Am I a Functional Alcoholic?
What Does It Mean to Be an Alcoholic?
The term alcoholic is serious, and what may be surprising to hear is that most heavy drinkers are not alcoholics, yet. Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence, which refers to the fact that alcoholics are literally dependent on drinking. Changes to the brain and body have made it nearly impossible for them to stop drinking.
Alcoholics have a high tolerance and need to consume high quantities of alcohol to feel drunk. Tolerance increases with time and with drinking. Alcoholics also experience physical withdrawal symptoms from not drinking, such as tremors, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches and nausea. These two things are the most consistent and classic signs of alcoholism.
If you experience either of the two signs of alcoholism, you have a problem. Along with those signs, most alcoholics also have others. They often neglect responsibilities, lose control when drinking, and pass out and forget things that happened when drinking. They drink in spite of the problems it causes, like hangovers, missing work or getting in fights.
If you’re high-functioning, or a functional alcoholic, you may not exhibit these secondary signs. You may be able to cope in spite of a hangover, or you drink first thing in the morning to relieve the symptoms of a hangover. Your high tolerance allows you to appear sober to people around you, even after several drinks. You take steps to hide what you’re drinking or how much you’re drinking. You may disguise liquor as water or a soda. You may drink alone.
Every functional alcoholic hits bottom at some point. You can’t carry on drinking heavily and frequently without eventually experiencing consequences. Maybe you’ll get behind the wheel one night and have an accident. You may get arrested or get caught hiding empty liquor bottles. Maybe you start to neglect your kids because they interfere with your drinking. If you are an alcoholic and you are currently high-functioning, don’t think you can keep it up forever.
The great news is that you can get help. If you recognize your problem and try to cut back on drinking, that’s a good place to start. Moderate drinking means having no more than one drink per day as a woman or two per day for men. You should also never have four or more drinks in one sitting if you’re a woman or five or more if you’re a man.
Moderating your drinking now is a great idea, but be realistic. If you try to slow down and cut back but fail, you need to look for professional help. Asking for help isn’t easy, but experienced counselors can get you back on the right path. They can help you uncover your reasons for drinking and help you learn ways to cope with negative emotions and the urge to drink. Getting help now may mean avoiding becoming an alcoholic in the future.