Being a functioning alcoholic doesn’t mean falling over in the drunken stupor. Sometimes alcoholics hide their problems really well.
I’m not here to bash social drinking and I’m not here to act as an advocate, either. What I am here to do is warn you about the effects of alcohol addiction as it relates to the functioning alcoholic. Being addicted to alcohol robs you of many beautiful things in life, including the ability to have control over your own actions. That’s how addiction works, it takes the wheel so that you no longer have control over the things that are most important.
Addicts and the functioning alcoholic
Addicts: they come in many forms, and display numerous characteristics. You can be addicted to drugs, alcohol and even caffeine. One of the worst forms of addiction, however, is the functioning type. They have the ability to conceal their addictions, sometimes until it’s much too late for intervention. So, how can you tell if someone you love is a functioning alcoholic?
They hide their drinking
A functioning alcoholic does not want you to know what they are. So, in order to fool you, they will try their best to hide their problem. They do a pretty good job of this too. They will hide flasks of vodka, pints of whiskey and whole 6-packs of beer in order to have a “nice drink” later.
Although they may tell themselves that nothing is wrong with what they’re doing, they wouldn’t hide the alcohol if they truly believed that. They understand that their drinking would cause a problem and so they hide the evidence or the tools of their destruction. In their minds, it is a battle between creating a likable image and soothing an endless pain. At times, they can win at both. At other times, they fail miserably.
They rationalize their alcohol consumption
If for any reason, they haven’t hidden their drinking, they will try to rationalize it. Sometimes, they fail at hiding their bottles of beer and when confronted, they will be ready to defend their actions. Ever heard of these, “I just have a couple drinks, it’s no big deal”, “You’re angry? Why are you blowing this out of proportion?”, and don’t forget these gems of excuses, “It’s a special occasion”, or “On this day, a year ago, was when this or that happened to me and I just need a drink”. I could go on and on…
Deep inside, the alcoholic knows they have a problem, but rationalization is used to increase their self-esteem. If they can downplay their drinking addiction, it can go in either a negative or positive direction. They can choose to get better if they think they have a shorter distance to go, or they can get worse because they downplayed the problem. Rationalization is just not healthy, but it’s something that a functioning alcoholic uses on a regular basis.
An alcoholic has moods swings, and I mean wild dramatic changes in character. These mood swings can be dangerous, but if you are aware of the addiction, you can prepare for the onslaught of the alcoholic’s changing personalities. On the other hand, the functioning alcoholic will appear normal, and even when drinking day after day, they can carry out a calm persona. These guys are the most dangerous kind.
The reason why mood swings of the functioning alcoholic are so dangerous is that you never really see them coming until it’s too late. Weeks may go by, even months, and the alcoholic may seem like an ordinary person, for the most part, then suddenly, they’re throwing chairs and screaming. You’ve had no warning of what was going to happen.
Experiencing a sudden mood swing of this nature will show you exactly what you’re dealing with, a high functioning alcoholic who has reached the end of his own rope. Be careful.
Functioning alcoholics generally do not have hangovers. They are so accustomed to drinking in high volume that they can pass out, wake up and go about their business like nothing ever happened.
Yes, they can have extreme episodes like mood swings. But for the most part, they can hold down a full-time job with ease, even after staying up half the night drinking. Hangovers do not exist for this type of addiction.
In fact, some alcoholics of this nature will wake up and make yet another drink. They cannot seem to function at all without the influence of alcohol starting their day, fueling their day and even ending their day. The absence of hangovers, unfortunately, makes the alcoholic drink even more.
Their memory is terrible
What happens when drinking may not be remembered by the alcoholic when they wake up the next day. If the drinker is violent and then passes out, they might not understand why their family is upset with them or hurt. They may even deny that they did anything wrong and even become angry at the accusations.
This is one of the worst traits of the functioning alcoholic as it does not give them the ability to be accountable for their actions. They may not understand, nor apologize for the things that they have done.
If they do apologize, which is rare, they still won’t feel the weight of their actions, which is part of what the apology is designed for. It’s a sad characteristic and it doesn’t provide the guilt needed for the alcoholic to seek appropriate help.
They will beg, borrow or steal for the drink
Just like drugs, alcohol addicts will beg for money to buy drinks, and they will steal it too. I have even once witnessed an alcoholic search his house from top to bottom for pocket change in order to buy a drink. I have been asked for gas money to later find out it was for beer. The urge is so great, that they will get money any way they can to sooth this craving.
When you hear a grown man complain about being broke when he has a high-paying job, few bills, but an alcohol addiction, you can be pretty sure you know why he’s broke. Alcohol may not be the most expensive thing in the world, but when you have an addiction, it adds up.
They will drink and drive easily
A functioning alcoholic will not stop driving under the influence. Even when family members have warned against drinking and driving, this kind of alcoholic will never see themselves as dangerous. Sometimes drinking will actually make them want to go somewhere, and it’s hard to convince them to stay home. Since they don’t acknowledge their problem, they do not see the danger in getting behind the wheel.
If this alcoholic doesn’t kill someone or hurt another badly in a car accident, they will certainly rack up DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges. Many of them will serve time in prison. If you can get through to them, the earlier the better.
Enough is enough
I will leave you with these signs in hopes that you can find a way to get through to your high-functioning alcoholic loved one. As for me, my functioning alcoholic had to go. I tried for decades to convince my family member that drinking wasn’t the answer, but through rehab, counseling and even a divorce, nothing seemed to work. Sometimes, you just have to leave them to their own devices until they see the light.
I’m not saying this is true for everyone, certainly not, but the number one thing to keep in mind is that you take care of yourself and your other family members. Use caution and if you are spiritual, consult in prayer and meditation. Maybe you can reach out where I failed. Good luck.