Have you ever wondered if your drinking is more than just a pleasant pass-time? Are you edging towards wondering if you are a high-functioning alcoholic?
Let’s break that down for you.
What do we mean by high functioning?
I used to think that high functioning referred to people who are more intelligent, more capable, and worked at a higher level, than average. I would have termed high-functioning people are C-suite executives, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, realtors, finance specialists, directors.
It turns out that high-functioning is a phrase developed to describe people with a dysfunctional condition who are able to function at a higher level than others with the problem.
This definition throws the whole high-functioning alcoholic definition on its head.
No doubt, you are wondering what this means to you as a drinker?
Am I a high-functioning alcoholic or am I not? What is the answer?
If you are a surgeon with a drink problem, you may still function well in your life as you perceive it, but that doesn’t mean that you function at a higher level due to being immune to the effects of alcohol. If you were a high-functioning alcoholic, and that definition is accurate, then you would function with a drink problem more effectively than other surgeons with a similar drink problem, and that is unlikely.
The term high-functioning alcoholic is therefore misinterpreted widely. What we generally mean by the term is someone who despite drinking regularly is able to hold down a professional job, care for children, manage a home effectively, and manage personal or business finances.
This is the person who, to the outside world, may have the odd drunken, embarrassing incident, but on the whole would be considered to be functioning perfectly well.
That may be you. You may fit the definition of a high-functioning alcoholic
I was that person…
As the Chief Executive of my own business operating at board, c-suite level myself, I functioned perfectly well in business, managed my home and looked after my children. This is all while I was drinking every evening a bottle of wine or more and drank more at weekends.
I used to wake up on occasion not remembering the end of the night before, and often on a Monday I started the week with nursing a hangover and strong cup of coffee.
Under the stereotypical definition of a high-functioning alcoholic, I would have been there.
There is a problem with the definition of a high-functioning alcoholic
I have a problem with definition, though, and I hope that after reading this, you will too, and that will help you to think your way to more clarity on the problem.
My problem with the definition of a high-functioning alcoholic isn’t with the phrase as a whole, it is with the word alcoholic.
Is the real question not, Am I an Alcoholic?
My answer is always, No!
Because there is no such thing as an alcoholic, which then blows out of the water, the term, High-Functioning Alcoholic.
The term, alcoholic, is not quantifiable, and is subjective. There is no clear definition as to when someone who drinks a lot, and often, suddenly becomes one. Do you go to bed one night after too many gins, and wake up the next day as a high functioning alcoholic as you put on your suit, down a black coffee and head out of the door?
Alcohol is a highly addictive, psychoactive drug. It is the second most addictive drug on the planet, so it’s no wonder that professional people who were raised at university or college on boozy nights out, find themselves stuck in a cycle of relying on it to live their lives.
Anyone who takes an addictive drug often enough believing that it gives them joy, fun, stress relief, or any other kind of emotional benefit, is likely to become addicted. The emotional connection is made, and the addiction becomes established. All addiction is 95% psychological.
We don’t call a smoker a smokeaholic, and we don’t give them a label that necessitates them being in lifelong recovery. We don’t call someone who stopped smoking 20 years ago, a smokeaholic. By the same argument, we cannot justify labelling someone with a drink problem who is addicted to alcohol and functions well in life despite that.
What signs should you look for to know if you are a high-functioning alcoholic
If you are worried and concerned that you may have a drink problem that you need to address, then here are some things to look for.
Are you worried about your relationship with alcohol? If you are then you have a drink problem to solve.
Do you wake up in the morning feeling anxious, shame, guilt, concern about what happened last night? If you do, then you have a drink problem.
Do you try to cut down, not drink on certain days, moderate, or any other forms of focussing on the problem, but find you give up? If you do, when you have a drink problem.
It doesn’t matter if you are a daily drinker, a weekend binge drinker or a combination of both, alcohol is the most dangerous drug on the planet, and despite our social conditioning and normalisation of it, an alcohol problem is not one that you want to leave ignored on the shelf.
What can I do if I think I’m a high functioning alcoholic?
If you think that you are, then assume you are and set about solving the problem. Address it head on, and don’t go looking for a loophole to squeeze through which stops you addressing the issue in your life. Alcohol takes up a lot of mental time and space for high-functioning drinkers: time worrying about it, time trying to google, YouTube, or read your way to an answer, time trying to convince yourself that you don’t have a problem, time kicking yourself and beating yourself up when you haven’t met an objective and exercised the control that you think you should be able to.
It really is incredible what a determined and intelligent mind can convince itself to preserve the right to keep an addiction going. The addictive action is believed by the unconscious mind to protect and help you, so of course its going to try to convince you that it’s not a problem.
It is a problem, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but someone has to, and I was there, remember. I was the highly successful, intelligent professional women with a drink problem, or to coin the stereotypical term, a high-functioning alcoholic.
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Hi, I'm Michela
I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!
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