Tips for Dealing with a Functioning Alcoholic

Know How to Handle Situations and Have Better Success When Dealing with a Functioning Alcoholic

Alcohol use disorder wreaks havoc in everyday life, causing problems for the sufferer as well as those around him. It's not always easy to tell if someone has a drinking problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's statistics show that 15.1 million American adults had alcohol abuse disorder in 2015. Of those, only 8.3% received treatment at a proper facility. Not all of those who haven't received treatment exhibit the typical behavior of alcoholics. Some are high-functioning and, still, their addiction takes a toll. Dealing with a functioning alcoholic is often difficult. If you or someone you know has alcohol use disorder, you can get advice or more information on how to find the right treatment by calling the Alcohol Treatment Center Red Bank at (732) 455-1268.

What is a Functional Alcoholic?

A functional alcoholic is someone who has alcohol use disorder but is still able to hold down a job, maintain personal and professional commitments, and otherwise be a contributing member of society. For women, consuming more than three drinks a day or a total of seven in a week is a sign that they have a drinking problem. For men, the numbers are slightly different: if they drink more than four drinks a day or over 14 in a week, they suffer from alcohol use disorder.

Because they haven't hit rock bottom, they don't believe they have a problem or, if they do, they don't believe it's that bad. After all, they might have a few behavioral hiccups here and there, but for the most part, it might seem to them that their drinking isn't interfering with their lives. They're still paying the bills. They're still performing their duties. That means that it's no big deal, right?

Except that it is. Behind closed doors, the people closest to them have a hard time because they're dealing with a functioning alcoholic. What's more, even if their world hasn't collapsed around them, their health certainly will.

Common Behaviors of Alcoholics Who Are in Denial

It's easier to answer the question of what is a functional alcoholic by listing common traits they share, even if they're in denial. Among others, they might be prone to:

  • Joke about alcoholism
  • Have legal problems that stem from alcohol abuse, like DUIs
  • Have a drink (or more) early in the morning
  • Drink alone
  • Get blackout drunk frequently
  • Deny behavior that points to alcohol abuse or become hostile when confronted with their drinking
  • Cause loved ones excessive concern,
  • Create situations where loved ones have to cover up, lie, or make excuses for their drinking habits

What Are the Risks?

Functional alcoholics might feel like they have a hold on things, but the truth is, that grip is tenuous at best. Because dealing with a functioning alcoholic is so taxing on those around them, they face a constant threat of falling out with the people close to them, losing their families, getting fired, or running into issues with the law.

Beyond that, prolong alcohol abuse has been linked to liver disease, pancreatitis, numerous cancers, permanent brain damage, as well as consequences that can arise from the risky behavior they engage in while drunk. Functional alcoholics aren't just gambling with their own lives - they pose a genuine danger to those around them if they insist on driving while drunk, can't control their drinking while gestating or taking care of children, or can't control their temper, which can lead to domestic violence.

How Can You Go about Dealing with a Functioning Alcoholic?

It's important to be sensitive to the fact that alcohol use disorder is a real disease. The first order of business is to get as educated as possible about the causes of alcohol abuse and how it manifests in your loved one's life. Once you do, here are a few things you can do to address this delicate subject:

  • Don't confront an alcoholic while they're under the influence. Wait until an opportune moment to bring up your concerns.
  • Be gentle and supportive, but firm.
  • Expect denial or attempts to change the subject. Resist these and circle the conversation back to the topic at hand.
  • If, after multiple attempts to point out their drinking problem, they insist they're fine, suggest they limit their drinking to a set number for a period. If someone has alcohol use disorder, they won't be able to abstain for very long. This may come as a much-needed reality check.
  • Communicate clearly but compassionately how their drinking has negatively affected you.
  • Set boundaries and enforce them. An example of this could be how you won't be around them if they're drinking.
  • At all times, reinforce that there's no shame in seeking help. You can contact the Alcohol Treatment Center Red Bank at (732) 455-1268 for further assistance on getting the help they need.
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