There are an estimated 18 million alcoholics among Americans today, according to the National Library of Health. Many fit the stereotype of unemployed, unsocial, and sometimes even homeless individuals we often picture when we hear the word alcoholic. However, there are a growing number of alcoholics that are high-functioning; a title some are even proud of.
High-functioning alcoholics are people who can hold down a job and maintain their everyday responsibilities, yet are addicted to alcohol. These individuals make it to their kids’ baseball games, they attend meetings in the community, and they take care of their families. Many observers would not know these people have a problem. What they don’t see is that the functioning alcoholic sneaks his alcohol into the office or the game in his coffee mug, or drinks before he leaves the house. If a high-functioning alcoholic would have to go without alcohol, he would suffer the severe effects of withdrawal. Like other alcoholics, this kind of person must always have some level of alcohol in their system.
At night or on weekends, high-functioning alcoholics relax a little more and drink up. At these times, the person may get so intoxicated that they black out and lose control. Just as with any alcoholic, these individuals have a high tolerance for alcohol, but repeatedly go past their limits and often binge drink. The difference between a functioning alcoholic and a regular alcoholic is that the functioning one will usually get themselves up for work the next day and carry on with business as usual, often assisted by a morning drink.
Dangers of Alcoholism
One concern about functioning alcoholics is their denial of the problem. Some are proud to be able to juggle a party life with responsibilities, and many argue that they are not hurting anyone. The problem is that alcoholism is unhealthy and it is harmful. An alcoholic who makes it to work is still impaired, which reduces productivity and increases the risk of accident or injury while on the job. Even someone who is mostly sober but hung over is not as effective of a worker as one who is completely sober.
Alcoholism of any kind is unhealthy and puts the person at risk for liver disease, mental illness, and accidental injury. Families suffer because they have a member who, although to the outside world may seem normal, behind closed doors is a mess. Parents who are high-functioning alcoholics are less focused on caring for their kids than they should be, and the children of any kind of alcoholic are at greater risk of depression, mental illness, trouble in school, and addiction themselves one day.
Alcoholism can affect anyone, and men and women alike are guilty of trying to be high-functioning alcoholics. Women especially try to hide their problem and carry out their tasks as a mother, but the disease of alcoholism eventually takes over their life.
The best way to help an alcoholic is to encourage them to get treatment. There are treatment facilities that specialize in things like women’s rehab, or rehab for business professionals. Anyone who is struggling with alcohol dependence should get help, not only for themselves, but for the sake of those they love.
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Bethany Winkel is a freelance writer who specializes in topics related to drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to freelancing, Bethany is a grant writer for nonprofit organizations and works outside the home as a veterinary technician.