When we think of an alcoholic, the image that comes to mind is of someone who has hit rock bottom. Someone who has lost their job, is unable to maintain relationships and has financial difficulties. This is the stereotypical image of an alcoholic and while some people do match up to it, others don’t.
High-functioning alcoholics are nothing like stereotypical alcoholics. These are people who habitually drink an unhealthy amount of alcohol but can still maintain control over certain aspects of their lives.
They maintain their work life and may even be successful in their chosen careers. Due to this, they don’t face financial hardship. Additionally, they’re able to preserve close relationships with their family and friends.
From the outside, it can be difficult to tell that someone is a high-functioning alcoholic. Unfortunately, high-functioning alcoholism is still part of alcohol addiction and is therefore a chronic disease. It still carries the consequences of excessive drinking.
This includes serious health risks such as liver cirrhosis, cancer, or stroke as well as legal risks e.g. drinking and driving. An individual’s relationships can also get strained as loved ones shoulder the burden of living with someone struggling with alcoholism.
The reasons that lead to high-functioning alcoholism are the same as for other forms of alcoholism. An individual may have started experimenting with alcohol and now they’re hooked. Alternatively, they may have been using alcohol to self-medicate e.g. to deal with PTSD, depression and anxiety or perhaps they used drinking to help them become more social.
Regardless of the reasons for starting, this person now can’t live without alcohol.
Characteristics of a High Functioning Alcoholic
It can be hard to identify someone as a high-functioning alcoholic unless you know what to look for. Signs include:
- Denial and defensiveness about drinking –Those with high-functioning alcoholism are often in denial about it and are unable to accept they have a problem since they don’t fit the stereotypical image of an alcoholic. If confronted about their drinking, they’re likely to become defensive, pointing out that they’re in control of their lives and everyone else also drinks or that they need the drink as a reward for working hard, etc.
- Leading a double life – High-functioning alcoholics can be quite skillful at hiding their drinking. For instance, one may drink slowly throughout the day, keeping withdrawal at bay. They can compartmentalize different aspects of their lives creating a refined appearance at odds with a stereotypical alcoholic.
- High tolerance to alcohol –They can drink a lot in one sitting without any visible effect. They have high cravings for alcohol and when they do drink, they’re unable to do it in moderation.
- Not being able to quit or curb drinking – Like with any other addiction, those with high-functioning alcoholism are unable to quit or stop drinking despite experiencing negative consequences. They also experience serious withdrawal symptoms and choose to keep drinking to keep them at bay.
- Engaging in risky behaviors when drinking – Since they’re in denial about their alcoholism, high-functioning alcoholics may overestimate their abilities to carry out certain tasks while under the influence. For instance, they may insist on driving or may behave promiscuously after drinking.
Treatment and Recovery Options
Those struggling with high-functioning alcoholism often deny there’s a problem. They may resist going to treatment and instead become defensive about their drinking. Unfortunately, without treatment they won’t recover, and left unchecked, their drinking may end up ruining their lives.
Staging an intervention can help get high-functioning alcoholics to finally see how problematic their drinking is. If you find it difficult to confront your loved one about their drinking, you can engage the services of an intervention specialist. The most important thing is to be clear, honest and to the point with your loved one without being angry or judgmental.
Should they agree to rehab, there are various addiction treatment options for high-functioning alcoholics:
- Inpatient treatment – Also known as residential treatment, this is ideal for those who have a severe alcohol addiction. Most residential alcohol addiction treatment programs start with medically assisted detox to help the individual purge toxins from their bodies. After that individuals proceed to the treatment program which includes traditional talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral treatment, among others. Once done, they’re referred to an aftercare program.
- Outpatient treatment – This is ideal for those with mild to moderate alcoholism. Outpatient addiction treatment programs allow individuals to keep up with their school or work responsibilities while still receiving treatment. You may get into outpatient treatment from the onset or it may be a step down from another addiction treatment program.
- Support groups –Support and community groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can encourage and support those struggling to recover from alcoholism. Many of these groups employ a 12-step fellowship program of some sort which helps individuals share, interact, socialize and learn from others facing the same challenges as themselves
Get Treatment for Alcoholism Today
If you’re struggling with high-functioning alcoholism, you still face the risks associated with alcoholism. Your health, relationships and life are still at risk and the only way to keep from spiraling out of control is by getting treatment as soon as possible.
Findlay Recovery Center is a residential treatment program that offers safe, medical-assisted alcohol and drug detox and treatment in Ohio. We understand how addiction works and we can help you get to the root causes of your alcoholism. We have a professional team of addiction specialists ready to assist you from the first day and will walk with you throughout your recovery journey. Our facility is designed to provide a conducive environment for recovery, allowing you to rebuild your life anew. We also emphasize affordable addiction treatment and work with different insurance providers to make this happen. Don’t let alcoholism rob you of your life and happiness. With the right care, treatment and support from Findlay Recovery Center, you can turn your life around. Contact us today for more information on our treatment programs and to see how we can help you.