Functioning Alcoholic: What does that mean?
A functioning alcoholic is someone who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing with his or her alcoholism. Some can do these things successfully, but the question becomes, how well are they handling their role of spouse, parent, driver, financial manager or community volunteer while under the influence?
It's important for someone who is a functioning alcoholic to understand the health risks for them may be just as serious as they are for someone who has a more obvious addiction to alcohol. Many people do not know what are considered moderate drinking amounts.
Learn more about the USDA moderate guidelines for drinking alcohol.
1. Your spouse sometimes admits to a drinking problem; quipped about being a functioning alcoholic.
Key Insight: Intuition is usually right.
People tend to think of alcoholism as an all or nothing proposition. The perception is, if you can handle your liquor you are fine, as opposed to the drinker whose life is falling apart. The reality is... Learn More >
2. Your spouse has lost days at work or school because of drinking. He/she has gotten into fights when drinking and lost friends due to drinking. There has been a charge of driving under the influence.
Key Insight: These and many other negative things begin to happen when the drinking has become a compulsion. What counts is not an isolated incident, but whether there is a pattern of such events.
3. Your spouse says he/she needs alcohol to reduce tension or stress, and a drink helps in building self-confidence.
Key Insight: Many high-functioning alcoholics have low self-esteem. The real issue is whether or not your partner has become dependent on the alcohol to overcome another mental health problem, low self-esteem.
4. Your partner often has a drink in the morning. Sometimes you find your spouse drinking alone or he/she gets drunk without meaning to. Your partner forgets what he/she did or said during the previous evening of drinking.
Key Insight: The first three statements suggest that drinking has become a compulsion and is suggestive of addictive drinking. The last item describes alcoholic blackout, again characteristic of longer-term alcohol abuse.
5. Your partner has sometimes denied drinking when he/she obviously was drinking. You know that he/she hides alcohol so others won't see it. Your partner gets resentful, defensive and angry if anyone comments on his/her drinking.
Key Insight: Denial is the major line of defense for most problem drinkers.
6. You often worry about your partner's drinking and lose sleep over it. You make threats that you don't follow through on. You sometimes make excuses or cover for your spouse when he/she has been drinking.
Key Insight: Your partner may well be a functioning alcoholic, but you have become codependent. All of these behaviors do more to support his alcoholism than to remedy it.
Understanding whether or not your partner is an alcoholic is not simply a matter of counting drinks or counting answers to a questionnaire. The issue is quite complex. The Alcoholism Test exercise may help you see more clearly what your unique situation really is.