During discussions of alcoholism, the concept of the high functioning alcoholic comes up. In some cases, a person with an alcohol addiction will defend their usage by insisting that they’re able to do their normal activities. However, an alcohol use disorder takes a toll on your body and mind, even if everything outwardly looks fine.
What Is a High Functioning Alcoholic?
The exact definition of a high functioning alcoholic varies from person to person, but it generally means that it’s not evident that you have an addiction to alcohol. You still engage in normal activities such as work, school, and social events, and you may not show signs of being drunk.
Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic
If you’re not sure whether you or a loved one is a high functioning alcoholic, there are a number of signs to watch out for.
Needing a Drink Daily
Finding yourself unable to get through the day without drinking alcohol. If you’re in a situation where there’s limited access to alcohol, you may sneak some in with a flask, disguise it in a water or soda bottle, or make excuses to go to the store. If these tactics don’t work, you may begin to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms.
Easily distracted from your daily activities due to drinking. It’s hard to perform your best, stay focused, and remain productive when you always have alcohol in your system. Some situations are more likely than others to reveal that you’re under the influence, such as making mistakes while operating heavy machinery or making a decision that causes an injury.
Hiding Your Drinking
Feelings of guilt or shame about your drinking habits. You may drink alone and hide the amount of alcohol that you go through from loved ones. It’s common to get defensive if someone brings it up, which may cause arguments and other issues.
Inability to Stop Drinking
You find that you’re continuing to drink far more than other people at social events. Compare your drink number to those of your peers, and pay attention to the type of alcohol you turn towards. You may favor hard spirits when everyone else is drinking beer, for example. At events with open and cash bars, you may end up spending most of your time there rather than engaging with friends and family members.
Spending more and more money on alcohol to get the same effect. Your body builds up an alcohol tolerance, so it’s necessary to scale the alcohol level. If you started out drinking a six-pack of beer a night, you might move to a whole case or doing shots of hard liquor instead. Rather than making alcohol selections based on your tastes and preferences, you look for drinks that are high proof and fit into your budget
Getting Treatment for Alcoholism
Being a high functioning alcoholic is not a sustainable endeavor. Your body will show more and more signs of the addiction, and you will reach a point of diminishing returns where you can’t drink enough alcohol to get the same effect as when you started. For some people, abusing alcohol leads them to lose everything that they once cared about in their lives.
Substance abuse treatment plans for a high functioning alcoholic are available. You have the option of partial hospitalization treatment programs (PHP), where your detox from alcohol can be monitored by medical professionals. This environment takes away all of your alcohol temptations and offers intensive support throughout your journey.
Outpatient treatment programs are also available if you need to balance your family and work life with your treatment.