So You Think You Are A Functional Alcoholic?

Let’s see the difference between a functional person and an alcoholic person in the exact same circumstances who thinks they are functional.  If you aren’t familiar with the experience of being alcoholic, you may not understand how this could get so bad.  Or, if you are actively in denial about being alcoholic yourself, you may have plenty of excuses ready to dispute the truth.  Take a look at how the following scenario differs with and without addiction.

Scenario #1:

With Alcoholism:  A few extra bills come in the mail one week.  Julie really needs to stock up on her secret alcohol stash for the next few days and they also need to get groceries.  Her husband asks that she control her spending this week until their next round of paychecks come in.  They will be OK but it will be close.  She promises her husband she’ll be careful.  She goes to the pantry to see if she can squeeze out meals from what she has, plus buy a few regular items like milk and juice to make it look like she got some groceries for the week.  Then she plans to use the money she would have spent on a regular grocery trip on her alcohol for the week.

Without Alcoholism:  A few extra bills come in the mail one week.  Julie really needs to get groceries.  Her husband asks that she control her spending this week until their next round of paychecks come in.  They will be OK but it will be close.  She promises her husband she’ll be careful.  She goes to the pantry to see if she can squeeze out meals from what she has.

The Difference Between Alcoholism and Sobriety

The first scenario sets up a conflict between doing what the family needs (getting groceries) and what the alcoholic wife needs (filling up her secret alcohol stash).  She doesn’t just dig in the pantry to reduce her grocery bill and get some other essentials.  She created a deception of having gotten some groceries by getting a few essential “high profile” items, but actually got less than she probably needed to.  She needed to be sure there was enough money left for her alcohol rather than being sure there was enough money to not bounce any checks or feed her family sufficiently.

This is the process of an alcoholic who maybe goes to work and takes care of her family most of the time (or at least it appears that way).  But in a desperate family moment, she puts her alcoholism ahead of the financial safety net.  If she were not alcoholic, she wouldn’t have the alcoholic thinking trying to sway her against the more logical family-oriented choice.  Alcoholic thinking is self-serving – it makes excuses, deceives, and keep secrets so that it can keep surviving.  It divides families deeply because it goes against
cooperation and trust.

If you thought the above scenario was a little too familiar or you suspect this is happening with a friend, you may be discovering an alcoholic addiction in the works.  Alcohol rehab can detangle the alcoholic thinking that distorts the way a person sees the world.  Alcohol rehab usually offers family services as well.  You can see from the scenario above that the husband and wife would need some marital therapy.  Also the husband would need some help and support understanding the nature of alcoholism.  The wife may need to be in
more than just alcohol rehab to settle into sobriety.  She will likely need some form of aftercare, maybe some outpatient alcohol treatment, and a support group.

Functional Doesn’t Mean Living A Good Life

Just because you haven’t gotten arrested and you still have your job doesn’t mean you aren’t an alcoholic.  If you drink frequently, spend a lot of time protected and caring for your stash, and your decisions are impaired by your use, you may have alcoholism.  It’s important to get alcohol treatment sooner rather than later.  Find out more about alcoholism before you have a deep family problem.

2 thoughts on “So You Think You Are A Functional Alcoholic?

  1. I have a friend who believes that ‘they’ are a functional alcoholic, because they held their job for 17 years before getting fired. In addition, they don’t believe the loss of their job was alcohol related, although they continuously missed work, because they went on a drinking binge for days and couldn’t go to work, were too hung over to work, or took time off so they could go on binge. Not too mention, they had two fires while drinking, fell, broke things by falling on them, etc. They’ve had 4 DUI’s; however, because of the distance between them, they have only counted as 2. Their last DUI involved evading a police officer. I could go on and on.

    The person even had co-workers (hospital employee) send them home, because they came to work intoxicated and reeking of alcohol. There were other times they did that also, and didn’t get caught. In addition, there were occasions when they drank at work.

    This person would have never lasted at another job more than 6 months. The boss was very co-dependent and constantly covered up for them. They finally lost their job, because it went over the bosses head. Yet, this person still thinks that they didn’t lose their job due to their drinking, since they were sober when it happened. Never mind the constant write ups over excessive absenteeism, being late, etc.

    This person is in rehab, almost at the end of their 90 day program, and still thinks they are a functional alcoholic that didn’t lose their job because of drinking. I’ll be very generous and give this person 30 days before they relapse. Realistically, I believe it will happen within the first week or two.

    My point is that any person who believes that they are either NOT an alcoholic, or that they are a functioning alcoholic because they have held on to their job for years is in DENIAL.

  2. Many high functioning alcoholics do not learn these habits on the job, but often get into the pattern of heavy drinking in a high pressure work/learning environment while in college. The consequences are often not apparent until the HFA is in the workplace. Academic institutions need to focus on educating students and enforcing consequences to break this habit before the consequences become very serious in a professional setting.

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