Alcoholism often brings to mind images of a negative stereotype, but a good number of people addicted to alcohol bear little resemblance to the stereotype. They are people who meet several diagnostic criteria for alcoholism while still managing to hold their life together with apparent success. They are high-functioning alcoholics.
The high functioning alcoholic goes to work or school each day, pays their bills and may have an intact marriage; but beneath the surface, things are not as they should be. They are good enough, though, for the person to feel justified in denying that they have any kind of alcohol problem. After all, alcoholics don’t mow their yard, get promoted and remember birthdays ….right?
The high functioning alcoholic may do all of this and more, and yet have an addiction to alcohol that is degrading the quality of their life and the lives of close family members. For example, one sign of alcoholism is tolerance for alcohol. Does the person need to drink more alcohol today to achieve the same feelings than they did in the past? People who drink habitually develop a tolerance for alcohol and will need ever-increasing amounts of it.
Another sign of alcoholism is a preoccupation with alcohol. If the person spends a significant amount of time thinking about drinking, or planning when, what and where to drink it is an unhealthy distraction. Alcoholics become edgy and uncomfortable if they cannot have a drink at the time and place where they expect to be able to drink. They don’t recognize this as withdrawal, but that is just what it is.
Another sign of alcoholism is a changing social landscape. People addicted to alcohol enjoy spending time with others who drink and rarely with anyone else. They will avoid social occasions which don’t include alcohol and won’t have close friends who do not also drink.
The high-functioning alcoholic usually thinks they are just fine, when they are anything but. For help knowing how to approach someone in your life contact the professionals at Family Guidance. They understand and can offer needed support.