Functional Alcoholism

Can You Function as an Alcoholic?

I could not. My drinking was a full-time job, so naturally any kind of employment got in the way. That is not everyone’s story. Some folks can drink heavily without consequence. Others can obtain high achievements while drunk.

If you can drink whenever you feel like it, get up in the morning, make it to work on time, and get through the day without incident, does that mean you’re not an alcoholic? The short answer is no, according to Healthline

The term “functional alcoholic” is common, but it can be misleading. If you’re addicted to alcohol, you can appear to be functional. But it takes a lot of effort to keep up appearances and fulfill obligations. If you continue to drink, it’s only a matter of time before you’re no longer functional.

How much is too much?

Men shouldn’t have more than 14 drinks per week and 4 drinks on any single day. Women shouldn’t have more than 7 drinks per week and no more than 3 drinks on any day. But you might be surprised at what counts as a drink. A 5-ounce glass of table wine, a 12-ounce glass of regular beer, and 1½ ounces of hard liquor each contain the same amount of alcohol, and each counts as 1 drink. 

One drink
This is what one drink looks like

Alcohol problems come from drinking too much, too fast, or too often. People with alcohol dependence are addicted to alcohol, and they can’t control their drinking. When alcohol-dependent people try to stop drinking, problems begin to start.

The Cycle

People who are addicted to alcohol start having to drink more and more to get drunk. They might have a drink in the morning to calm down or stop a hangover. They might drink alone, and they might keep it a secret. These activities will make them feel bad about themselves. Drinking more will temporarily help those feelings of guilt.

Functioning is temporary

If you’re a functional alcoholic, you may be doing everything you can to avoid the issue. You might even convince yourself that you’re not an alcoholic at all. Maybe you just aren’t sure. One way to test yourself is to stop drinking. If you begin to experience physical withdrawal, you may be an alcoholic. If you experience withdrawal symptoms, it may be time to seek help.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. As time passes, your body becomes more dependent on alcohol and you need ever-increasing amounts to satisfy your body’s demands. Without some effort to control it, it will continue to worsen until you can no longer function.

Eventually, obvious health problems and behavioral changes will make your addiction impossible to hide. Even if you function well, at some point, others will notice changes in your behavior and judgment. You’ll be unable to mask physical signs like slurred speech and slowed reflexes.

Alcoholism Treatment
Here is proof that I am not an Alcoholic has been my most popular article.

As the disease progresses, so does its physical toll. Alcoholism puts you at increased risk of:

  • damage to the central nervous system
  • cardiovascular disease
  • liver disease
  • pancreatitis
  • weakened immune system
  • some forms of cancer

The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment.

Ok I am ready to admit I have a problem – now what?

Overall, gather as much information as you can, before making a decision on treatment. If you know someone who has first-hand knowledge, this is a good place to start.

If you need a treatment program – here are some questions you can ask:

  • What kind of treatment does the program or provider offer?
  • Is treatment tailored to the individual?
  • What is expected of the patient?
  • Is treatment success measured?
  • How does the program or provider handle relapse?

Bottom Line

Diagnosing yourself, if the biggest and hardest part of having an addiction. Alcoholism can creep up slowly. Denial can be a very strong barrier to getting well. In my case, I was convinced that I was drinking a lot, because I had so many problems. I just knew that if I could get a better handle on life, then I could go back to social drinking. The reality was; my problems had developed because of my drinking. Once I crossed that invisible line and was no longer able to predict what would happen after I took the first drink, the gig was up. If alcoholism has set in, you will only get worse never better.

I hated the functioning alcoholics because I was jealous. Why can’t I drink the way I want to and hold on to a job? What a sick way of thinking. But, that was nearly two decades ago. Now, I understand that sobriety is not a punishment and drinking is not the only way to solve problems.

I write this blog for fun and for free. Our “company” website can provide treatment options.

31 thoughts on “Functional Alcoholism

  1. I love it. For me, my mother was an alcoholic and I always told myself if I ever showed the signs of alcoholism, I would stop. The problem is, once your realize you have a problem, it’s too late for you to do anything about it on your own. I laughed when you said you were jealous of functional alcoholics because they could still continue to drink. I felt that way. I went down hard and fast. Now I am absolutely grateful that I did. I love sobriety, you just have to get over that hump in the beginning and do whatever it takes to stay sober for one day. Life was hell, a living hell. I never want to go back to that place, ten years sober and I love life!!!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Reading this reminds me of when my mum was a functioning alcoholic. But she wasnt functioning for long.. When i started having to call her work to make up some excuse because she was so hungover. In the end, she realised that she had a problem, she was already sick on the inside, with liver disease (she’s a hippy from the 70s) but the liver disease was getting worse with her drinking habits.. and little did she know. Until the day she put herself in rehab. It was the most best decision she ever made, and i am so proud of her. I was 21 when she went into rehab (she’s been sober ever since) , a lot has happened since then.. I am now 30, was her full time carer for 6-7 yrs and she has since received a liver transplant and been to hell and back. Alcohol is not worth it. I am going to write a blog post about it soon, so keep eye out Vic 🙂 Oh be sure to read my blog –
    The Life Of Being A Carer For My Mum

    Much love and fantastic blog xoxox loz

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Even though I was consuming two fifths of vodka a day when I quit, I was quite surprised to learn, close to a year later, that my liver was fine. If you are currently drinking please don’t assume the worst. I honestly thought I was going to have major concerns in this department, but happily I didn’t. According to the doctors they said it was quite possible that there was indeed some damage but it had healed to the point of non-detection. Our liver has terrific recuperative powers. Bottom line – it’s almost never too late to turn around. There’s no doubt that if my habit continued I was in for a very rough and painful death. I DID have other health issues including almost dying from withdrawals (while going 70mph down the highway on my way to work) six months prior to my final drink. And there were a host of other problems that followed me into recovery. All have faded away now that twenty years have passed.

