High Functioning Alcoholism: Should We Be Calling It That?

There is always a certain level of shock and disbelief when a loved one who, aside from their recent admittance to alcoholism, seemed to have it “all together”. Despite a few difficulties here and there, everything in their life was happening according to “normal”. Daily responsibilities were being met within reason. They had a job the woke up and went to in the morning. If they had children, the children were well attended to. Bills were paid, mouths were fed, and they might even have been in decent physical shape, constantly working to take care of themselves. Somehow, behind the facade of “normalcy” or even what some might call “success” there was a chronic and worsening problem with alcohol. The stigmatized image of the alcoholic, which is not an uncommon story, minimizes the experience of others. As a result, other people who experience their alcoholism in different ways can perpetuate their problem unnoticed, until, their is no room left for hiding.

Bustle reports in depth about understanding the “high functioning alcoholic” and why this kind of alcoholism is often difficult to spot. “…people can fit the measure of a severe drinking disorder—inability to quit drinking, tendency to put themselves in situations where they may get hurt, experiences with withdrawal— while still appearing outwardly like perfectly healthy beings with functional lives.” The result is “a very dangerous combination.” High functioning alcoholism poses a significant threat not just to the life of the alcoholic but to the lives of those involved.

The stereotype of normalcy often prevents an alcoholic from recognizing their problem. Denial is a huge issue which prevents many alcoholics from taking the highly remarked “first step” in solving their problem with alcohol- admitting they have a problem with alcohol. As a result, the problem can continue to worsen. Eventually, it could lead to injury or death on the part of the alcoholic or on the part of their children, spouses, friends, coworkers, or other people. Simply stated, when an alcoholic— high functioning or not— is not held accountable for their problem, the alcoholism grows out of control.

If you feel that you or a loved one are living under the guise of high functioning alcoholism, your drinking does not have to get worse before everything gets better. Your journey to recovery starts with you. Start it with us at Enlightened Solutions. Our integrative programs bring together the best of holistic treatment, spiritual healing, twelve step philosophy, and clinically proven therapy modalities. Call us today for more information at 833-801-5483.


ACOA Traits by Geoff Flower

This week our Enlightened Solutions partial care group were educated on Adult Children Of Alcoholics (ACOA) traits.  We have found that many of our clients have grown up in families in which substance abuse has been present.  Addiction is a family disease and it affects all members of the family.  According to 'Adult Children of Alcoholics - The Expanded Edition’ by Janet G. Woititz, Ed.D the typical characteristics of alcoholic families include;

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.

5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.

6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.

7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.

8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.

9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.

10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.

11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.

12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

We worked collaboratively on identifying and processing how these characteristics have contributed to their own addictive behaviors thus influencing their past and current interpersonal relationships. The group engaged in different psychodramas depicting the distorted communication pattens within the family.  Client’s were given the opportunity to practice healthier interactions in order establish more adaptive ways of being able to communicate needs for support within their recovery.

Breaking these patterns that have been engrained over a period of time is not easily done. The intention behind providing ACOA themed groups is to assist our clients in normalizing these dysfunctional pattens of behavior in order to bring about the beginnings of necessary changes.  This is integral to the ability of our clients to move forward and build healthy meaningful relationships to aid in their recovery from addiction.