Being a functional alcoholic carries with it an ability to participate in the activities of everyday life.
A family, a job, and a strong network of friends are all common among this type of alcoholism. But don’t be fooled – functional alcoholism can end up being just as dangerous to your health as any other type.
What Is Functional Alcoholism?
There are five different types of alcoholism:
- Young Adult Alcoholism
- Young Anti-Social Alcoholism
- Functional Subtype Alcoholism
- Intermediate Familial Subtype Alcoholism
- Chronic Severe Alcoholism
While the other four are no less severe, the third type, functional subtype alcoholism, is particularly dangerous because it doesn’t conform to the way most people think of an alcoholic.
A chronic severe alcoholic, for instance, has a hard time holding a job, maintaining a family, and upholding any obligations whatsoever. He is, for most, the classic alcoholic.
The functional alcoholic, on the other hand, may have a great career, a picture-perfect family, and could be, in the eyes of many, an extremely reputable and successful citizen. And while they assuredly look the part, what’s lurking below the surface is a destructive and detrimental pattern of alcohol abuse behaviors.
They may not drink every day like some other types of alcoholics but the medical problems associated with alcohol abuse still apply to them, especially because when they do drink, it’ll often be heavily.
And given the fact that a whopping 19% of alcoholics fall under this subtype, knowing the signs of a functional alcoholic can be instrumental in not only pointing it out in others, but also in yourself.
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31 Signs You May Be a Functional Alcoholic
Have a look at this functional alcoholic test and see if any of the scenarios below describe your behaviors. If it sounds uncanny, you may, in fact, be a functional alcoholic in need of treatment.
- You tend to plan the day around drinking. Mimosas at 10, burgers and beers at the pub for lunch, mid-afternoon cocktails at home, and then dinner and drinking in the evening.
- You continue to drink, despite everyone else’s disapproval. If a friend makes a comment, you laugh it off and continue to drink anyway.
- You use your sick and vacation time to make up for late nights out. While most people are planning their trips to the beach around their free company hours, you use them all up to avoid going into work hungover. And at the end of the year, you don’t have any time left to use.
- You live a compartmentalized life. The person who you are at work (smart, composed, eloquent) is completely different than the person you are at the bars (belligerent, loud, crass).
- You show noticeable signs of agitation when you’re trying to stay dry. With a drink in your hand you’re one of the jolliest fellows around. But when you try to stay sober, you can’t help but become annoyed at every little comment out of anyone’s mouth.
- You’ve always got an excuse for drinking. No matter what the occasion is or how often you do it, there’s always a reason you’re drinking to excess (stress at work, problems at home – doing great at work, everything’s swell at home).
- You use alcohol to “relax”. While a drink here or there can be a short term release of stress, using alcohol consistently for that purpose and only being able to relax with its help is the sign of a problem.
- You finish other people’s drinks. No matter how much you’ve had, a drink left undrunk is an idea you simply can’t wrap your head around.
- You joke about being an alcoholic. While you may say it under the guise of humor, a joke is only funny if it isn’t believed to be true.
- You continually engage in risky behaviors. Starting fights with random people, having unprotected sex, and mixing alcohol with other drugs are common endeavors during your nights out.
- You set limits, but never stick to them. Telling both yourself and others that you’ll only have two beers or will only drink on the weekends is a common theme with you. But no matter how resolutely you say it, you always seem to have more than you promised.
- You’ve got a higher tolerance than most. While a bragging right for some, a boosted tolerance typically means you’ve been drinking longer and harder than others and shouldn’t be a source of pride.
- You’re a happy hour wrangler. While you’re always diligent in getting your work done according to deadline, you’re consistently the first one to suggest everyone get drinks the instant the clock strikes 5. And although most people make an effort to show up every now and again, you’re waiting at the bar almost every single day.
- You’ve surrounded yourself with “likeminded drinkers”. Your social group has shifted from actual friends to barflies and alcoholics. The only common thread between you – boozing.
- You drink to forget about your problems. Once again, alcohol can provide a temporary solution to a permanent problem but eventually that problem must be dealt with head on. You, on the other hand, simply push your problems aside to make room for a pint.
- You bring alcohol to situations that don’t call for it. Despite what you may believe, activities can still be fun without booze. When you’re bringing alcohol to occasions like going to the mall, watching kids, or heading out for a hike, you’ve got a problem.
- You’ve caused emotional and physical harm, but never learned. Scathing words, rude remarks, and physical assault have all occurred due to your drinking, and yet you don’t put down the bottle.
- You let your alcohol life seep over into work during business outings. Whether it’s the change of scenery, the thrill of travel, or maybe something else entirely, you tend to let out your drink-heavy side during business outings like trips, conferences, and retreats. And while relaxing outside the office can be great for team morale, you’ve made a few alcoholically-fueled mistakes around coworkers that you can never take back.
- You become a different person with drink. Shy and soft-spoken while sober and aggressive and blundering while drunk, your personality shows a significant shift when alcohol is added to the equation.
- You pre-game… all the time. Even if the venue already has alcohol, you still insist on chugging a beer or downing a shot before heading out.
- You opt for drink rather than food. Many types of alcohol fill your hungry stomach. As such, you tend to have a beer or two at lunch rather than a sandwich or salad.
- You get defensive at the accusation. Denial can be a powerful defense for an addict. If you tend to lash out if people suggest you have a problem, you may actually be suffering from one.
- You hide your drinking. Sneaking drinks during everyday occasions and being secretive about your habits frequently points to an alcohol use disorder.
- Your efforts to cut back have been unsuccessful. You may have tried to quit many times before but you always end up back at the bar.
- You regularly drink alone. This one speaks for itself.
- You regularly drink in the morning. This one does too.
- You tend to black out frequently. A heavy drinker may be more prone to losing long stretches memory during an alcohol-fueled night. And while this can be a scary experience for some, you’ve simply gotten used to it happening to you.
- You consistently drive drunk. You may not have gotten a DUI but you still shun the drunk driving data and put people in harm’s way.
- You show symptoms of withdrawal. An enormous sign that your body has become fully acclimated to alcohol constantly being in your system, if you feel any of the symptoms below after not drinking then you’ve probably developed a dependency problem:
- Mood swings
- You consistently show up to work late or hungover. While the definition of a functional alcoholic includes an ability to maintain obligations like holding a job, you somehow manage to do that while still coming in 10 minutes late and looking terrible.
- You consistently show up to work NOT hungover. On the other hand, maybe your body has gotten so used to being hungover every day that it’s actually acclimated to the effects. Even still, it’s only due to the fact that you drink so much and so frequently.
So, What’s the Verdict?
If these behaviors sound a bit familiar to you, you may be a functional alcoholic. And while you’ve certainly kept your job, your friends, and your family up until now, it may only be a matter of time before your drinking catches up with you.
What’s more, your habits are undoubtedly beginning to cause serious harm to both your body and your brain.
If you only take one thing from this list, it’s that by objectively evaluating your behaviors you may start to recognize a disorder that you didn’t know was there before. After that, you can finally start taking the steps to fix it.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (n.d.). Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2016 July). Alcohol Use Disorder: A comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/dsmfactsheet/dsmfact.htm