High Functioning Alcoholics

October 19, 2022

The great desire of many alcoholics is the ability to drink in the manner that they want to without it interfering with their day-to-day life. Some will experience brief periods of this throughout their active drinking and they will be able to juggle their responsibilities with work, family functions, and financial obligations without a problem. It is these periods of manageability that leads to them to believe that they do not have a problem with drinking and many alcoholics have followed this thought to their own destruction.

For the vast majority of alcoholics their ability to function and still continue to drink the way they would like to is usually short lived. Most find that they reach a point in their drinking career where they are no longer able to keep up the façade of normality and it is at this point that their alcoholism truly has them in its grips. Once they are no longer able to manage, many hit bottom and seek help. For alcoholics of this type it becomes clear from their external circumstances that they drinking has become a problem and so it fairly easily to recognize, but there is another type of alcoholic who’s ability to continue to function within their daily life is never really impeded by their drinking. They mostly show no sign externally that their drinking has become a problem and alcoholics of this type are known as high functioning alcoholics.

The high functioning alcoholic usually appears normal in all aspects of their life except in the manner with which they drink. They normally have no problem making it to work on time, they do not have debt collectors calling them, their household is in order, and their relationships are probably still in tact. To anyone on the outside looking in, they appear to be put together, but just under the surface of their ordinary appearances alcoholism is flourishing.

Alcoholics of this type are problematic to help because they often times do not ever experience any physical consequences because of their drinking. This means that any external motivators for change are not present and they do not feel any added pressure to stop their drinking.

Given the fact that they usually have their lives in order also means that many alcoholics for are high functioning will believe that they do not actually have an issue with the drink. They look to their lives and see a hundred reasons why their drinking isn’t out of control and their disease uses these justifications to thwart detection.

High functioning alcoholics are usually extremely intelligent, but are lacking in emotional understanding. This is at least in part why they drink the way they do, because unable to process and handle their emotions they use alcohol in order to self-medicate. They often times over compensate their lack of ability to function well emotionally with their intelligence and they can view their intellect as a reason why they are not alcoholics. They may say to themselves I am too smart to wind up as an alcoholic, not understanding that their alcoholism actually rests in the mind that is telling them this.

Lacking any external consequences and being gifted with an above average intelligence many high functioning alcoholics misunderstand what it means to be an alcoholic and focus solely on the things that seem to separate them from the pack. They do no understand that alcoholism is simply as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession. This means that alcoholism is not contingent on the amount of liquor consumed or on the negative circumstances that can occur due to liquor consumption. It is just an inability to stop drinking when you want to due to a physical drive and an obsession of the mind.

Many high functioning alcoholics live with a tremendous amount of stress because in a sense they are living two lives. One where everything appears normal and within the confines of “normal society” and another whether they drink excessively. Living two lives and having to manage both can cause a great deal of tension within a person, and it is this tension that often leads to high functioning alcoholics getting sober.

At some point during a high function alcoholics drinking they may come to the realization that what they are risking by continuing to drink is no longer worth the benefit. They may start to buckle under the pressure of hiding their drinking or they may have just grown tired of the close closes they experienced and when they reach this point they are then able to get help.

The family of high functioning alcoholics may not even be aware that there is a problem, but more times then not they know on some level that the liquor has become an issue. They may have started to notice certain uncharacteristic behaviors cropping up, or the lies that are used to cover up the drinking may start to be exposed. If this occurs seeking professional guidance on how best to go about helping your loved one is paramount and from doing this, you may be able to help them break through their denial and get sober.

The high functioning alcoholic is in many ways a mystery to themselves and those around them. They do not conform to the stereotypical ideas of what an alcoholic is and because of this their drinking can go unimpeded for years beyond the point when they lost control. Just because they have no experienced any external circumstances due to their drinking, does not mean that alcoholism is not present and so if you believe that you may be a high functioning alcoholic and think you may need help, talk to you loved ones and look into treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. If you function that well while under the influence, just imagine how your life will look sober.