Alcoholism is a disease that presents in many different ways. Traditionally, people tend to think of the noticeable difficulties it often presents—lack of focus, immobility, slurred speech, brushes with the law, etc. It may bring up thoughts of homelessness and poverty. However, in today’s day and age when alcohol is so widely accepted, it can come in many forms. One of those forms is the functioning alcoholic.
A functioning alcoholic will appear to perform daily tasks without difficulty, and may be able to keep their drinking contained for quite some time. This group of people is often able to perform daily tasks, hold a job, participate in family events, maintain a residence, and so on. So skilled are they at balancing their alcohol intake and daily responsibilities that their problems, sadly, may never make it to the surface, and they can suffer in silence forever, or until alcohol takes a physical toll on their health. However, if you are noticing a friend or a loved one struggling, there are ways you can help. To begin, it’s important to know what flags to look for to help you determine whether you should step in.
Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic
There are a few indications that can serve as telltale signs that someone is struggling with drinking, despite holding a job and partaking in normal activities each day. Some of the symptoms that might set off alarm bells include:
- Interest in alcoholic beverages over food during dining opportunities
- Lack of hangovers, even after drinking excessively
- Irritability when alcohol is not accessible
- Memory loss and brain function problems
- Denial about a possible problem
- Excuses for alcohol consumption
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Hiding alcoholic beverages from others
Though the person you are concerned about might appear to be healthy and functioning normally in society, chances are they are battling every day and might even want to stop.
How to Approach Someone About Their Problem
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s alcohol intake, chances are you have thought about confronting them before actually doing so. Perhaps you tried and were shrugged off, or tried, only for it to result in an argument. The person may have denied any issue, or agreed to start drinking less, or being more careful. Or perhaps you did not try at all for fear of what might happen. Whatever the reason was or remains to be that is worrying you, a gut feeling about someone’s drinking means it might be time to intervene, and your heart is in the right place.
The first step you might take is asking the person point-blank if they are having trouble with alcohol. They may become upset with you, deny any issue, make a joke of it, or any of the things we listed above. They are likely afraid of being judged or losing their job, respect, family, etc. Financial responsibilities, especially if they have children, might keep them from committing to long-term help. A suggestion to cut down to stop completely for some time could be a test to see if the person is a heavy drinker rather than a functioning alcoholic.
If this does not work, the person may be in need of a more formal intervention. This could include other family members, friends, or a doctor if there are substantial health concerns. Reminding the person that you care for them and wish for them to be healthy and happy is very important, as it is common for a person addicted to a substance to become defensive of their substance of choice. It is also an issue of control – if they have been able to manage a life with excessive drinking while holding a job and other parts of normal life, they likely think they have a ‘method to the madness’. Try to gently tell them that this isn’t how their life has to be, and that you just want the best for them.
Alcoholics often shy away from treatment, especially if they do not believe they have a problem. Because of this, the formal intervention route is an option often used to help an alcoholic learn about how others feel about their addictive choices. Recovery centers also offer resources for loved ones of alcoholics to aid in an intervention.
Get Help for a Loved One with Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic
Medical detox and long-term rehabilitation might be in the cards for the functioning alcoholic you are concerned about. Note that there are signs of dependence that could mean the person cannot safely stop drinking, and which would absolutely require medical assistance. Some of these symptoms include:
- Accelerated heart rate (could exacerbate any heart conditions)
- Sweating, clamminess, nausea
- Lack of appetite
- Tremors and shaking
Though these symptoms sound like they could be merely unpleasant, they can actually indicate extreme danger for the person withdrawing. If a loved one is attempting to quit cold turkey and is experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please don’t hesitate to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
If the intervention does go in a positive direction and the person is open to a program, let them know you will be there to help them along the way. Alcoholism is a lonely disease, one that isolates not only the person drinking, but the people around them, too. Stay connected to one another but also give space for healing. Once the addiction is admitted, the recovery process can slowly begin.
Help for Alcoholism at The Granite House
If you or a loved one shows signs of alcoholism, we are here to help. At The Granite House, we are proud to offer a continuum of care in a warm and healing atmosphere where one can begin a life free of alcohol.
Located in Derry, New Hampshire, The Granite House utilizes a 12-Step rehab curriculum alongside individualized, evidence-based therapies to help lay the foundation toward a new, sober way of living. We can help you overcome alcoholism, and live the life you have wished for.
Please give us a call today at 866.637.5288.