Recognizing the Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

By Mountainside
Group of young cheerful friends partying at a nightclub

You have never passed out on the bathroom floor; you have never blacked out from drinking; you have never been arrested; and no one has accused you of being an alcoholic. But you add vodka to your orange juice at breakfast, pour some Bailey’s in your coffee at work, and drink a bottle of red wine at dinner. In your eyes, you do not have a drinking problem: you simply enjoy a good drink. But the truth is you may be more like the 30 percent of Americans who have an alcohol misuse problem than you care to admit. A significant portion of that group consists of high-functioning alcoholics, who maintain successful personal and professional lives despite their dependency on alcohol.

How to Know if You Suffer from Hidden Alcoholism

People often think that because they are succeeding in their professional and personal lives, they have their drinking under control, but alcoholism is not so black-and-white. Alcoholism is not defined by whether or not someone’s life is falling apart, or even by a specific number of drinks that one has in a day. Alcoholism is about being dependent on alcohol. And you can be both dependent and high-functioning.

Admitting that you have a problem is never easy, but it is important to live a long, healthy life. If you are not sure if you have a drinking problem, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you often drink before going out to an event where there will be alcohol?
  • Is alcohol your favorite way to relax?
  • Are you always looking for a socially acceptable excuse to drink?
  • Do you start drinking early in the morning?
  • Do you chug your drinks so that no one can see how much you are drinking?
  • Do you have a high alcohol tolerance?
  • Are you becoming forgetful?
  • Is when you are having your next drink constantly on your mind?

There aren’t always telltale signs of alcoholism, but if you ever find yourself hiding how much you drink, there is a pretty good chance that you might be suffering from substance abuse and should seek help.

Once you recognize there is a problem, you already have a greater chance of defeating it through corrective measures. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “One-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.” Continue reading to find out how to seek help.

How to Spot a High-Functioning Alcoholic Friend or Family Member

High-functioning alcoholism is hard to spot. Individuals who can simultaneously maintain their lifestyle and their addiction are experts at disguising their drinking problem. But there are warning signs to look out for:

  • Storytelling – Individuals with hidden alcoholism may tell elaborate stories to explain their absence or questionable behavior, such as claiming they were stuck in traffic or had to work late when they were really drinking.
  • Watered-Down Liquor Bottles – Individuals refill alcohol bottles with water to hide how much they drink.
  • Financial Issues – Buying excessive amounts of alcohol can take a toll on one’s finances. If you notice that your friend or family member is struggling financially, yet still manages to purchase large amounts of alcohol, this may be a sign of hidden alcoholism.
  • Spending More Time Alone – Individuals often cancel plans to drink alone and avoid being questioned about their drinking.
  • Extended Bathroom Time – During social situations, individuals take their drinks to the bathroom so that no one can keep track of how much they are drinking.
  • Hiding Spots – Individuals will hide alcohol all over their home and drink it in secret when they’re alone.
  • Gum Chewing – Individuals constantly chew gum to mask the smell of alcohol.
  • Traveling unnecessarily long distances – Individuals will often travel long distances to buy alcohol to not be seen by anyone they know.

Getting Help as a High-Functioning Alcoholic

The first step in recovering from an alcohol use disorder is to acknowledge the problem and reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support. Your loved ones can help you find professional resources, such as addiction counselors or treatment centers, that can guide you through the recovery process. Clinical counseling can uncover the root causes of your addiction and teach you positive coping techniques. Additionally, joining a support group or attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can provide valuable resources and connections to others in recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.