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What It’s Like to be a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Man wondering, "What it's like to be a high-functioning alcoholic?"

For the high-functioning alcoholic, there are certain things they will do to protect their secret. It takes a toll on the person that many will never know about. There are nearly 20 million alcoholics in the U.S and nearly a quarter of those are high functioning. They are less likely to admit they have a problem because they aren’t experiencing consequences, just the reward. To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment, call us today at 888.483.6031.

The Reality of the High-Functioning Alcoholic

The problem is, no matter what kind of alcoholic a person is, they’re still abusing a toxic substance. It takes a toll on the mind and the body. Keeping secrets makes an alcoholic feel isolated and alone. It’s nearly impossible to truly let anybody get too close to them. Often, functioning alcoholics won’t ever be diagnosed or treated for their addiction to alcohol. They will go on drinking daily which can cause negative health effects.

A high-functioning alcoholic may not realize their condition as they appear to have it all together externally. They are at risk of losing everything, despite being productive. Certain behaviors of high-functioning alcoholics are similar to other alcoholics. If you’re unsure about your alcohol consumption, consider taking online addiction quizzes for insights.

Functioning Alcoholics Sometimes Replace Meals with Alcohol

The high-functioning alcoholic will lose out on enjoying meals. If given a choice, they’re more interested in having a few drinks than eating.

Sometimes, they may start cooking but drink while they do so. They then lose interest in the food altogether. Drinking without food causes alcohol to be absorbed twice as quickly through the stomach and goes straight to the bloodstream.

Chronic Alcohol Abuse Leads to No Hangovers

High functioning alcoholics may wake up with no hangover regardless of how much they drank the night before. This is a sign of alcoholism as the body has developed a tolerance and is dependent on the substance. While not all functioning alcoholics will drink daily, they do tend to have quite a few drinks in one sitting.

Alcohol Abuse Can Last Decades

As the functioning drinker doesn’t inhibit the standard symptoms of an alcoholic, it can go on for decades. Usually, the only thing that will expose this type of alcoholic is an alcohol-related crisis. This can include a DUI as functioning alcoholics will often drink after work. They will often stop at a bar before they go home to hide the fact they drink. All too often, they will then drive home under the influence. They may also have to quit due to a medical problem. Liver failure in particular is attributed to chronic drinking.

High-Functioning Alcoholics and the Double Lives they Lead

A high-functioning alcoholic leads a double life, striving to conceal their secret struggles. The stress of constant vigilance leads them to drink in solitude, masking their inner turmoil with an illusion of normalcy. Despite appearing flawless in various roles, they harbor deep shame about their alcoholism, going to great lengths to keep it hidden.

Many high-functioning alcoholics have people around them all the time. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel isolated. They feel separate from others because they hide a large part of themselves, suffering alone. The problem with constantly hiding their addiction and problems that go with it is that they take away from true connections they could have.

They Have Similar Behaviors to Every Other Alcoholic Type

Someone with high functioning alcoholism does many of the same things as a traditional alcoholic. They may bury their problem, avoiding help due to a fear of appearing weak. Functioning alcoholics, often powerful or respected individuals, hide their drinking to maintain an illusion of strength. Common behaviors of a functional alcoholic include:

  • Reckless behavior
  • Drinking while driving
  • Hiding drinking habits for control, denying a problem
  • Personality changes when intoxicated
  • Struggling to limit alcohol intake
  • Experiencing blackouts
  • Engaging in risky actions
  • Neglecting family and work due to alcohol
  • Asking partner to cover for them
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Masking deeper issues like depression or mental illness

Keeping Up the Appearance of Normality

Many successful functioning alcoholics seem to juggle work, leadership roles, and parenting well, concealing their struggles. Despite moments of wanting to confide in loved ones, they often keep their issues hidden due to fear.

Denying their dependency, they evade detection of their problems, as alcoholism is commonly misconceived as only affecting visibly struggling individuals. As long as they project control, they may avoid seeking help or intervention.

Co-Dependency Often Goes Hand-in Hand with the Functioning Alcoholic

From the outside, there appears to be no negative outcome with functional alcoholism. People might cover for them, enabling the abuse to continue. Confidence and strength are crucial for these individuals. Maintaining appearances helps them stay shielded by loved ones. If a functional alcoholic falters, it could lead to job losses and family turmoil.

Families may cover for them out of fear of losing a certain lifestyle, even if deeply unhappy. Co-dependence arises from chronic excuses, financial support, defense of actions, cleaning up after them, trying to control their drinking, and lack of honesty.

During interventions, loved ones express their impact, initiating help for the alcoholic.

When Functional Alcoholics Can no Longer Pretend

A functional alcoholic may fear being discovered, hiding alcohol dependency that harms their health and mental capacity. Over time, chronic drinking’s effects on the liver become apparent.

The risk of fines, injury from drunk driving, and public embarrassment can result from alcohol-related actions. Making a life-altering mistake is a possibility with every drink. Functioning alcoholics may struggle to maintain the illusion of normalcy while crumbling internally.

These possibilities apply to functional alcoholics. Those around them may not recognize the signs of alcoholism due to their seemingly normal behavior. However, their actions and dependency indicate alcoholism, posing risks like losing family, friends, and health. Alcoholism can worsen over time, leading a functional alcoholic to become a heavy drinker.

Get Help Today From Northpoint Seattle

At Northpoint Seattle, we provide comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs that address not just the symptoms, but the root causes of alcoholism. Our team of experienced professionals is committed to offering support, guidance, and the necessary tools for recovery.

With a focus on creating a compassionate and understanding environment, we ensure that every individual feels respected and valued throughout their healing process. Understanding the complexities of high-functioning alcoholism, our approach is tailored to meet the unique needs of each person, fostering resilience and promoting lifelong sobriety.

Call us today at 888.483.6031 or use our convenient online contact form. Begin your journey to sobriety today.