Functioning Alcoholism Isn’t New But Getting The Attention It Needs










There is a myth in alcoholism called the “high functioning alcoholic”. Compared to the “low bottom” alcoholic, the high functioning alcoholic seems to have their life together, even including their alcoholism. Today, there is a “new” breed of alcoholism merging into mainstream dialogue and that is simply the “functioning” alcoholic. A high functioning alcoholic might have an obvious alcohol problem, which is cast aside with doubt because of how well they manage themselves, their lives, and their alcoholism. Without any troubling signs of the effect their alcoholism is having, meaning their alcoholism may not yet be having any effect, the alcoholic remains “high functioning”. Since the mainstream stigma of an alcoholic is someone whose life has fallen apart, someone whose life seems completely together couldn’t really have a problem. Typical thought processes include work hard play hard, they have it under control, they drink to relieve stress. The new form of alcoholic, the “functioning” alcoholic, isn’t as high-functioning. Though on the outsides they may have all the components of a high-functioning alcoholic, their alcoholism is not functioning. Unlike the high functioning alcoholic, the functioning alcoholic’s drinking remains completely hidden, until there is nowhere left for it to hide.

The New York Post writes about the functioning alcoholic and how there seems to be a great shock to others when the alcoholism is discovered. Citing a local therapist, the article writes, “It’s not people who are blacking out, unemployed, or living in Section 8 housing. I’m seeing married executives with great careers, and nobody knows what’s going on with [their alcoholism].” College students, young career-hunters, and young executives under the age of 30 seem to be a primary population for functioning alcoholism. Drinking to cope with stress, numb painful emotions which could get in the way of work, or drinking at back to back alcohol-fuelled work events create an unmanageable balancing act between alcoholism and productivity.

Functioning alcoholism falls short because alcoholism isn’t and cannot be functioning. When the body and brain become chemically dependent upon alcohol, every area of life will be affected. Eventually, the functionality of drinking and trying to live life normally ceases to work.


If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, help is available. Avalon By The Sea offers residential detox and treatment programs for alcoholism and any co-occurring mental health disorders. For a confidential assessment and more information, call us today at 888-958-7511.

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