All alcoholics and drug addicts live in a state of denial, as do their families. Denial is the No. 1 symptom of addiction. High-functioning alcoholics, however, have mastered the art of denial. The key word for high-functioning alcoholics is “yet.”
“I haven’t lost my job.” Yet.
“I still have my family; my spouse hasn’t left me.” Yet.
“I haven’t gotten a ticket for driving under the influence.” Yet.
“I haven’t had a blackout.” Yet.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It ultimately will lead to serious physical, mental and emotional complications. Withdrawal symptoms increase with circumstances, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the number of years spent drinking, age and gender. Eventually withdrawal includes delirium tremens, heart palpitations, nutrition deficiency and organ failure. These serious conditions, if left untreated, will be fatal. Despite these realities, high-functioning alcoholics can convince themselves, and often others, that they do not have a problem with alcohol, and even if they do, they say they can quit any time they want to.
High-Functioning Alcoholics Defy Misconceived Stereotype
Despite advances in educating people about addiction and how it affects individuals and their families, ill-conceived stereotypes seem to persist. Most often, the word “alcoholic” conjures a mental image of a broken-down drunk with a bottle of booze in a brown paper bag, or perhaps a silly, stumbling party-goer who is attempting to be the attention-getting prankster. In truth, high-functioning alcoholics do a good job of concealing their problem. They have a knack for hiding their drinking. They are people who fly our airplanes, fill our prescriptions, perform our surgeries, teach our children and conduct our business. Even though their disease may not have progressed to obvious stages, they are at risk to themselves and others. Their judgment is impaired. They need help. Professional treatment is not limited to those who have reached a state of total physical and emotional breakdown. Counseling and therapy can benefit high-functioning alcoholics, as well. In fact, it can help steer individuals away from the increased hazards of continued alcohol abuse.