7 Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic in Elgin, IL

 In Addiction

When you hear the term “alcoholic,” what image comes to mind? If you’re like a lot of people, you picture a scruffy tramp, dressed in tatters and clutching a brown paper bag as he weaves his way through a crowded subway platform. Or maybe you imagine a party girl who is passed out on a fraternity house couch.

The truth is, plenty of alcoholics look respectable, successful, and attractive. You’d never guess from their appearance that they harbor a devastating addiction.

These functioning alcoholics (also known as functional alcoholics or high-functioning alcoholics) have become experts at hiding their drinking habits, holding down a job, and otherwise living a relatively normal life.

However, no matter how good the functional alcoholic is at concealing their drinking, there are always telltale signs of their addiction. You just have to know what to look for. Read on to learn about the top seven signs that your loved one is an alcoholic.

1. They’re Not a “Morning Person”

It is common for functioning alcoholics to drink every night, despite holding down a job or attending college classes. This means that most mornings, they wake up with a hangover. If the individual is frequently late to work, or often arrives looking like death warmed over, she may be hiding an addiction to alcohol.

Bloodshot eyes, undereye circles, a puffy and bloated appearance, and bad breath are some of the signs of a hangover.

When the hangover is bad enough, she may call in sick to work, claiming illnesses like an upset stomach, a pounding headache, or a bad cold. Someone with a track record of frequent poor health could be a hypochondriac, or may, in fact, be a heavy drinker.

2. They “Pre-Game” or Bring Their Own Booze

Do you have a friend who seems to show up at every social event already two sheets to the wind?

Functioning alcoholics often “pre-game.” One reason they do so is to save money — since their tolerance levels are pretty high, they might otherwise rack up a hefty bar bill. Pregaming also lets a high-functioning alcohol drink socially without giving the impression that they are a heavy drinker.

Many alcoholics keep a flask or other container of alcohol on them, for the same reasons. This also ensures that they can have a drink wherever they go. 

3. They Make Jokes About Their Drinking Habits

To deflect concern and worry, many functioning alcoholics will make jokes about how much they drink. At 5:00 p.m., they announce that it’s “wine o’clock.” They might say “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to 12-step meetings.” When someone spills a drink or leaves a glass half-full, they might quip, “That’s alcohol abuse!” 

People who “hide in plain sight” by making light of their drinking are often functioning alcoholics. 

4. They Deny or Hide Their Drinking Habits

It’s also equally likely that the functional alcoholic will deny accusations leveled at them. They may fudge the number of drinks they’ve had, saying they only had one beer, when in fact there are only three left in the six-pack.

They might not put their empties in the recycling bin, but instead, bury them in the garbage or even tuck them away in a closet, to be smuggled out and disposed of later.

5. Their Memory Is Spotty

Frequent memory loss due to blackouts is another warning sign of alcoholism. If your loved one draws a blank when you ask them what happened the night before, it’s quite possible that they blacked out.

There aren’t many scarier sentences to an alcoholic than “Remember what you said last night?” And if the person repeats herself when talking to you, chances are she simply forgot that she’d already told you.

6. They Manufacture Reasons to Drink

Let’s say you arrive home one Monday afternoon to find your spouse mixing a martini, despite the fact that she had previously vowed not to drink during the week. She says something along the lines of, “I swear, I wasn’t going to drink tonight. But listen to what my boss said today.” 

Alcoholics will seize on any reason to justify their drinking. They drink to celebrate, to drown their sorrows, to entertain themselves when they’re bored, to give them confidence when they’re nervous, to calm themselves when they’re upset.

If they don’t have a reason, they invent one.

By creating drama-filled scenarios, exaggerating the stress they’re under, or picking fights, alcoholics shift the blame for their drinking onto other people or circumstances. Denying their own responsibility in this way is classic addict behavior.

7. Their Life Is Falling Apart Due to Drinking

Some functional drinkers can maintain the charade for years, or even decades, without ever hitting bottom. Others will watch their world crumble around them as the direct or indirect result of their addiction. 

Your loved one may lose their job because of absenteeism, poor performance, or even drinking on the job. Her finances may be a mess. She could drive under the influence and get arrested and imprisoned.

She might lose custody of her kids, or see her friends drift away one after the other.

Any of these events could point to a serious problem with alcohol and the need for addiction treatment.

Help the Functioning Alcoholic in Your Life

A functioning alcoholic is often a master of disguise. As her addiction has developed, so too has her ability to deflect attention from her drinking even while she takes pains to conceal it.

If you have been unaware that your loved one has a drinking problem, don’t blame yourself for not noticing. The signs aren’t always apparent. If you do suspect that someone you care about is a functioning alcoholic, get in touch with our recovery specialists. We can help.

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