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Alcoholism vs. High Functioning Alcoholism

Getting a drink with a friend, buying a six-pack for the game, pouring your significant other a glass of wine over dinner. These things have more in common than just alcohol: they’re all extremely normalized within our culture and society.

Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that affects over 14 million adults in the United States alone.

Many of these people began drinking as a means of winding down, calming their nerves, or coping with stressful situations, and many of them denied that they were facing an issue as well.

When you think of an alcoholic, you probably think of the extreme case. Constantly drunk, life falling apart, drinking 24/7. While this is a common scenario, alcohol dependence and addiction looks different for everyone who struggles with it.

Some people appear to be just fine, despite having a drinking problem that they’ve acknowledged, or others have noticed.

4 Signs You May Be a High-Functioning Alcoholic

  1. You Consume Alcohol to Cope
    • We all experience stress, and there are many ways of coping with it, but one of the telltale signs of alcohol addiction and dependence is using alcohol as a means of coping. Alcohol is often used to dull some of the emotions you may be experiencing, but this method of coping can easily backfire, leaving you not only with the stress of everyday life, but also with the stress of an alcohol problem.
  2. You Drink Too Much, Too Often
    • Frequently drinking enough to cause a hangover, or withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink, may mean that you are developing or have already developed a dependence on alcohol. Individuals who are struggling with alcohol dependence often set limits for themselves on how much they can drink and how often, but they rarely stick with these limits.
  3. You Consume Alcohol For Every Occasion
    • Weddings, birthdays, sporting events, and vacations are all situations where people tend to consume alcohol, but it becomes a problem when it becomes the center of your life. If you’re planning your day around your access to alcohol, changing plans in order to accommodate your need, looking for excuses to drink, you may be a functional alcoholic.
  4. You Use Alcohol to Relax
    • Having a drink to wind down after a long day may not seem like a big deal to most, and for some, it isn’t. However, if you are absolutely unable to go to bed or calm down without having a few drinks (which often turns into a lot more than a few), that’s an issue.

Taking Steps Towards Sobriety

Acknowledging that your alcohol use may be a problem is a big step, but it’s difficult to know exactly what to do next. You may feel angry, frustrated with yourself, or even saddened and ashamed because of the situation you’re in.

The truth is, overcoming an addiction is challenging, but it’s not impossible. Because substance use disorders take a toll on the mind AND the body, it’s important to seek healing and treatment for both.

Your primary care physician can offer you referrals to treatment programs and therapists, and also do a physical to assess whether or not your body has been affected by your alcohol use.

There are also community meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, and local support groups that provide you with peer support as you begin your journey to sobriety.

There are hundreds of providers across the United States that specialize in treating substance use disorders, and Sandstone Care is one of the best. We offer a full continuum of care for teens and young adults who are struggling with substance abuse and/or co-occurring mental health disorders.

If you or a loved one is struggling, reach out to our caring admissions team for support as you determine what the next best step is.

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Let’s Take the Next Steps Together

We understand taking the first step is difficult. There is no shame or guilt in asking for help or more information. We are here to support you in any way we can.