How Can I Be an Alcoholic if I Still Work and Pay My Bills?

Many people have heard the term high-functioning alcoholic at one time or another, but only a few know anything about what it means to be one.  According to most addiction experts, a high-functioning alcoholic is an individual who consumes an unhealthy amount of alcohol but can still manage to maintain some level of professional and personal success in their life.  These same individuals can often fool their friends, family, and even themselves into believing they don’t have a problem with alcohol when they, in truth, do have one.

The Truth About High-Functioning Alcoholics

Indeed, high-functioning alcoholics are the polar opposite of what typically comes to mind when most think of someone struggling with an alcohol use disorder.  But this is not to say that this type of alcoholism is uncommon.  Current data shows that more than 20 percent of people in the U.S. with an alcohol problem are considered high-functioning alcoholics.  The remaining 80 percent represent the type of alcoholism that most of us are accustomed to seeing in that it tends to go hand-in-hand with slurred speech and individuals falling all over themselves.

Additionally, classic alcoholics tend to be loud and obnoxious.  What’s more, most become exceedingly verbal and physically aggressive after having one too many drinks.  Getting back to the roughly 20 percent of high-functioning alcoholics in the U.S., along with the ability to maintain and even thrive at work, many also seemingly have no problems carrying out routine day-to-day tasks, including

  • Childcare
  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Participating in social engagements
  • Paying bills

Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Because high-functioning alcoholics are the complete polar opposite of what comes to mind when most people think of someone with an alcohol use disorder, it can be difficult to discern whether or not they have a bonafide alcohol problem.  Even if they otherwise seem to have their life together, high-functioning alcoholics are not too different from classic alcoholics.  Some of the signs that might suggest someone is a high-functioning alcoholic include the following:

  • Becoming angry when accused of having a problem with alcohol
  • Drinking as a way to relax or feel more confident
  • Drinking early in the morning
  • Drinking to the point of blacking out
  • Drinking without intending to so
  • Experiencing memory lapses
  • Getting into legal trouble due to drinking
  • Preferring to drink alone

Functional Tolerance: A Closer Look at the Difference Between Classic and High-Functioning Alcoholics

Something else that differentiates high-functioning alcoholics from classic alcoholics is functional tolerance.  For reference, functional tolerance denotes an individual who abuses alcohol to the extent that they have developed a tolerance to its effects.  Most high-functioning alcoholics have a functional tolerance that is so high that it allows them to consume copious amounts of alcohol and still live as normal of a life as someone who doesn’t drink at all.  What’s more, they do so without ever appearing intoxicated.  But like with any other tolerance, some individuals will consume large amounts of alcohol explicitly to become intoxicated.

The more this happens, the more likely it is that these same individuals will start to exhibit behaviors that are more in line with classic alcoholics, such as obsessing over when they can get their next drink.  Eventually, their lives are delineated by financial strain, problems at work, conflicts with friends and family, and much more.

Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Most high-functioning alcoholics, much like classic alcoholics, often need help when it comes to ending their relationship with alcohol.  And this is especially true for those who find it difficult to cope with the withdrawal symptoms resulting from abrupt alcohol cessation.  Some of these symptoms include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Changes in mood
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Changes in breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Fortunately, many rehab facilities throughout the U.S. offer medication-assisted detox to help individuals cope with the severe withdrawal symptoms brought on by abruptly quitting alcohol.  Many also provide counseling to address the psychological struggles of overcoming addiction.

And because most facilities recognize just how challenging it is for individuals to maintain their sobriety even after completing rehab, many will offer referrals to support groups and even sober living homes to individuals that are most likely to benefit from them.  To learn more about treatments available to high-functioning alcoholics or for help finding a rehab facility in your area, consider speaking with one of our associates today call us at 844-639-8371.

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