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Successful Alcoholics: Thriving in Careers, Drowning in Drinks

successful alcoholics

Some people know they have a drinking problem when when they can’t hold a job or their liver starts to fail. It’s not as easy for a successful alcoholic to admit to a problem. In fact, if that’s you, you may be thriving in your career, even as a drinking problem grows.

An alcoholic who is able to be successful in his or her career or family life in spite of drinking too much is known as a functional alcoholic or a high-functioning alcoholic. This type of person appears so productive and responsible that the people in their life may even overlook the drinking problem.

Don’t Let Success Drive Denial

Denial is a big problem for successful alcoholics. You might feel there are few outward negative consequences to your drinking. You’re able to function productively in your career. Your family and friends don’t object to your drinking because your problem isn’t obvious and doesn’t stop you from meeting your career potential.

Getting past denial can be challenging when you’re doing such a good job functioning in your day-to-day life that no one can tell you have a problem. It’s probably easy for you to tell yourself that your drinking isn’t out of control because it hasn’t caused any major losses in your life. You haven’t been fired. You haven’t been arrested. Your family members haven’t turned their backs on you. Outwardly, you appear to be very successful.

But deep down you know that you are relying way too much on alcohol to relax or remain calm. You notice that you need to drink much more than you used to in order to get the same results. Trying to get through a day without alcohol may cause tremors or panic. You may not want to think of yourself as an alcoholic, but on some level you’re probably aware that your drinking has gotten out of control.

Recognizing Signs of Alcoholism

You don’t have to be a homeless drunk living on the streets or sleeping on a park bench to be an alcoholic. You don’t even have to drink in large quantities or drink every day. What makes drinking a problem is how physically or emotionally dependent you have become on alcohol.

Some of the signs of alcoholism include:

  • Relying on alcohol to relax or feel confident
  • Drinking alone or in the morning
  • Trying to conceal your drinking from others
  • Missing work or important appointments because of alcohol
  • Having no memory of things you did while under the influence
  • Drinking more than you intend to
  • Experiencing shaking or other forms of physical discomfort if you try to stop drinking

Help for “Succesful” Alcoholics

It’s often difficult for functional alcoholics to admit they have a problem and to ask for help. Once you do recognize you have a problem, you have taken the first and most important step toward recovery.

Talk to your doctor about your drinking. Doctors are a good source of information and can point you to help from a support group, counselor or an addiction specialist. An addiction professional can evaluate your alcohol problem and let you know if you may be able to be treated on an outpatient basis so that you can continue to work and stay with your family while getting help.

Highly successful alcoholics are sometimes reluctant to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. You may be afraid of being recognized or seen going to meetings. Consider going to meetings in a nearby town rather than in your hometown. Talk to an addiction professional about all of your options.

It’s important to remember that just because you haven’t lost your job, family or home doesn’t mean that you are not an alcoholic. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you probably do. It’s important to get help because long-term alcohol abuse can have serious, life-threatening consequences. Alcoholism is a progressive illness, and the things and people you haven’t lost yet may still slip away from you in the future because of your drinking. Ask for help and start your journey of recovery.

Posted on March 15, 2015 and modified on May 10, 2019

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