Recognizing your own issues with addiction is always hard but it can be especially complicated when you are very functional with your substance abuse. People who are high-functioning alcoholics often don’t show many of the signs normally associated with addiction because they have learned to handle their drinking in ways that makes it seem like it hardly affects them.
When someone is a functioning alcoholic, their friends and family may not be aware of the full extent of their drinking behavior. Functioning alcoholics can become very good at compartmentalizing their life and keeping their substance abuse separate from everything else. These types of alcoholics on the surface may seem like they have it all together, but eventually alcohol abuse will lead to negative consequences.
If you think you might be a functioning alcoholic your symptoms may differ from the usual list that characterizes a normal alcoholic. The average alcoholic usually realizes they need help when they hit rock bottom but a functioning addict may never reach that point. They might never lose their job, ruin a relationship or get in trouble with the police.
However, even high functioning alcoholics are not immune to the many physical and mental health problems associated with excessive drinking. Alcohol abuse can take its toll over time and cause problems with the liver, brain and heart. Drinking can also cause issues with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems that can interfere with your well-being.
Looking for Signs of Addiction
If you are wondering if your drinking is a problem you may have to look for less obvious signs to recognize your own addiction. As a functioning alcoholic it is much easier to stay in deep denial because your life isn’t falling apart around you as one might expect. You might even have a great job, make plenty of money and have lots of friends that don’t see you as an addict or ask you to quit drinking.
As a functioning alcohol however, you might still feel dependent on drinking to get through the day. If you drink in the morning or when you’re alone on a regular basis then you might have a problem. You also might end up getting drunk even when you don’t intend to or be unable to stop yourself from drinking.
Heavy drinkers and especially alcoholics tend to get “blackout” drunk meaning that they do things that they don’t remember or have no idea what happened while they drank. Even functioning alcoholics may make efforts to hide from their friends and family how much they actually drink. They may hide bottles of alcohol or lie about going to the bar in an effort to conceal their behavior.
Although most people can’t recognize a functioning alcoholic, there may still be some cases where someone asks about your drinking. If you find that you deny drinking even when you have or quickly get angry when someone confronts you about your alcohol consumption then this may be a sign of addiction.
Getting Help for a Drinking Problem
As a functioning alcoholic it can be difficult to admit to yourself and to others that you are suffering from an addiction. You may worry about the stigma associated with alcoholism and not want to tarnish your reputation at work or among friends. It can feel especially shameful to admit that you have a problem when people around you were completely unaware.
However, in order to recover from addiction it is important to go through the first step of admitting that you are an alcoholic. It helps you to acknowledge the fact that this problem is something that you can’t control and is a disease that you need help with. Sometimes being vulnerable and reaching out for help is the best way to start changing your behavior and getting started in recovery.
Once you are able to admit that you are a functioning alcoholic, the next step is to find a treatment plan that will work best for you. It is important to understand that even though you function well in your drinking, you still need treatment and cannot quit safely on your own.
Often functioning alcoholics can benefit from options like outpatient programs because it allows them to work and continue their normal life without having to take time away to stay at a facility. Since a functioning alcoholic usually has no problem with staying on track with work and responsibilities at home, outpatient can be a good fit for them.
Throughout treatment and even after completing a program it is a good idea to stay involved in support groups such as AA. Functioning alcoholics need a space where they can talk to others about their drinking and be more honest and open with other people instead of hiding their behavior. AA meetings are a safe place to discuss addiction and hear other people’s stories to learn more about how to cope with recovery.