There is a common misconception that all alcoholics don't have jobs, drink all day, and live on the streets as filthy beggars. The stereotypical alcoholic who spends all day at a pub or sitting on a street corner drinking from a cheap bottle hidden by a paper bag is the image most people bring to mind when they hear the word 'alcoholic.' Learn the signs of a functioning alcoholic.
What most people don't realize is that a large percentage of alcoholics manage to function very well, living relatively normal lives. They may have responsible jobs, own a home, have a family, drive a nice care and appear to be completely normal to all external appearances. They might never start drinking until after 5pm, or only drink to unwind and relieve symptoms of stress after a hard day at work. They may also have a serious problem with alcohol addiction.
People living in the grip of a serious alcohol abuse problem find it easy to deny the severity of their addiction. After all, if they don't fit the stereotypical image, they believe there is no need for them to get help or seek treatment.
In reality, a functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic. Here are ten signs of a functioning alcoholic to watch for.
An alcoholic will often replace meals with a few drinks, or use mealtime as an excuse to start drinking. Over time, an alcoholic will also lose interest in food altogether.
A person with a serious drinking problem will develop tolerance to alcohol. When the person first started drinking it may have only taken a couple of drinks to become intoxicated. A high functioning alcoholic will need to drink larger volumes of alcohol to achieve the same effects. To an outside observer, it may appear as though the person can drink a lot without getting drunk. In reality, the person has developed a tolerance.
Drinking alcohol regularly over a prolonged period of time causes the body to become dependent on alcohol. When a high functioning alcoholic wakes up after a night of heavy drinking, they don't experience the same hangover symptoms that afflict irregular drinkers.
A person caught in the grip of an alcohol addiction will always have a ready excuse or explanation for their drinking behavior. Many will say they drink to unwind after a stressful day or to unwind. Some will choose to socialize with other drinkers so they always have an excuse to have a social drink. There's always a handy excuse that causes them to drink.
One of the more difficult signs of a functioning alcoholic to pinpoint is secretive drinking. A high functioning alcoholic may go to great lengths to hide how much alcohol is really being consumed. A person with a serious drinking problem will find ways to sneak drinks so others won't find out how much is really being consumed. They'll drink in secret or have a few extra drinks before they go out to meet other people or resort to drinking alone so others won't find out.
An alcoholic will struggle to stop drinking after taking the first drink. They lose the ability to control how much they consume, often drinking far more than they intended.
A person caught in the grip of alcohol addiction may have no recollection of what they said or did while under the influence. They might not have seemed intoxicated to other people, but the person may have consumed sufficient alcohol to cause a 'blackout', or short-term memory loss of the events that occurred while they were drinking.
It's common for many functioning alcoholics to recognize that they need to try and control their drinking behaviors. They often promise to quit and make an effort to control their drinking, only to relapse back into the same dysfunctional drinking patterns over and over again.
High functioning alcoholics and relationships don't go well together. A person with a drinking problem may begin to have difficulties in relationships with friends or family members. The drinker may become hostile to loved ones who express concerns about their drinking behaviors, or they may begin to avoid people who might judge the amount of alcohol being consumed. As the addiction deepens, an alcoholic will become increasingly isolated, preferring to spend time alone drinking instead of engaging in activities, events or hobbies that once brought pleasure or enjoyment.
A functioning alcoholic may experience withdrawal symptoms when consumption of alcohol stops. The person might experience shaking hands, nausea or vomiting, headaches not associated with hangover, anxiety, agitation, irritability, insomnia, cravings to drink more alcohol, hallucinations, seizures, or delirium tremens (DTs).
A person struggling with a drinking problem will commonly deny they require specialized high functioning alcoholic treatment. After all, if they don't fit the stereotype of being a classic alcoholic, they obviously don't need to seek help.
When a loved one begins to recognize the signs of a functioning alcoholic and confront the drinker with their concerns, it's also common for the person to react with denial, defensiveness, or even aggression.
Reaching out and seeking specialist high functioning alcoholic treatment is the first step to regaining control over self-destructive drinking behaviors. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can be treated. The only way to begin the recovery process from alcoholism is to stop fooling yourself and those around you that you're a 'functioning alcoholic.'
After all, a functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic.