When people think of alcoholics, they may think of the stereotypical drunk who repeatedly spends his evenings drinking in a bar until closing time, staggers to the parking lot, drops his keys when trying to unlock his car and takes forever to insert the keys into the ignition.
But there are some alcoholics who are able to function at a level that appears normal, even while heavily drinking.
Just because someone is a high-functioning alcoholic does not mean that they have everything under control, however. At any point things could take a turn for the worse, and the alcoholic could end up hurting himself and others around him. Take a look at the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic.
- A Commitment to Have “Just One Drink” Doesn’t Exist
Even though a high-functioning alcoholic might want to limit alcohol consumption to just one drink, he can’t. Drinking heavily is a common occurrence, and it’s as if the person is being compelled to do so. Plus, in social situations, when everyone else is done drinking the high-functioning alcoholic will continue to drink — even finishing off the drinks of others who have signaled they are through drinking.
- They Don’t Mind Drinking Their Meals
High-functioning alcoholics often have no problems drinking instead of eating. In fact, mealtime can change from a time when their interest in food is peaked to a time that they can use as an excuse to start drinking.
- They May be Full of Excuses About Why They Drink
Although alcoholics all handle their bad habit differently, such as by denying they have an issue or acting aggressively toward anyone who suggests they may have a problem, others try to rationalize their behavior. They do this by attributing their drinking to some external factor, such as stress at work or troubles in their relationship in an attempt to make it seem perfectly logical that they would need a “few drinks” to cope.
- Blackouts Are More Common Than Not
High-functioning alcoholics also can appear as if they are functioning normally and not impaired at all when they are actually drunk enough to blackout or not remember what happened while they were drinking.
- They Joke About Drinking to Make Light of the Real Problem
Another way high-functioning alcoholics handle their heavy drinking habits is by joking about it. For example, if someone doesn’t finish their drink, they might make a joke like “I can’t let you waste this perfectly good drink. Let me do you a favor and take care of it.” Or if it’s early in the morning and they want a drink, they might use the tongue-in-cheek expression, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
- They Have Hidden Alcohol Stashes
You won’t have to look very far to find a high-functioning alcoholic’s stashes. It’s important for them to keep hidden bottles of alcohol close-at-hand so they can access it privately and escape judgment. They may access their stash in the morning, in the car or even at work.
- They Can Appear to be in Total Control in Certain Situations
One of the characteristic traits of a high-functioning alcoholic is that he can appear to be in control even when he’s been drinking. This doesn’t mean that he will never find himself in a situation where he loses control. Instead, it means that he is very practiced at appearing as if he is in control.
- They Often Have No Problem Getting Behind the Wheel of a Car
Because high-functioning alcoholics are so used to faking sobriety and being in control, they will often not have an issue with doing tasks that put them and others at risk, such as driving. They might even have their children in the car with them when they have been drinking. Unfortunately, this pattern can lead to one or more DUI arrests and significant legal issues. According to an Ilinois DUI Attorney Noll Law representative, “Getting a second DUI can make the sanctions and penalties imposed on you for your first offense seem like child’s play.”
- They Refuse to Seek Treatment to Help Them Stop Drinking
When high-functioning alcoholics refuse to seek treatment, their behavior often stems from an inability to admit they need help. Because they are used to managing their drinking and striving to appear competent and in control, they often feel like they don’t need help from others. This is true even if they have tried to stop drinking on their own and failed.