When you think about what an alcoholic looks like, you may think of the homeless man on the corner of the street or the loud and crude woman who frequents the local bar. Perhaps you think of your own parent, sibling, or child. The reality is that an alcoholic doesn’t have a single form and people who struggle with alcohol arent always obvious, one of the reasons being high-functioning alcoholism.
What is a High-functioning Alcoholic?
Alcoholism is a destructive condition that often leads to physical, psychological, and social consequences—but not always. There are people who meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, but who are able to hide the extent of their drinking or explain away red flags. High-functioning alcoholism describes a reality where people are often able to hide the severity of their drinking from the people who love them most, and they may do so for months, years, or decades.
On the surface, they seem like productive members of society who drink socially, but behind the facade are any number of dark realities from mental health issues to a career that is handing on by a thread. High functioning alcoholics may go extended periods of time without their alcoholism affecting their job, relationships, or health in an obvious way. However, they are likely lying to hide the extent of their alcoholism, and eventually, their lies will catch up with them.
The Dangers of Functional Alcoholism
It is easy to ignore a problem you don’t want to face (especially if there’s a convenient explanation at the ready), but alcoholism can lead to dark and dangerous consequences if left unchecked. For instance, drunk driving accidents, which can be deadly to the driver and any other victims involved. Additionally, extended binge drinking can take a toll on organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys. Many of which are often irreversible.
Functional alcoholics do not face the same obvious threats as heroin and meth addicts, meaning they can easily avoid treatment for most or all of their life. It is actually this fact that makes them a particular danger to themselves and others.
It can often feel like there is a fine line between helping and enabling a loved one, but it gets even trickier when talking about a high-functioning alcoholic. If they are making it to work and seem to still have money to go out, then things can’t be that bad…can they? Drinking is so common in our society that it can be difficult to know when it’s just fun social drinking and when it’s gotten out of hand. To make it easy, we have identified some ways in which you should never enable a loved one regardless of whether they have an alcohol problem or not.
- Don’t make excuses for their actions
- Don’t help with financial issues like unpaid traffic tickets or legal fees
- Don’t hide or “take care of” or clean up messes caused by excessive drinking
- Don’t pretend that you are okay with how they are behaving when you aren’t
Helping a High Functioning Alcoholic
Remember that it is not always obvious when someone is struggling with an alcohol use disorder but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. In fact, there are a number of subtle signs of an alcoholic you can look out for. If you smell alcohol on your loved one’s breath at an inappropriate or unexpected time, if they are frequently adding alcohol to their drink nonchalantly, or if they seem to have a high tolerance, then act now. Give our team a call at (888) 530-5023 and we can walk you through how to get them the help they need.