Living With A Functioning Alcoholic
The life of an alcoholic is really not a fun one at all. The drink takes your life and everything you have. But not only does alcohol take your life, it often takes the lives of the ones around you. Living with an alcoholic is certainly not an enjoyable existence.
When we discuss alcohol addiction, there are often views on what correct terms we use. Many do not like the term ‘alcoholic’ for their own reasons. Personally, I did not mind being called an alcoholic or calling myself one. It was a hard one to argue after all. For the purpose post though, let’s establish what an ‘alcoholic’ is.
An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol and has a physical and psychological dependence on it. They may have difficulty controlling their drinking, experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop, and continue to drink despite negative consequences in their life.
Now to discuss functioning alcoholics. A phrase that has been used for many years to describe a particular type of drinker.
What is a functioning alcoholic….say, compared to a ‘regular’ alcoholic.
A functioning alcoholic, on the other hand, is someone who is able to maintain a job, relationships, and other responsibilities while still regularly consuming alcohol. They may appear to be high-functioning, but their drinking habits can still have negative consequences on their health, relationships, and overall well-being – same as anyone who drinks to excess.
While a functioning alcoholic may be able to maintain their daily routine, they are not ‘built different’ from any of the rest of us – they are still at risk for the long-term health effects of alcohol consumption and may also be using alcohol as a coping mechanism for underlying emotional or psychological issues.
Bringing up the subject.
Addiction of any type is a sensitive subject, and a very difficult one to talk about especially for the first time. If you feel that the time has come where the conversation around alcohol intake needs to be had, then here are some suggestions that might suit your situation, to help it become a more positive conversation.
Importance of discussing what it’s like to live a functioning alcoholic
The term ‘alcoholic’ itself. It is not a nice one. It conjures up images of cold streets, men drinking from bottles in brown paper bags, or similar sad images. This is not what alcoholism is. Alcoholism can get a grip of ANYONE who consumes alcohol. By very nature of the drug, it is a strongly addictive one. Alcoholism is not just an illness of the lower classes or less worthy – whatever that means – this illness is not picky. Regardless of background, status, education…we can all find ourselves fitting in with the term alcoholic.
Of course, it is very important to discuss the topic of living with a functioning alcoholic. For a number of reasons really.
- Firstly, discuss what it is actually like to live with a functioning alcoholic. Due to the nature of it all, often many others around are not even aware of how much the person is drinking. Friends and family, work colleagues etc may be blinkered by just how much is getting consumed and how much damage is going on. By raising awareness to the individual. They may not even be aware of the impact their behaviour is having on those around them.
- A second reason…the term ‘alcoholic’ itself. It is not a nice one. It conjures up images of cold streets, men drinking from bottles in brown paper bags, or similar sad images. This is not what alcoholism is. Alcoholism can get a grip of ANYONE who consumes alcohol. By very nature of the drug, it is a strongly addictive one. Alcoholism is not just an illness of the lower classess or less worthy – whatever that means – this illness is not picky. Regardless of background, status, education…we can all find ourselves fitting in with the term alcoholic.
- The biggest reason for me is so that others can read and understand this. That they are not alone, trapped, and that there is hope. The alcoholic did not choose to find themselves in this situation, it may creep up, it may have arrived like a tsunami. The person that you are living with as a functioning alcohol is often simply not the person you fell in love with. A totally different person. That person is very much still in there, somewhere. Getting them back is where it takes strength on both parts.
Overall, discussing what it’s like to live with a functioning alcoholic is important for raising awareness, reducing stigma, and showing that there is support out there for those who are affected by the condition.
By sharing our experiences and perspectives, we are definitely helping others out there.
This is why we need to be there to support them. The ones who they love and trust, offer help as best as they can.
Signs and Symptoms of a Functioning Alcoholic
There are some clear similarities and signs of what makes someone become a functioning alcoholic. Of course, we all ‘function’ at different levels, so people obviously have different commitments and lifestyles. Alcohol can fit into many lives easily, especially if drinking is part of your job – wooing new clients and wining and dining them, for example. But yes, there are some distinct facts that stand out regardless of walk of life.
- The ability to maintain a ‘normal’ daily routine.
- Hiding alcohol consumption
- Challenges and difficulties facing normal life stressors or emotions without using alcohol.
The Impact On YOUR Life
Living with a functioning alcoholic can bring relationship issues
And are a few reasons why this may be the case:
- Unpredictable behavior: Functioning alcoholics may be able to maintain their daily routine, but their behavior can become unpredictable when they’re under the influence of alcohol. This can lead to conflicts, arguments, and other negative interactions that can strain relationships.
- Lack of trust: Alcoholism can erode trust in a relationship, as the functioning alcoholic may lie or hide their drinking habits. This can cause their loved ones to feel betrayed or manipulated, and can lead to feelings of resentment and anger.
