The Functioning Alcoholic

The Functional Alcoholic does not necessarily:

· get drunk every time he or she drinks
· drink a large amount
· have hangovers
· miss a lot of work
· drink during the day, week or month
· drink every day week or month
· look bleary-eyed
· have slurred speech
· stagger
· get unpleasant or belligerent with other people
· drink in the morning
· become physically abusive
· crave a drink
· show up late for work
· have a hangover
· get a DWI/DUI
· ever look drunk
· have blackouts

…the family usually sees the first symptoms, but don’t always know what they mean.

The Functional Alcoholic may have problems with:

· sleeping
· finances
· sex
· thinking
· mood swings
· health
· flash anger
· relationships
· emotions
· self-esteem
· family
· employment
· the law

…maybe these are just normal problems, but they may be a cue to something bigger.

The Functional Alcoholic may:

· drink the first couple of drinks rapidly
· fix a drink first thing upon arriving home to relax after a hard day
· need a drink before dealing with any family problems
· consume a “drink or two” more even after others have stopped
· have a ritual nightcap “in order to sleep”
· be uncomfortable where no alcohol is available
· make an excuse to leave a party early if little alcohol is served
· “draw a blank” about conversations or happenings which occurred while drinking—blackouts
· explain drinking patterns, even though no one asked
· make promises that aren’t kept

The Functional Alcoholic may miss work:

· the 24-hour flu, especially popular on Monday
· sinus headaches
· food poisoning
· allergy flare-ups
· minor accidents
· upset stomach
· severe illness in family
· death in family
· bad cold
· back pain
· car trouble
· migraine
· cramps
· toothache

…but does someone else make the call to the boss?

The Functional Alcoholic becomes disinterested in normal family activities:

· home repairs
· gardening
· meal preparation
· auto upkeep
· children’s school work or special school programs
· going out or staying home
· forgetting appointments
· errands not done

The Functional Alcoholic shows emotional signs:

· irritability
· throwing a fit over trivial things
· aloof, sarcastic
· showing mood swings—super happy or very down
· melancholy and/or extremes of anxiety

The Functional Alcoholic shows physical signs:

· disinterest in or an aggressive attitude toward sex
· spending more time alone
· losing weight, gaining weight
· not grooming
· skipping meals or picking at food
· annoyed over any talk of his or her drinking
· complaining about the use of or lack of money
· procrastinating
· becoming more withdrawn and isolated

…but surely there are other explanations for these signs.

· the death of a friend or relative
· job pressure
· health problems
· divorce or separation
· “passages”

The Functional Alcoholic shows more obvious signs:

· flushed face or grayish pallor
· eyes less clear
· nervous symptoms, high keyed, possible chain smoking
· a very uptight appearance
· drinking becomes less and less predictable
· making sure there is “enough” liquor in the house
· buys in large economy sizes
· having more frequent memory blanks (blackouts)
· when confronted about their drinking, becomes immediately defensive, angry or belligerent
· needs a morning drink—a beer or two “to get going”

The Functional Alcoholic explains (rationalizes) his or her drinking:

· drank on an empty stomach
· had to switch drinks, beer to gin
· someone spilled the drinks
· wasn’t drunk, was coming down with the flu

The Functional Alcoholic shifts the blame to you because you are:

· nagging
· extravagant
· picky
· cold
· demanding

you make me drink!

The Functional Alcoholic talks about:

· controlling their drinking
· going on the wagon
· drinking only beer
· drinking only vodka
· stopping after three beers
· limiting to just one glass of wine

…it’s only one drink!

The facts are that:

· one 12-ounce beer has 0.42 ounce of alcohol
· one 4-ounce glass of wine has 0.40 ounce of alcohol
· one 1-ounce jigger of mixed drink has 0.40 ounce of alcohol

…in other words, a drink is a drink; alcohol is alcohol

…it won’t happen again!

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Look—do you see The Functional Alcoholic?

~ * ~
Excerpted from Recovery Sunday Resource Guide:
Reconciliation by the Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church
(Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church), pp. 8-9,
adapted from an article by Janee S. Parnegg.