Picture an alcoholic; what comes to mind? Someone who can’t hold down a job, someone who alienates everyone in their life, or maybe someone who’s lost it all, sitting somewhere on a curb drinking out of a brown paper bag?
Forget what you think you know about alcoholism. It’s a complex disease that affects everyone a little bit differently. You can have a great job and still be an alcoholic. You can hold together your life and still be an alcoholic. Here’s what to watch for:
1. They don’t think they have a problem.
Often times, because there are such seriously negative stereotypes surrounding people who are alcoholics, functional alcoholics don’t believe they have a problem. They hold their lives together and do great at work. “So what if I have a few beers after work?” The truth is, functional alcoholism is still alcoholism.
2. They may not drink constantly, but they can’t control it when they do.
Most functional alcoholics don’t drink all the time. They get up, drop the kids off at school, go to work, do their jobs, come home, cook dinner, and open up a bottle of wine and drink until there’s nothing left. It’s the fact that, when they do drink, they can’t control it.
3. They have trouble remembering things.
Most alcoholics, functional or not, experience a degree of memory loss resulting from the alcohol they drink. Even if they don’t seem super drunk, they often can’t recall what they did, what they said, or who they were with.
4. They get irritable when not drinking.
One clear sign of alcoholism is a dependency on the drug, that grows over time. Alcoholics may feel antsy, nervous, irritable, and physically uncomfortable if they’ve avoided alcohol for too long. They may also experience sweating, rapid heart rate, and sometimes death.
5. They forgo food for alcohol.
Often times, functional alcoholics will use a meal as a reason to have a drink. Sometimes still, alcoholics will simply not eat any food at all and opt to drink their calories instead.
6. They lie to hide their alcohol abuse.
Functional alcoholics will often hide their alcoholism by telling stories and lies that conceal what it is that they’re actually doing. Instead of telling you they went to the bar, they may say they were stuck in traffic or stayed late at work.
7. They isolate themselves.
Functional alcoholics will sometimes withdraw partially or completely from non-essential functions, like family dinners, birthday parties, etc. They isolate themselves in an attempt to drink as much as they want without judgement.
8. They always have an excuse.
Denial and hostility, when they fail to explain away their drinking, tends to lead to excuses. They’re simply trying to evade judgement or concern about their drinking. They always have a reason for the constant drink in their hand.
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