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What Is a Functioning Alcoholic

What Is a Functioning Alcoholic

You’re not afraid to admit it, you like to drink alcohol every day. Your routine is always the same, get home from work, have a few beers, eat dinner with your spouse, then watch her leave for her 12-hour night shift. Once she is gone, you finally get to sit in your favorite chair and enjoy a few bourbons before calling it a night.

Sure, some days you wake up still in the chair and scramble to get ready for work. But you always make it on time and do well at your job. You even just got a promotion two weeks ago and a nice raise. You don’t have a problem with alcohol, at least not in your mind.

But one day you come home and all the alcohol in the house is gone. Your spouse took it all and dumped it down the drain. They are worried about you, noticing the number of empty bottles and cans has been increasing in recent months. You don’t hear her concern; all you can think about is finding a drink right now. After some yelling, you head to the bar because you cannot live without those after work drinks. So, maybe you do have a problem with alcohol.

In Ohio, alcohol use is related to 6% of cancer diagnoses and 4% of cancer-related deaths. These cancers do not develop overnight, and prolonged alcohol use, even if it’s not causing harm in your life, is still causing harm in your body. At SUN Behavioral Columbus, we understand that seeking help when you don’t feel it is a problem can be difficult. We offer many treatment options that allow you to see what is going to work for you without having to leave work or home. So, what is a functioning alcoholic? Let’s explore this term further.

The Meaning of “Functioning Alcoholic”

For most, the term alcoholic has a stigma surrounding it. Alcoholics beg for money to buy more, alcoholics can’t hold jobs, alcoholics are living on the streets. While some of these stigmas have been true, it is not the same case for everyone. The term “functioning alcoholic” refers to people who use alcohol in unhealthy ways but have their life “together.” They have a job, a family, a home, and manage their responsibilities with little to no issues.

Although these people are still living life every day, alcohol use disorder can cause negative effects both in body and mind. Prolonged heavy drinking can lead to increases in depression and anxiety. Physical conditions such as cancer or liver disease are commonly associated with long-term alcohol use. Whether your life feels normal or out of control, the side effects of alcoholism can affect anyone.

How to Tell if Someone Is Living with Alcoholism

There are many signs of alcoholism that people may not be aware of. Some of the most common signs of someone living with alcoholism are:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Drinking more than intended
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities
  • Choosing to drink instead of doing obligations
  • Cravings
  • Purchasing alcohol instead of necessities such as food or clothing

Decline in physical and mental health is always a sign that alcohol use has become disordered. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with the person who is managing alcohol use disorder. They may not see that their behaviors have changed and are causing difficulties.

The Tell-Tale Sign That Someone Is a Functioning Alcoholic

One of the most common tell-tale signs of a functioning alcoholic is actually not physical. Denial of the problem is one of the top reasons that functioning alcoholics do not seek treatment. To them, it does not matter if they check off alcohol use disorder boxes such as drinking alone or drinking when they do not want to. Their alcohol use disorder does not qualify as a problem until substantial situations happen, such as losing their job or their house.

What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Living as a Functioning Alcoholic

The health risks of long-term alcohol use, especially as a functioning alcoholic, can cause permanent physical disabilities. Common side effects include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks
  • Liver disease or cirrhosis
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure

When consuming alcohol at a fast rate, known as binge drinking, dangerous situations can occur in the short term and long term. Consuming more than 5 alcoholic beverages in one sitting can lead to alcohol poisoning. This can be fatal as alcohol suppresses the gag reflex, causing choking when vomiting. Too much alcohol can also cause blackouts, leaving no memory of the previous evening. After so many blackouts over time, the brain can lose functionality in the area that creates and stores memories.

Common Careers Associated with High Functioning Alcoholic

You may think that the most common careers where functioning alcoholics can be found are like the movies; big time CEOs who have a bourbon bar behind their desks. It’s actually more common in blue collar workers such as construction positions and miners. Also, for those working in the service industry such as in restaurants and hotels, high functioning alcoholism is common. These places usually have alcohol readily available. Finally, high stress positions such as first responders have an association with high functioning alcoholism.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism at SUN Behavioral Health Columbus

While alcohol may not be currently affecting your life, there is no telling when prolonged use will lead to life-changing problems. At SUN Behavioral Health Columbus, we are here 24/7 when you are ready to find alcohol use disorder treatment. Our program includes:

Alcohol Detox

The alcohol detox at SUN Behavioral Columbus is designed to safely and effectively treat our patients to get them through withdrawals and cravings. We provide:

  • Medication management for withdrawal symptoms
  • Group therapy twice a day
  • Life skills classes up to three times a day
  • Medical supervision from our supportive and friendly staff
  • A safe space to sleep, rest, and heal

This program typically lasts 3-5 days depending on the individual. Patients follow the same schedule as those attending inpatient rehab.

Inpatient Treatment

Once the detox period is over, our patients can go straight into the next step of care. Our inpatient treatment consists of daily therapy and mental health assessments to find out the root causes of alcoholism. SUN Behavioral Columbus has trained professionals that offer different therapies such as cognitive behavioral, group, and recreational. We also offer wellness programs to teach mindfulness and stress management techniques. This treatment provides 24/7 care onsite in our 144-bed facility.

Outpatient and PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program)

PHP at our facility is for those who come for the day and receive treatment, therapy, and medication management then return home for the night. Outpatient offers the same but only for a few hours a day, five days a week. Both programs are designed to build on progress made during your inpatient stay and continue the path of recovery from alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you love has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, do not hesitate to reach out. SUN Behavioral Health Columbus is here to provide treatment to our patients and their families to establish an understanding of alcohol use disorder. Call us today at 614-706-2786 to hear more about our program.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of alcoholics?

Different types of alcoholics include functioning, young adult, antisocial, and chronic/severe.

What are the signs of a loved one with alcoholism?

Common signs of a loved one with alcoholism are withdrawing from family and friends, cravings, drinking more than intended, and losing interest in hobbies.

What does the term high functioning alcoholic mean?

The term “functioning alcoholic” refers to people who use alcohol in unhealthy ways but have their life “together.” They have a job, a family, a home, and manage their responsibilities with little to no issues.

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SUN Behavioral Columbus

900 E Dublin Granville Rd
Columbus, OH, 43229

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