High Functioning Alcoholics Functioning Among Us
It is fairly easy to point out the people in your group of friends or family that drink too much. In fact, most people stereotype alcoholics as people that can’t control their lives, along with their drinking. They see alcoholics as people who can’t hold a job, can’t manage their finances, have relationship issues, and have bloodshot eyes or even reek of alcohol. What about that one friend, who is a lawyer for a huge company? He is doing very well for himself. He has a nice house and a family. You do notice when you go to an event with him, he gets drunk and isn’t himself. You view this is just having fun, drunken behavior. He mentions after work the whole office goes out for a cocktail. You view this as social drinking or even work related. It never crosses your mind that he is an alcoholic, but he is. He is among a group of individuals we call high functioning alcoholics.
Sarah Allen Benton has released her book called, “Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic”. Benton considers herself to be a high functioning alcoholic. She graduated from a university and holds a job as a mental health counselor. She is now in recovery, but functioned for years without being detected.
Dr. Mark L. Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states in Sarah Allen Benton’s book: “People can be dependent and not have abuse problems at all.” Willenbring elaborates, “They’re successful students. They’re good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis or two bottles of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet.”
The reason why high functioning alcoholics are rarely detected is because the hold high positions at work and appear stable to everyone. They hide their drinking or excuse it as occasionally having fun. The only way they usually get caught is receiving a DUI, getting a divorce from a spouse that can no longer hide their secret, or even getting charged with sexual misconduct due to their drunken behavior.
Some characteristics to look for when questioning high functioning alcoholics are: They have trouble controlling the amount they drink. Usually they will say, “I’ll only have 3 drinks.” Then they are 6 drinks in and do not intend to stop. Another sign is constantly thinking about drinking. Their plans usually evolve around drinking. Also, when they drink, they are not themselves. They may even blackout and not remember what happened at all. One thing high functioning alcoholics have in common with alcoholics is that they are taking the same risks in their health and safety of them and everyone around them.