The traditional picture of an alcoholic is someone who is dysfunctional because of their drinking. They seem to be drinking, drunk or experiencing a huge hangover all the time, they can’t hold down a job and their friends, family and co-workers all recognize that there is a serious problem.
While this is the most common type of alcoholic, it is far from the only one. A functional alcoholic doesn’t fit into that picture at all.
Living a Double Life
A functional alcoholic is a real life example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. To most of the world, he is completely “normal”. He goes to work every day and performs well. In fact, he may even be climbing the ladder of his chosen career. He’s never late, doesn’t take long lunches or show any signs of being out of control. He is probably involved in other activities as well, again handling those responsibilities just the way he is expected to.
In most cases, a functional alcoholic is just that. When they’re outside the home, they do everything you would expect from a normal (functional) adult. However, the story at home is quite different. At home, they are just an alcoholic.
At home, this person is a raging alcoholic, but nobody except their family is ever aware of the problem. In fact, family members who do seek solace or counseling through their friends or family often find their concerns dismissed or patronized because it they simply don’t seem believable.
This is usually the case for the functional alcoholic as well. They live in a deep state of denial. If their family expresses any concern about them, they quickly point to their accomplishments and the respect they have from the outside world as proof that they aren’t an alcoholic and that they can handle their drinking.
This denial and the belief that they are “fine” allow the alcoholic to continue to drink large amounts of alcohol at home.
Since they continue to meet their obligations and responsibilities with the outside world, they will continue to drink and they will never hit “rock bottom” or recognize that they have a problem. That likely means they will never stop.
However, over time the alcoholic will find that they need to continually increase the amount they drink in order to get the same results. This means the environment at home will continue to decline even though they will continue to show the outside world that everything is fine.
In addition to the family problems that will arise, this will become a serious health issue for the alcoholic as well. Since they are not experiencing most of the negative consequences that typical alcoholics face (which prompt those people to reduce their drinking), the functional alcoholic will continue to drink large amounts of alcohol which will result in severe liver damage and other health issues that can quickly become life-threatening.
If this sounds familiar, it’s time to face the facts and stop drinking. If this describes someone in your family, it’s time to get help.