Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
I often hear people refer to themselves or others as “functional alcoholics.” Basically it’s like they are saying “yea, it’s alcoholism, but it’s no big deal because they’re still functioning”.
What most people don’t understand is that alcoholism/addiction comes in stages just like other illnesses. I would say that a functional alcoholic is a stage 3 alcoholic (out of 4 stages).
Usually a functional alcoholic is still working and engaging in some family activities, but generally their family is frustrated with them because they are likely not fulfilling family obligations consistently. And, they are slowly losing the ability to enjoy activities that don’t involve alcohol.
In this stage, you will notice that the person begins to isolate more, have increased anxiety, start having blood pressure problems, have difficulty staying asleep at night, and are likely building resentments toward people and situations around them.
When most people refer to “functional alcoholic,” it is as if to say “it’s not that big’a deal.” If I told you that you had stage 3 cancer, would you think it was “not that big a deal?”
Hmmm.. I’m thinking that you would think it was a REALLY REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL, because you would be highly aware that it could kill you if you don’t do something quickly.
Alcoholism and Addiction are just as terminal as cancer. Not only will alcoholism kill you, it will take everything from you in the process.
It takes your family, your friends, your social life, your hobbies and interest, your sanity, your dignity and respect, your talents/abilities, and ultimately IT TAKES YOUR SELF-WORTH.
I often say that when you get sick with any other illness, people will bring you soup and flowers. When you get sick with alcoholism, PEOPLE WILL NOT BE BRINGING YOU SOUP AND FLOWERS. If you die from this disease, you will likely die feeling lonely and hated.
Being addicted is a horrible way to live and to die.
Don’t fool yourself into a false sense of security by thinking that a functional alcoholic is not really being an alcoholic. It just means that the person is one step away from losing everything.
If we could get it out of our heads that alcoholics can only be homeless people living on the street, then we would be able to catch (and treat) this thing much earlier in the process. Just like other illnesses, the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to get under control.
If all that doesn’t convince you, then think of it like this….
Functional Alcoholic (def): A person who needs alcohol to function.
A person should not NEED ALCOHOL TO FUNCTION