The stereotype of an alcoholic is someone whose life is chaotic or disordered because of drinking too much, too often. These days, however, more and more people who have a problem with alcohol may look fine on the outside, even though they drink too much and have difficulty controlling it.
Functional Alcoholism Explained
Functional alcoholism is a term that is used for those who have a drinking problem, but whose lives seem unaffected by it. Many functional alcoholics have successful jobs or careers, which lead people to assume they have their drinking under control. People are more willing to overlook drinking in outwardly successful people, even if their drinking would otherwise be considered a problem.
Many functional alcoholics are in denial that their drinking is a problem. They point to the fact that they are successful, that outwardly their lives seem fine, and refuse to deal with the reasons behind their daily drinking habits that nevertheless cause them to function less than optimally.
Sometimes the people closest to functional alcoholics are the ones who see their problem first. For most people, their drinking eventually gets more and more out of control until someone finally notices and challenges them to make a change.
Signs of Functional Alcoholism
It may be difficult to identify or acknowledge that you are or that your loved one is a functioning alcoholic, but here are some common signs that an alcohol addiction exists:
- Finding multiple empty or partially full alcohol containers (bottles, cans, flasks) hidden in the home, office, or car.
- Drinking at unusual times throughout the day, starting the day with one or more drinks, or habitual daily drinking that seems to occur no matter what else is happening.
- Not seeming fully aware of surroundings; seeming partly out of it, although not always fully blacked out.
- Not remembering things that happened while drinking, even though they seemed alert and aware at the time it was happening.
- Not having a hangover, even after several drinks, or not being able to stop with just a drink or two.
- Being uncomfortable or irritable when not drinking, and exhibiting very different behavior while they are drinking.
- Asking a loved one to make excuses for behavior while they are drinking.
When Functional Alcoholism Is Not Functional Any More
Functional alcoholics may eventually begin to spiral downward into less functional behavior, like missing work, getting into fights, or getting a DUI citation. If you see these warning signs in yourself or in someone you love, it is time to step in and get help. Do something to stop the cycle of alcohol addiction. It is not easy to admit a drinking problem, but doing so is the first step toward any meaningful recovery.
Though functional alcoholics may seem like they have their drinking under control, they can put themselves or others in danger by driving under the influence, having risky sex during a blackout, and many other destuctive and negative behaviors. It may be more difficult for a functional alcoholic to admit to having a problem and to needing help than it is for someone whose life is in obvious chaos. Nevertheless, it is far better to get help before things spin out of control, as they so often do. Learn about admissions to Recovery Village at Palmer Lake to see how we can help you or a loved one with a drinking or other substance abuse problem.