While the concept defies logic, the world is filled with people who are highly functional despite their addiction to alcohol. We call these folks high functional alcoholics. These are people who can navigate their day to day lives without giving indications they might have a severe drinking problem.
In a world where drug and alcohol addiction exists at levels we don’t want to talk about, the phenomenon of the high functioning alcoholic is worthy of conversation. In the sections below, we will delve into the world of a high functioning alcoholic.
What is a High Functioning Alcoholic?
The truth is we know very little about the world of a high functioning alcoholic. Our lack of knowledge has a lot to do with the fact high functioning alcoholics tend to fly under the radar. It seems that avoiding disclosure and treatment are part of their program of secrecy, and they are very good at it.
The high functioning alcoholic walks among us but seems somewhat normal. They don’t have blackouts and seldom exhibit certain behaviors we often attribute to alcoholism. They tend to recover quickly from a night of heavy drinking and hardly ever show signs of a hangover.
For the most part, they can manage their day to day responsibilities and perform their jobs to a satisfactory level. Sometimes, they struggle with personal relationships, but that is often due to the fact they prefer keeping to themselves. It’s the only way they can continue drinking every day without shining a light on the idea they may have a problem.
Even when under the influence, these folks seem to be able to skate by without anyone realizing what’s really under the hood. Maybe, they live charmed lives. Maybe, they are lucky enough to keep avoiding the consequences of their drinking problem. It really doesn’t matter. The problem exists, and sooner or later, it is going to become clear.
The Role of Alcohol Tolerance
The way someone’s body metabolizes alcohol will go a long way towards determining their ability to tolerate a lot of alcohol before falling prey to its effects. People who can function at a high level after drinking a lot of booze have a high tolerance for the substance.
To add a little insight into the concept of alcohol tolerance, here are some of the criteria that affect one’s alcohol tolerance:
- Gender = men generally have a higher tolerance level than women
- Bodyweight = people with higher levels of body fat can absorb more alcohol
- Ethnicity = Native Americans and the Asian cultures seem to have lower alcohol tolerance
- The amount someone drinks per drinking session
- The speed at which they consume alcohol
- The frequency of their drinking sessions
The problem people face when they have a high tolerance for alcohol is they need to keep increasing their consumption to get the desired effect. At some point, things will progress from tolerance to dependence. In the worst cases, dependence soon turns into an addiction.
How to Identify the High Functioning Alcohol
Given the veil of secrecy and their high tolerance for alcohol, it’s difficult to identify people who are high functioning alcoholics. With that said, there are some signs you might recognize as those of a true alcoholic. These signs include:
- Obsession with drinking
- Never able to settle for a drink or two
- Tend to prefer the company of other power drinkers
- Will often boast about their ability to drink large amounts of alcohol without getting drunk
- Long periods of not drinking causes irritability, frustration, and anger
- Often hide alcohol for quick access
- Always have excuses for their constant drinking
- Aggressive denial of a drinking problem
If you or anyone you know shows any number of these signs, it should serve as a warning that real trouble is brewing. When alcoholism takes hold and starts destroying everyone and everything around it, it’s time for the alcoholic to get help.
Treatment for the High Functioning Alcoholic
Alcoholism is a disease. When it gets hold of someone’s body and soul, it intends to destroy everything in its path. While someone might be able to maintain life as a high functioning alcoholic for months or even years, eventually, the destruction comes. When it does, the only path the alcoholic is going to have towards sobriety is going to come through treatment.
Treatment for someone with a deep-rooted dependence on alcohol will usually have to start with a detox program. Yes, high functioning alcoholics do experience withdrawal symptoms after periods of abstinence. FYI: Here is a list of withdrawal symptoms that might occur:
- Seizures and body tremors
- Increasing heart rate and blood pressure
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Profuse sweating
- Confusion and inability to think straight
- Body pain and discomfort
As part of a medically monitored detox program, clients are allowed to go through withdrawal as naturally as possible. If they start to show signs of significant discomfort, there will be a medical professional standing by to prescribe relief medications.
After successfully going through detox, it’s time for the client to face the truth about their addiction. They will get an opportunity to work with a therapist in search of the root causes of their desire to participate in destructive drinking behaviors. If they can identify their real issues, it will allow them to start developing better life and coping skills. These are the skills they will need in the future to avoid a lifetime chronic relapses.
After reading the above information, you might be able to identify yourself as a high functioning alcoholic. If that’s what you see, you are well ahead of the curve. You now have an opportunity to stop the madness before it stops you. We hope you will use this realization as a catapult to get yourself into treatment as soon as possible.