We often talk about how drinking an alcoholic beverage now and then isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While many Christians don’t see eye-to-eye on the topic, many people who follow Biblical principles believe that a social drink here or there or a glass of wine with dinner is a safe habit. There’s even some indication that very moderate drinking might have health benefits for some people. That being said, it’s important to be able to tell if or when you’ve crossed the line between having an occasional drink with friends and addiction.
Alcoholism is often painted in a very certain way: articles say to look for signs that a friend is not performing at work, living up to social or family obligations or is changing habits. But not all alcoholics show these signs; some people struggling with addiction are able to keep up appearances in almost all aspects of life. That means they still do well at work or school — if their addiction is discovered, people are often surprised, saying things like “It seems like they had it all together.”
This is called functional alcoholism (or a high-functioning alcoholic), and it can be dangerous because it lulls a person into believing they have their drinking under control. It also makes it easy for someone not to seek treatment. If your drinking isn’t yet causing serious issues in your life, you might think that you can keep going as you are.
The risks of functional alcoholism
Excessive drinking is never a healthy habit, even if you can do so and remain productive at work or in other areas of your life. Outwardly, you might believe you are fine, but a constant influx of alcohol into your body can cause serious long-term health consequences. It’s also probable that you aren’t quite as in control of your drinking as you might believe. If you are “functional” while drinking, imagine what you might be able to accomplish if you were sober!
It’s not just your body at risk when you remain in a state of functional alcoholism, either. When you drink, your cognitive functions don’t work the same. That means you might make risky decisions or do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Functioning alcoholics often find themselves in sexual relationships, legal woes or other situations without fully understanding exactly how they got there.
The signs of functional alcoholism
If performance at work or an inability to keep up with obligations doesn’t clue you in, what are some signs that you or someone you love is a functioning alcoholic? First, if you drink heavily, you are at risk. Heavy drinking is described by WebMD as seven drinks in a week (or three in any one day on a regular basis) for women. For men, the numbers jump to 14 a week or four a day.
One night of celebration and imbibing (though not always the wisest choice) doesn’t mean you have functional alcoholism. At the same time, every person and every body is unique, so you could have a substance abuse problem without hitting the drinking numbers defined by WebMD. Some other signs of functional alcoholism include:
- You get drunk when you had no intention to do so, and it happens on a regular basis
- Your relationships are put at risk or damaged because of drinking, but that doesn’t cause you to stop
- You joke or are sarcastic about what you might refer to as your habit, problem or even alcoholism
- You lie about drinking or try to hide it, even if you don’t think you are an alcoholic
- You make excuses about why you drink so much or try to assure friends and family that you don’t drink as much as they think you do
- You have been arrested or cited for DUI, even if you blamed it on a one-time situation
- You are struggling to keep up with obligations and having to put on a front to make people believe you are doing okay
What Should You Do Next?
If you believe you are a functioning alcoholic — or even if you aren’t sure but think it’s a possibility — then don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Talk to a trusted friend or family; ask them if they’ve seen the same signs you have and what they think. Reach out to a family doctor or therapist, or call The Road to Freedom to find out about options for recovery.
Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart before you seek help. Don’t let the fact that you can keep up appearances fool you. Functioning alcoholism can last for years, but often, it becomes more difficult to maintain your lifestyle as you feel the need to drink more and more. Even if you are functioning in the world today, if you can’t stop yourself from the next drink, it’s time to get help. Call Today (844)402-3605