Recognizing Functional Alcoholism
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to examine the effects alcohol may be having on your life and the myriad options of treatment at your disposal. In 2016, an estimated 81.6 million people in the US were binge or heavy alcohol users according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, but only 3.8 million had received any treatment in the last year. Sometimes the hardest step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. Recognizing these common signs of functional alcoholism may empower you to make a change in your or your loved one’s life:
Socializing Exclusively with Alcohol
Unfortunately, alcohol has become synonymous with fun for many adults (and teenagers) in American society. When planning a dinner party, do you fixate on the wine? When you meet friends after work, is it always at a bar—and does your body start craving a drink at 5 sharp? A routine of bar-hopping on the weekends may seem innocent enough, but ending every Friday and Saturday night blacked out is a problem. If you find you and your friends have little to talk about when sober, it might be time to reevaluate your social drinking habits.
Drinking at Work
Maybe you like to order a beer when you take clients out to lunch. Maybe you network better after a cocktail. The problem occurs when one drink becomes several, and several become too many to count. Relying on alcohol as stress relief creates dependency. Mangione et al. found a significant decrease in job performance among those who drank at work across all levels. If you find yourself drinking throughout the work day, storing alcohol in your desk, or concealing the amount you drink from your coworkers, you are likely a high-functioning alcoholic.
This is the most telling sign of functional alcoholism, and it can manifest at any age. According to Creswell et al., teens who engaged in solitary drinking were more likely to suffer from alcoholism as young adults. In drinking alone, you are shielded from shame and feel less of an obligation to curb your consumption. Solitary drinking is a hallmark of those suffering from functional alcoholism because it strips away the pretext of pleasure and makes drinking a means to an end.
Rules and Excuses
High-functioning alcoholics are resourceful, developing rules around their drinking to convince themselves and others that they are in control. These include only drinking at certain times or for a reason—e.g. it was a long day, or the dog kept you up all night. The trouble is revealed when the rules are subjected to change. Do you feel irritable or ill when your usual drinking time is deferred? Do you schedule events around drinking, even cancel obligations that conflict with your routine? When the rules start to control you, it’s time to seek help.
Practice awareness and honesty in acknowledging patterns of functional alcoholism in your life. Niznik Behavioral Health will provide you with the tools to combat substance dependency.
About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.