to look for are convincing the rest of the group to drink more and consuming alcoholic drinks at a faster pace than those around them and the inability to have just one or two drinks.

Living With A Functioning Alcoholic
Living With A Functioning Alcoholic

How to Talk to Your Loved One

Now that you understand what a functioning alcoholic is and the signs to look for, it’s important to understand how to approach the situation best.

If you have been living with a functioning alcoholic. You have likely been affected by his or her behavior in a deep way. Perhaps you are angry. Maybe even resentful or anxious about their disease, and it has taken a toll on your own personal wellbeing.

When approaching your loved one. It’s essential to put those feelings aside for a moment so you can speak to them from a place of love, concern, and nonjudgment. You want to let your loved one know you empathize with their situation and that you don’t blame them for this problem.

Try approaching the problem as a team. Convey to them that it’s a problem you want to solve with them. Let them know you will be there every step of the way to begin on a path toward recovery.

Come to the conversation prepared with suggestions and tangible ways to help so the talk can be productive. Be sure to remain calm! Avoid raising your voice or belittling them and never attempt to have this conversation while the person is drunk.

Living With A Functioning Alcoholic: How You Can Help

You’re now equipped with tools to spot the signs of a functioning alcoholic and, more importantly, how to approach them. There are many ways to get your loved one help.

If you are worried about your own drinking. Click here to find out more about our online ‘how to stop drinking’ courses.

About the Stop drinking expert

Craig Beck ABNLP. ABHYP. DhP. ICS. has been a professional alcohol cessation therapist since 2010. He has helped over 250,000 problem drinkers using his personal experience and professional training in the field of addiction recovery.

After struggling with his own alcohol addiction issues, Craig went on a journey of self-discovery and learning, studying the underlying causes of alcohol use disorders and how to overcome them. He has since become a board-certified Master Practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), The American Board of Hypnotherapy certified therapist, and an ICS-certified life coach specializing in alcohol addiction recovery.

Craig's personal experience with alcoholism gives him a unique perspective on the challenges of quitting drinking and staying sober. He understands the emotional and psychological factors contributing to addiction and knows how to help people overcome them.

In addition, Craig's formal training and certifications provide him with the knowledge and skills to develop effective strategies and techniques for addiction recovery. The Stop Drinking Expert approach to alcohol addiction uses a unique combination of CBT techniques and NLP reframing.

Craig's qualifications are evident in his successful track record helping people quit drinking. Craig Beck is the author of several alcohol addiction books, such as "Alcohol Lied to Me" and "The Alcohol Illusion".
His website,, provides a comprehensive guide on how to quit drinking, including practical tips, strategies, and resources for recovery.

Free Webinar And eBook:

free quitting drinking book

More Sobriety Articles:

Quitting Cold Turkey

Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey? Read This First!

Read More
problem drinkers

Most problem drinkers can deal with their drinking easily

Read More
Alcohol and intelligence

Is There A Link Between Intelligence And Alcohol Addiction?

Read More
stop binge drinking

America’s Losing The Battle Against Binge Drinking

Read More
does alcohol cause cancer

Does Alcohol Cause Cancer? The Truth Is Now Out There

Read More
how to stop drinking so much

Alcohol Moderation: How To Stop Drinking So Much

Read More