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What is a “Functional Alcoholic”?

A “functional alcoholic” is someone who appears to live a normal, or even successful life despite having an alcohol use disorder. While the word “alcoholic” evokes an image of someone whose life is falling apart, that image is not always accurate. It might not even be mostly accurate. Alcohol addiction tends to develop more slowly than many other addictions. If you have your life pretty much under control when you start drinking, it may take several years for problems to become obvious. In the meantime, your life might appear fine despite unhealthy drinking.

What’s more, people in our culture drink a lot anyway. No one notices if you have a couple of drinks with dinner, or some beers while watching the game, but if you drink on every possible occasion, it can add up to a lot. If you then add a few drinks alone, you might be drinking a lot in a way that’s easy to rationalize.

Excessive drinking will always have an effect eventually. Typically, it starts with problems in your personal life. You may have more arguments with your spouse or you may alienate your friends. You might just end up spending more time alone because you’d rather drink alone than go out.

Your job performance may suffer, but it might be a while before it has any real consequences, especially if you are in a position where other people have to pick up the slack. Your neighbors and casual acquaintances won’t know anything about this kind of thing until you lose your job, have to sell your house, or end up in jail. If there’s no major signal that something is wrong, most people won’t notice that your heavy drinking is actually an addiction.

Once these cracks start to appear, the natural tendency is dig in, be defensive, and deny the problem. It would save a lot of trouble if you heeded the warning instead, especially if the warning is clear, like a DUI, or someone you trust telling you right out that you have a problem. At that point, you still may be a high functioning alcoholic  but it’s only a matter of time before things start falling apart. The earlier you address the problem, the easier it will be to manage and the less you will lose in the process.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that being a high functioning alcoholic is a sustainable state. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.