- Neglect of responsibilities: Alcoholism can cause the functioning alcoholic to neglect their responsibilities, such as household chores, financial obligations, or caring for children. This can lead to feelings of frustration or anger from their loved ones, who may feel that they are shouldering too much of the burden.
- Emotional distance: Alcoholism can also cause the functioning alcoholic to become emotionally distant, as they may use alcohol as a way to cope with their emotions or avoid dealing with difficult issues. This can make it difficult for their loved ones to connect with them on an emotional level, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Coping Mechanisms – Self Care Practices
Living with a functioning alcoholic can be a challenging and stressful experience, which is why practising self-care is essential to maintain your own mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Here are some self-care practices that can be helpful when living with a functioning alcoholic:
- Set boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with the functioning alcoholic to protect your own mental and emotional health. This can include things like not enabling their behaviour, not participating in arguments while they are under the influence, and establishing clear communication about what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can help you manage stress and stay centered in the present moment. These practices can also help you develop greater emotional resilience and cope with difficult emotions.
- Engage in hobbies and activities: Engaging in hobbies and activities that you enjoy can help you find joy and fulfilment outside of your relationship with the functioning alcoholic. This can also help you maintain a sense of identity and purpose outside of your role as a caregiver or supporter.
- Take care of your physical health: Taking care of your physical health can help you manage stress and maintain a sense of well-being. This can include things like exercising regularly, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
Overall, self-care practices can be a crucial part of maintaining your own well-being when living with a functioning alcoholic. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to cope with the challenges of your situation and maintain healthy relationships with both the functioning alcoholic and others in your life.
Seeking support from others
Seek support: It’s important to seek support from others who can understand what you’re going through. This can include joining a support group for friends and family of alcoholics or seeking therapy to help manage your emotions and stress levels.
Helping a high-functioning alcoholic
Due to how well they actually function in their day-to-day lives, denial is a common trait that you will come across, specifically with functioning alcoholics. It is easier for them to convince themselves that they do not actually have a problem with their drinking habits. I mean, they are going to work every day, doing what is expected of them without issues….why shouldn’t they have a ‘well-earned’ drink after doing all fo that? They often regularly exercise and have a solid social circle. Easy enough to convince themselves with these sort of ‘facts’ in their arsenal, yes?
With theses sort of rationales, you can see how difficult it can be to see the actual dangers of addiction, as drinking increases and time passes.
Challenges of getting a functioning alcoholic to seek help
Getting a functioning alcoholic to seek help for their condition can be a challenging and complex process. Here are some of the challenges that may arise:
Denial: Functioning alcoholics may deny that they have a problem with alcohol, or they may believe that their drinking is not causing any harm. This can make it difficult for them to recognize that they need help.
Fear of stigma: There is often a stigma attached to alcoholism, which can make it difficult for functioning alcoholics to seek help. They may be worried about being judged or stigmatized by others, or they may feel ashamed of their behaviour.
Fear of losing control: Functioning alcoholics may worry that seeking help will mean losing control over their lives or having to give up something that they enjoy. They may also be concerned about the potential physical and emotional discomfort that comes with detox and recovery.
Lack of awareness: Some functioning alcoholics may not be aware of the full extent of their condition, or they may not know where to turn for help. This can make it difficult for them to seek treatment.
Enabling behaviour: Family members or friends may enable the functioning alcoholic’s behaviour by minimizing or denying the problem, making excuses for their behaviour, or otherwise avoiding the issue. This can make it harder for the functioning alcoholic to recognize that they need help and take action to seek it out.
Overall, getting a functioning alcoholic to seek help can be a challenging and complex process. It’s important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding, and to provide support and encouragement to help the functioning alcoholic recognize the need for help and take action to seek treatment.
Living with a functioning alcoholic can be an incredibly challenging experience. The unpredictable behaviour, lack of trust, neglect of responsibilities, and emotional distance that can arise from this situation can put a significant strain on relationships and on the mental and emotional well-being of loved ones.
It’s important to recognize the importance of discussing these issues openly and honestly, as well as the need for self-care practices that can help manage stress and maintain a sense of well-being.
While it can be difficult to get a functioning alcoholic to seek help, it’s important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. With support, encouragement, and access to appropriate treatment options, it is possible for functioning alcoholics to overcome their addiction and achieve lasting recovery.
Ultimately, it’s essential to prioritize your own mental and emotional health when living with a functioning alcoholic. By setting boundaries, seeking support, practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies and activities, and taking care of your physical health, you can help manage the challenges that come with this situation and maintain healthy relationships with those around you. Remember that you are not alone, and that there are resources available to help you navigate this difficult experience.