What Is a Functional Alcoholic?
A functional alcoholic is able to maintain an outward appearance of normalcy despite the negative effects alcohol is having on their mind and body. What a functional alcoholic often fails to realize is that alcohol use disorders are chronic illnesses that won’t get better without treatment.
Even if a person is able to hide their struggles today, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to do so tomorrow. Addiction can’t be addressed by willpower alone. The only way to move forward is to seek evidence-based care that promotes a wellness-focused lifestyle.
9 Signs You Might Be a Functional Alcoholic
Only a trained healthcare professional is qualified to diagnose an alcohol use disorder. However, there are several warning signs that suggest you may have a serious drinking problem.
1. You Drink a Lot
The CDC defines moderate drinking as two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women. Binge drinking is defined as bringing a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above—which is roughly equivalent to five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women over a two-hour time span. If you’re exceeding these recommendations on a regular basis, you’re increasing your risk of a wide range of health problems—including liver damage, heart disease, digestive problems, and several different types of cancer.
2. You’re Unable to Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
If you regularly find yourself drinking more than you intended or in situations where sobriety is key, this is a strong indicator that you may have a problem. Getting behind the wheel after drinking is particularly dangerous—no matter how good of a driver you think you are. Drinking while caring for your children is also a cause for concern.
3. You Use Alcohol to Cope with Job-Related Stress
Functional alcoholics often have high-stress jobs. For example, healthcare professionals, law enforcement offices, and veterans are known to struggle with addiction at substantially higher rates than the general population. If you’re using alcohol as your go-to coping mechanism for job-related stress, it’s important to understand that your drinking will eventually cause more problems than it solves.
4. Your Friendships Are Changing
If you’re spending more time with friends who drink to excess and becoming defensive around those who’ve expressed concern about your behavior, this is a sign that you should be evaluated for an alcohol use disorder. It’s not normal to have your social life be centered around alcohol consumption.
5. You Forget Things
Abusing alcohol significantly affects cognitive function. Even if you’re not experiencing full-on blackouts, you may be forgetting plans to meet with friends, deadlines for important work projects, or details about hobbies and special interests that were once a source of pleasure. Without treatment, your decline in cognitive function will continue.
6. Your Mood Swings Are More Noticeable
Functional alcoholics often experience bouts of anger or depression, which are then followed by a phase of intense productivity. They often believe their mood swings don’t matter if they’re still able to check off the items on their to-do list, but this erratic behavior takes a toll over time.
7. You Find It Difficult to Talk About Your Feelings
If you feel as though nobody understands your internal struggles, you may be reluctant to talk about your feelings and turn to alcohol for comfort. This behavior is most often seen in men who’ve been raised to believe in gender stereotypes that discourage them from expressing their emotions openly and honestly.
8. You’re Overly Critical of Yourself & Others
Functional alcoholics are often perfectionists with high standards for themselves and others. Their behavior makes them successful professionally but can lead to difficulty when life doesn’t go as planned. If you drink to cope with feelings of frustration, this is a sign of an alcohol use disorder.
9. You Don’t Feel Normal Unless You’re Drinking
Alcohol is a depressant, but functional alcoholics often believe alcohol gives them a boost of energy or helps them focus. This isn’t because their bodies process alcohol differently—it’s because they’ve become physically dependent on it. When they’re not drinking, they experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to get through the day.
Help Is Available
If you think you might have a problem with alcohol, the best thing you can do is to seek immediate treatment. Alcohol use disorders are chronic, progressive illnesses. As such, early intervention is key. Waiting until you’ve hit your personal “rock bottom” only makes it more difficult to build the foundation for a lasting recovery.
You may be worried about asking for time off work to attend rehab, but seeking addiction treatment is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). You can also be assured that your privacy will be protected since rehab centers are legally required to follow strict procedures that protect the confidentiality of your personal medical information.
Waypoint Recovery Center provides a full continuum of care for men and women with alcohol use disorders. Our South Carolina residential addiction treatment center provides a peaceful, serene environment in which to build the skills necessary for a lasting recovery. Contact our admissions representatives to learn more.