A High-Functioning Alcoholic: 20 Years Sober

This article explores the meaning of the term high functioning alcoholic, looks at the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD), how people can help friends and family, and more. My understanding of HFAs is also from a personal perspective—I have been in recovery from alcoholism for almost five years. I, too, struggled to see that I could be accomplished academically and then professionally while drinking alcoholically. My image of the alcoholic was always an individual who could not hold his or her life together, and I certainly did not fit that description.

  • «Functioning» is subjective and limiting when describing a person living with alcohol use disorder.
  • “For example, you may notice your spouse drinking more beers at dinner, sleeping less and less, and increasingly on edge well before they start missing workdays,” Grawert adds.
  • Often, this will involve issues that everyone deals with in their own way, so it’s not a big leap of logic to believe that someone might have a few drinks to take the edge off.
  • BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.
  • A medical or addiction treatment professional can go over the symptoms someone is experiencing and assess where they could fall on the AUD spectrum.

Whether you have an alcoholic spouse, partner or other loved one, you may be wondering how to help. High-functioning alcoholics can benefit from having an at-home support system before, during and after any form of high functioning alcoholic treatment for their addiction. There are hundreds of resources all over the country designed to address the issue of alcohol abuse and addiction. These include 24-hour hotlines, detox centers and rehab facilities.

Alcoholism Resources

A person who has a drink with friends after work each day is developing a higher tolerance for the substance, possibly leading to drinking problems like drinking more often or more heavily. When dependency occurs, it’s no longer about socializing but about getting a necessary fix just to function normally. Yet, with that higher tolerance level, many men and women like this don’t recognize their condition as a true addiction. Until you check into rehab, avoid bars, liquor stores, and other places where alcohol and drinking abound. Finally, be willing to admit that you have a problem and firmly resolve to make a change in your life.

  • It can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, some forms of cancer, brain damage, serious memory loss, and high blood pressure.
  • John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine.
  • In short, “there’s not a single image of AUD,” points out Sabrina Spotorno, a clinical social worker and alcoholism and substance abuse counselor at Monument.
  • When people talk about alcoholism, they are actually referring to someone who has an alcohol use disorder.

Getting help early on can reduce the risk of developing alcohol addiction. As a result, being able to fulfill job duties adequately does little to discourage them from continued patterns of alcohol abuse. Consciously or unconsciously, the codependent may help the alcoholic to continue drinking to maintain the status quo. Many high-functioning alcoholics earn a good living and can support their families while continuing to drink. Intervening in the addictive behavior may be seen as a threat to the family’s financial security — even if the family must put up with emotional neglect or physical abuse.

When is someone considered high functioning?

Perhaps the most difficult component of managing a high-functioning alcoholic is their belief that there isn’t a problem. They’re doing fine at work, school and home, so they believe they’re controlling their drinking. Some may even believe a couple of drinks a day is necessary to manage stress. If they can hold themselves to that limit, they rationalize away any alcohol addiction. Reassuring themselves, not just family, is a sign of an addiction.

However, many alcoholics manage to function effectively, holding down jobs and maintaining households. A high-functioning alcoholic may hide their alcohol abuse for years without suffering any major losses. Under the surface, this form of https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-stages-and-treatment/ alcoholism can cause severe psychological and emotional damage to the alcoholic and also their loved ones.. There are treatment options for people dealing with any level of an alcohol use disorder, whether it is mild, moderate or severe.

Support for Me and My Family

All experts agree that when talking to your loved one, it’s best to be patient and compassionate. According to Conroy, it may be easy to get caught in denial with AUD if you subconsciously feel something is wrong with you at your core. It also might mean admitting that they don’t have it all together, and their exterior (and interior) world is crumbling. But maybe they drinka few glasses of wine each night to help them fall asleep. Or, they get bombed every weekend but don’t skip a beat at their demanding job.

high functioning alcoholic

They may also withdraw from social situations and find excuses to miss events or optional commitments where drinking is not available or possible. There may also be new legal issues arising for them, like driving under the influence or making other poor decisions. In “case management,” a professional may work with you one-on-one. Outpatient programs make it possible for you to get treatment during the day and still live at home. By Buddy TBuddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website.

Living with a High-Functioning Alcoholic: Signs and Support

For some people, AUD may also mean more than physical dependence, but a stress reliever or source of psychological escape. Drinking rarely causes them to miss work and other obligations (although it does happen occasionally). They are usually able to manage areas of life including jobs, homes, and families. John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine.