What is a High-Functioning Addict?

What is a High-Functioning Addict? cover

High-functioning addicts and alcoholics are individuals who are able to successfully conceal their struggles with substances. While they may be able to get their work done, turn school assignments in on time, make rent payments, and keep up appearances, behind the scenes they are usually suffering. Over time, high-functioning addiction tends to get less functional, since substance use disorders are progressive conditions. Unfortunately, high-functioning alcoholics may not even realize they have a problem before it's too late.

Sober living homes can be beneficial for so-called "functional addicts" because they support residents in their recovery goals while making sure they are able to meet their commitments in the outside world.

How People with High Functioning Alcoholism Define Success

Not all addicts are unemployed or homeless. In fact, research shows that the vast majority are employed. Consequences at work are often the last consequences that show up. People usually only lose their jobs after their substance use disorder has progressed considerably.

People who drink excessively often set goals for themselves that revolve around drinking. They may create rules for themselves around their drinking or substance abuse to keep their consumption in check. This may involve counting drinks, only drinking socially, only drinking alone, or only drinking during certain hours. These rules may help prevent the most extreme negative consequences from occurring. However, most people with addiction problems quickly learn that when they control their drinking, they don't enjoy it, and when they enjoy it most, they're not controlling it.

Nonetheless, most high-functioning alcoholics feel that if they can prove that they can drink as much as anyone else or that they can hold down professional responsibilities while continuing to abuse alcohol, then they will feel successful in life. Their problems with alcohol or drugs often go unacknowledged by those around them because it is difficult for friends and family to understand how someone who appears so successful could also be struggling so much with alcohol abuse.

How Can You Help a High-Functioning Addict?

High-functioning addicts and alcoholics may have been in denial for years, so it is important that family members and friends are gentle and do not shame them about their past behavior. Sober living homes help high-functioning addicts by providing a safe, supportive environment where they can begin to address the problems that drove them to addiction in the first place.

If you are a family member or friend of someone who is struggling with an addiction, you can use this site to find support options. If your loved one is a high-functioning addict, it's important to stay connected and encourage them to make changes.

Am I a Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning addict is an individual who is highly functional in all areas of his or her life but uses alcohol excessively and has become dependent on alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism for managing stressors.

While high-functioning addicts may seem to have “it all”, they are often deeply unhappy and unfulfilled due to their reliance on alcohol to cope with day-to-day stress. These individuals often have the same mental health issues as other addicts but have the additional challenge of functioning at a high level in their daily lives. Unfortunately, this can make treatment more difficult due to the shame and embarrassment of not being “sick” enough to warrant treatment.

Some people may drink alcoholically but not be aware of it. The following questions can help you determine if you are a functioning alcoholic:

  • Are your drinking habits negatively affecting your job, relationships or health?
  • Are you having more than one drink per day?
  • Have you ever missed work or important social engagements because of drinking?
  • Do you find that drinking helps relieve stress, sadness or anxiety?
  • Has your doctor ever advised you to stop drinking due to a health problem related to alcohol?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, it is important to seek help by enrolling in a sober living home that can support you as you take steps to recover from your addiction.

Other behaviors that may indicate that you have high functioning alcoholism include:

  • Drinking alone
  • Experiencing blackouts or memory loss after drinking
  • Drinking to the point of nausea or vomiting
  • Avoiding social situations where you cannot drink
  • Feeling guilty about your drinking habits
  • Noticing that drinking has become a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, sadness or anger

If you are able to recognize these signs in yourself, it is important to reach out for help as soon as possible.

What Makes Some Addicts "Functional"?

People with substance use disorders often go to great lengths to avoid detection. They may hide all the traces of their addiction from their loved ones. Some use a combination of willpower and meticulous planning to ensure that they continue to meet their obligations despite their substance abuse habits. While they may avoid detection and manage to get by for a while, this period rarely lasts long. As substance abuse takes its toll on the body and mind, people with functional addiction begin to struggle to get through their days.

When you have high-functioning alcoholism, you may be able to hide the problem from others for a while. However, over time, you are likely to experience the negative consequences of your drinking. As these consequences accumulate, your ability to function effectively may decline considerably.

Because of their success in hiding their addiction, people with functional alcoholism may be less likely than other addicts to seek help. They may not be aware that they have a problem or they may feel that their ability to function despite their addiction is reason enough not to seek help. There are many reasons why people with high functioning alcoholism continue using even when it causes problems in their lives and relationships:

Long-Term Consequences of High-Functioning Addiction

When you have high-functioning alcoholism, your life is likely to be full of stress. You may have a successful career, an active social life, and a family. However, if you are using alcohol to cope with the stress in your life, you may be at risk for problems related to your drinking.

High-functioning alcoholics are not immune to the health risks associated with alcoholism. As they go about their daily lives, they can begin to suffer from physical symptoms that are attributable to their substance abuse.

In fact, even “moderate drinking” can increase the risk of cancer and other physical and mental health issues. The CDC defines moderate drinking as 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Many “functional alcoholics” drink considerably more than this.

Moreover, high-functioning addiction rarely remains functional for long. As they continue to use alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress, it can become increasingly difficult to manage their daily responsibilities and activities without drinking. People with functional alcoholism often drink more than they originally intended or anticipated when they began using alcohol as a coping mechanism. They then find themselves struggling with cravings and withdrawals.

After years of successfully avoiding or managing the consequences of their addiction, people with high-functioning alcoholism ultimately find themselves facing serious problems in their lives.

Getting Sober at Bridges Sober Living Home

Bridges Sober Living Home is a luxury sober living home in Los Angeles, CA that supports men and women as they work to recover from substance use disorders. If you or a loved one is fighting a high-functioning addiction to alcohol, call us today. Our staff is both passionate and highly experienced. From your very first phone call, we'll work hard to walk you through the process of getting sober and building a new life without alcohol or cravings. Contact us today.

Why choose us

Bridges Sober Living Apartments is not just a place to pass the time. Our residents spend every day actively working to develop a foundation for lifelong sobriety.

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