    Is it possible my drinking can still (physically) affect me me going forward even now? You betcha! I’m not, however, going to dwell on “what ifs?” We’ll see. Anyone knowing me two decades ago would have written me off as hopeless, yet here I am.

    Treatment of my body worked out well. The mental return to health is ongoing………..

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I find your posts very challenging. At first, I want to rant that this part is wrong, or this part is mistaken… The challenge is in trying to find a way to look at the issues you write about that makes it make sense through my experience.

    A good example would be the line that drinking problems come from drinking too much, too fast and too often…

    No, they don’t. Drinking is a symptom of the real problem… Then it hit me. That truth would be confusing as all get out to someone still in the madness.

    Interesting indeed. I’m looking at it from the aspect of the bleeding Deacon. Or worse, the whirling dervish. Imagine that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m impressed. You are clearly a student of the 12 and 12. I suspect if we chatted over coffee we would find that our philosophies are more similar than you think. My alcoholism showed up the first time I drank. So, I was too young to differentiate that drinking was just a symptom.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, I am, and I suspect you’re right…. The fact that you can write from the perspective you do is needed. There are plenty of folks like me, who can talk in terms of recovery but not many who can write to those who haven’t gotten there.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Victoria. Thank you for this post. You are brave to write about topics that our culture doesn’t seem to be honest and open about. Thank you for providing readers with a next step (i.e. Okay, I’m ready to admit I have a problem – now what?). Human beings are really good at talking about a variety of struggles/issues (not limited to addiction by the way) but not as good at discussing what needs to be done to help. So, thank you for providing such a good resource.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind and intuitive comments. I lived so many years hiding secrets. It is great to be able to share them and after several years find them amusing . So many things that I was embarrassed of, now I can laugh at.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My Dad was a functional alkie, but, like you, I found that work got inthe way of my drinking/using. I also found that taking antidepressants interfered with my drinking (made for much earlier black-outs), so they had to go, as well.
    Insanity, much?
    Nicely written, as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a tough one. Everyone has their own idea of what “functioning” is. I could work 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. go home take a nap, wake up at 5:30 p.m. , get ready to go out and drink until 1:00 a.m. which gave me about 5hours of sleep before working at the jewelry factory. I did this everyday for years before switching to binge drinking. I see more binge drinking now than I did when I was younger. In my 20 years of drinking I would have to say the last 7 years was binge drinking and was the only way for me to stay functional. It’s more damaging to your system and the risk of alcohol poisoning is higher. Plus I had Celiac Disease and didn’t know it so I was poisoning myself every time I drank without knowing it. At one point I had to be assessed by doctors. Their conclusion? Quote: You have the brain of an Alcoholic 82 year old man and an enlarged liver. End Quote Where did they ever come up with that?? It still wasn’t close to stopping me but I was getting there. Binge drinking needs to be discussed more and taken seriously. My brother has also been an every day and binge drinker for 35 years and still is. He makes a lot of money and says he doesn’t have an alcohol problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I learned quickly that I had an addictive personality and though I had a high tolerance I luckily never became dependent on alcohol. I drank often and high levels in college and had fun but I honestly found that when I stopped drinking it wasn’t the alcohol I craved…it was the social aspect. I was lonely and glady clung to THAT; the deeper problem than the alcohol like many would have. I thank God for that bit of clarity.


    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. You stopped drinking before the alcoholism kicked in. That does not happen too often, so it’s good for others to have hope. Most folks (like me) can’t stop until we hit rock bottom. I liked how you said “thank God for that bit of clarity”. I think that says it all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do too. I drank hard like that for 5+ years and some how manage to escape the clutches of addiction. I would say back then I binge drank every weekend and sometimes 1-2 times during the week and still managed to make it classes and go to several jobs. I’m not sure how my liver is still operational!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Then there’s alcohol as a palliative as well, at first used to make society easier to deal with, then later on, to make it easier not to deal with. Alcohol can be used as a medication to enable one to exist within such societies. Is someone who uses alcohol that way when necessary, but doesn’t when it isn’t, a functioning alcoholic?
    Thanks for the like.


  10. Love it! I’m was a “high functioning” alcoholic…until I wasn’t. That’s basically how it works. You’re totally right. It is a full-time job. I always thought of it as a relationship too. Since I got sober 90-days ago I feel like I’ve gone through a horrible break up.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Victoria, thanks so much for your post. My alcohol consumption got out of hand from the moment I bought my first case of beer. It wasn’t long before I was huffing glue, smoking pot, snorting cocaine, smoking crack, abusing Nyquil, and taking a LOT of narcotic pain killers. I realized recently that I have been taking “other people’s medication” for thirty years! I’ve had far too many relapses. Finally, I get that I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’m no longer willing to continue down the road to a slow but likely death. I attend AA and NA meetings and have engaged a drug and alcohol counselor. Blogging has also helped me in many ways. Not only do I get to write about recovery, spirituality and creativity, I get to meet people like you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s