You probably hear people calling themselves ‘functional alcoholics’ all the time, but is it possible to be a functional alcoholic? No. Royal Life Centers believes that there are people who can drink in moderation successfully, and those who cannot. There is no gray area when it comes to alcoholism, only varying levels of severity. By definition, if you are an alcoholic, you have an addiction to alcohol, or an alcohol use disorder.
According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2015, over 15 million adults were living with an alcohol use disorder in the United States (SAMHSA). With these staggering numbers, alcohol addiction is becoming a huge detriment to public health. Royal Life Centers is dedicated to helping those with an alcohol use disorder overcome their addiction, as we help them rebuild lives rooted in health, happiness, and meaning. We hope to help as many alcoholics as we can, Because We Care.
Do I Have an Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is determined if you meet two or more of the following criteria, within a 12-month period:
In the past year, have you…
- Drank more alcohol, or for longer, than intended
- Tried to cut down or stop drinking but being unsuccessful
- Spent a lot of time drinking or feeling sick from a hangover or other aftereffects
- Experienced interference in daily life and relationships because of drinking or being sick from drinking too much
- Had cravings for alcohol
- Continued to drink even though it hurt relationships with friends and family
- Cut back on, or giving up, hobbies to consume more alcohol
- Repeatedly been in situations where alcohol put one at risk of harm
- Had to consume more alcohol to experience the desired effects
- Continued to consume alcohol even though it worsens a health condition, including anxiety or depression
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms when alcohol’s effects began to wear off
What Would it Mean to be a Functional Alcoholic?
A ‘functional alcoholic’ is a term used to represent people who are high functioning alcoholics. A ‘functional alcoholic’ is defined as a “subtype of alcoholics” who are typically middle-aged, well-educated, and seem to “have it all ‘together’ on the outside. They are likely to have a steady job, a seemingly stable family life, and do not often fit into the traditional stereotype of an alcoholic” (Alcohol.org). Despite it being possible to maintain somewhat of a good image while still being an alcoholic, being an alcoholic in any sense is not sustainable. By drinking to alleviate stress and problems as your mechanism of coping, you are by definition not functional— a functional person knows how to cope in healthy ways. Just because a person is functioning “normally” at work or at school, does not mean another aspect of their livelihood isn’t suffering from alcoholism. Usually a person’s relationships are the first thing to suffer from alcoholism, as alcoholics tend to put alcohol above all other things.
Dangers of Viewing Yourself as a Functional Alcoholic
A ‘functional alcoholic’ can usually fulfill most of their regular obligations, but alcoholism will have a negative impact in one or more aspects of their lives. It is dangerous to believe that you are a functioning alcoholic, just because there are no impending consequences because of your drinking. If there are not any repercussions from your drinking, your body and health is most definitely suffering from your alcoholism. The consequence that alcoholism has on your physical and mental health is unavoidable, you will notice the very real repercussions at some point in your drinking career, whether you are willing to accept the reality or not.
No one can be an alcoholic without the effects of alcohol seeping into their life, causing turmoil in one or more areas. People who are seen as ‘functional alcoholics’ are experienced with hiding their issues with alcohol, and usually have family members and friends enable their drinking by making excuses for them— based around the idea that their life is seemingly ‘good’ and going well.
In our opinion, it is impossible for a person with an alcohol use disorder to be functional, because using alcohol to escape your reality is not a functional coping mechanism. A common quote in the world of recovery is “there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem”— this explains the addiction of trying to use alcohol as a solution for problems that are truly rooted in your spiritual health. In recovery, we use the term “spiritually fit” to describe people who have healthy habits in dealing with matters that would normally effect their ability to interact with themselves and others in a way that displays the spiritual principles of life. No alcoholic is truly spiritually fit, and therefore they try to use other means (alcohol) to mimic a state of serenity.
People who view themselves as functioning alcoholics are blind-sighted to the reality of their situation, which is that they are using alcohol to get through life’s stressors and obstacles. Heavy drinking as well as drinking and driving are common among people who believe they are ‘functional alcoholics.’ Often times these alcoholics will be unwilling to seek any type of addiction treatment because of their own denial that there is a problem. If alcoholics do not receive any real consequences from their behavior, they will view their behavior as not being a problem— making them less likely to seek inpatient or outpatient treatment, seek out support groups, or even admit that their drinking interferes with their life.
Recovering from Alcoholism
The treatment process for alcoholism is very much the same as treating any addiction. First, the alcoholic will need recognize their problem and come to the point where they reach out for help. From there, the guest will be checked into a medical detox center, to safely and comfortably remove alcohol from their system. The withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be extremely severe, and even result in death. Common severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include: hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens. The risk factors of alcohol dependence are great, as consistent heavy drinking can result in a physical dependence to alcohol. Drinking alcohol has many negative effects on you, your body, your mental health, and your potential for spiritual growth. Alcoholism is unfortunately common in the United States, which just makes us at Royal Life Centers more committed to helping as many people as we can overcome their alcohol addiction.
Recovering from alcoholism takes personal strength, resilience, perseverance, and a comprehensive addiction treatment. After detox, guests at Royal Life Centers have both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Usually following detox, guests will enter our residential inpatient program, which is a 2-week long program that continues the therapeutic work that was started in detox. From inpatient treatment, guests usually choose to partake in our 9-week aftercare program, which smoothly transitions them from a partial hospitalization program (PHP) to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Guests also have outpatient treatment options, which are less structured and more flexible.
At Royal Life Centers, we have treatment programs designed to follow guests through the stages of recovery, providing guidance and support along each step of the way. Royal Life Centers has a variety of treatment options, including: medical detox, a residential inpatient program, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an outpatient program (OP), sober living and graduate housing. Royal Life Centers uses proven effective methods of addiction treatment, and only the best practices. Our holistic approach treats guests mind, body, and spirit for a full recovery experience. Royal Life Centers provides intensive therapies in all of our programming, including: individual therapy sessions, group therapy, behavioral therapies, support groups, adventure therapy, activity therapy, and equine therapy. Whether you have a drug or alcohol addiction, Royal Life Centers is here to help you overcome it. We give guests the skills and tools that they need to rebuild happy, healthy, and meaningful lives in sobriety.
“How Many Recognized Alcoholic Subtypes Are There?” Alcohol.org, American Addiction Centers, www.alcohol.org/alcoholism-types/.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction, please don’t hesitate in reaching out to us at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team of addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.