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Are you a high-functioning alcoholic?
Countless thousands, probably millions of people, are walking around every day looking fairly normal most of the time – sounding pretty normal and acting fairly normal. In fact, they often can be getting along quite successfully.
But they aren’t normal. They’re alcoholics. A special class of alcoholics. And they’re usually in complete denial about the seriousness of their addiction.
Most people – even coworkers and associates – may not know for sure that they’re dealing every day with a secret, heavy drinker who just doesn’t show the symptoms too obviously. Many might sense that all isn’t right with this person – something needs fixing somewhere – but gee, he or she is getting the job done most of the time.
Family and close friends are another matter. They know perfectly well that this guy or gal is in serious trouble with alcohol. And they’ve all struck out trying to help the person get it under control.
In fact, pretty much the only person in the universe who thinks everything is just dandy is the alcoholic himself or herself.
Experts call these people “functional alcoholics” or “high-functioning alcoholics” – meaning they drink like an alcoholic but manage to get a lot done without too much collateral damage trailing along after them.
In her book Understanding the High-functioning Alcoholic, author Sarah Allen Benton points out that the term “alcoholic” is usually pictured as a “falling down drunk” in most people’s minds.
Successful but also addicted to alcohol
Yet there are millions of high-functioning alcoholics – professional men and women “with successful careers, vibrant families, and active social lives, who nevertheless are addicted to alcohol.”
Most of us know at least one, she says, but “there is a surprising gap in the addiction and research fields in this area…They exist in great numbers, are unseen, and suffer no less than their struggling, failing counterparts. They include corporate presidents, politicians, teachers, tradesmen, law enforcement officials, lawyers, physicians, and even stay at home parents, who are by most accounts successful.”
Benton’s purpose for the book is to increase understanding of a condition which is frequently missed or ignored, medically and otherwise, simply because of the apparent competence or success of the alcoholic. In fact, they’re just as in need of treatment for alcoholism as the proverbial falling-down drunk or homeless paper-bag wino lying in a downtown alleyway.
The reason they need treatment is because overindulgence in alcohol destroys the brain and liver and kidneys and other organs of everyone who abuses it, regardless of their ability to function while drinking. And worse, alcohol always affects judgment. Sooner or later, if the drink doesn’t kill them first, a terrible decision is made that brings disaster on themselves and others.
According to Benton, such alcoholics are likely in denial about their drinking.
“He might think, ‘I have a great job, pay my bills, and have lots of friends; therefore I am not an alcoholic.’ Or he might make excuses like, ‘I only drink expensive wine’ or ‘I haven’t lost everything or suffered setbacks because of drinking.’”
And according to Robert Huebner of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “No one can drink heavily and maintain major responsibilities over long periods of time. If someone drinks heavily, it is going to catch up with them.”
What is heavy drinking?
More than three drinks a day for women, or a total of seven in a week, is considered “at-risk” drinking. It’s four a day for men or 14 a week. Anyone who drinks this much or more is headed for trouble.
Here are some of the “red flags” to look out for.
- Says he has a problem or jokes about alcoholism but doesn’t do anything about it
- Misses work or school, gets into fights, loses friendships, or has a DUI arrest
- Needs alcohol to relax or feel confident
- Drinks in the morning or when alone
- Gets drunk when he doesn’t intend to
- Forgets what he did while drinking
- Denies drinking, hides alcohol, or gets angry when confronted about drinking
- Causes loved ones to worry about or make excuses for his drinking
Alcoholism affects nearly 20 million Americans, and only a fraction are getting the treatment they need. Don’t hesitate to call Novus Medical Detox Center if you or someone you care for falls into the above behavioral patterns. We stand ready to provide professional services that can restore your loved one to a life free from the use of alcohol.
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