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Old 12-11-2009, 10:41 AM   #1 (permalink)

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Functional Alcoholics??

Just wanted to hear about any functional alcoholics stories-sober or not. My AH is one, has been one for more than 25 years and his health has finally started to fail somewhat...sad to say I am not sure its bad enough yet for recovery for him as he believes he can do this on his own. He had a pharmaceutical sales job for 17 years, up until the company restructored about a year ago and was let go, has since started his own medical sales reping business whereby its commission only, no benefits, we pay-he was lucky enough to get approved,. The past year has been challenging, he's on his 2nd detox w/ meds this year (May 09 and now) from the doctor.-should have been admitted into rehab but its his choice...I am sure once this is out of his system, he will be back to work and to traveling and eventually may be a few months but he'll go back to it again I am sure. He looks awful, overweight, diabetic, has had high blood pressure, you name it but he keeps going and as I said pretty much still functions up until this last episode whereby he allowed me to take him to the doctors-again! I am looking for full time employment for myself now. 2 kids d-15, s-19 in college.

I'd love to hear either your turning point if you have one or are still functioning like my AH is. Thanks.
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Old 12-11-2009, 11:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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My former husband is functional-- he hasn't had major health problems yet, he lives in a modest condo, and has had no encounters with the police. He was never abusive to me. But like Bucyn said, he's had a seriously sub par life. How much is alcoholism, how much is poor choices and discontent, and how much is bad luck, is hard to say. Some of all of those are in the mix.

He has a graduate degree, but currently has a job that's usually done by folks that have not gone on past high school. His original industry was hit pretty hard well before the recession. His job barely pays the bills.

His girlfriend, with whom he lives, was laid off about a year ago and hasn't found another full time job. My daughter gives me the impression that he hasn't moved out only because he can't afford to-- and I know he's been ambivalent at best about their cohabitation from the beginning, because he told me so. However, I doubt he'd leave his girlfriend to face foreclosure. He's not that cold. (I'm sure my daughter downplays their good times. She doesn't want to hurt me. But she's not making up stories about the fights she witnesses either, and I know firsthand how much the girlfriend would like to be in charge of everyone else's life and choices.)

Our daughter recently asked me out of he blue if I had ever seen Daddy happy. Even when I'm wildly depressed and can't hide it from her, she says I'm happier than he is... which is kind of scary.

He may well be miserable all the time now, but he was also chronically unhappy when he had an intact family, owned his own home in a very nice suburb, and had a job that he was good at and that paid a pretty comfortable salary. If he'd been able to appreciate any of those items at the time, he'd still have them. That sounds like a snippy comment, but it's not. It's sad. I'm not done grieving about it myself.
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Old 12-11-2009, 12:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd call my x husband "functional" in that, he drinks daily and still manages to go to work, bring home a paycheck, and hasn't had any DUIs or alcohol-induced run ins with the law. He does however have chronic intestinal problems, he eats poorly when he does eat (beer is filling!), he complains regularly of many mysterious aches and pains, his hands have *always* trembled ever since I met him, he's gained a good deal of weight since we met (probably 20+ pounds) and his teeth are rotting in his mouth. His personal hygiene has always been somewhat lacking, but whenever he's on a bender, he's even more disgusting.

Right now, because he's trying to look like Super Dad to avoid getting dragged into a custody battle with me, he's doing alright. I forsee that at some point, some kind of DRAMA in his life will push him to drink more heavily and then things will begin spiraling out of hand. I suspect that at some point, there will be a girl, then a pregnancy (heck, it's happened before...I'm #4 on the list!), and then the excuse to start drinking the strong stuff will present itself. Or he'll lose his job. Or his son will return to his mother's. Or the French people will take over the world. Or something.

It's like a sad sick waiting game. I wish he'd find his way to recovery, but I know it's not going to happen.
Formerly known as "imtheidiot" or "quivering bowl of jello", but no longer!
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Old 12-11-2009, 12:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Many alcoholics and addicts are functional and hold down good jobs, keep their family together, and sometimes earn lots of money, all while living in hell on the inside. I actually functioned better on the job when I was drinking than I have been able to in sobriety. Go figure.
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Old 12-11-2009, 01:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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AH is also very functional. I think it is extra hard for me when I see how good and involved AH is at his job. His employees respect him highly and go to him for counsel about their work as well as their private lives. How can somebody with so much insight and intelligence not see the damage he is doing to himself physically and mentally. The damage and pain he is causing his family.
My turning point? It is right around the corner.
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Old 12-11-2009, 02:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes, my husband is a functioning alcoholic. He has a good job and a nice nest egg. We are on time with bills with not much debt. He doesn't touch a drop of alcohol until he leaves work. Once he leaves work...he goes straight to a gas station and starts drinking. Many times driving with an open container. He has never been stopped, but there have been times I wish he had gotten caught. If he had...maybe it would have forced him to see his problem. He hides the bottles around our house and makes many runs "to the store" so he can drink in private. I moved out and filed for divorce almost three months ago. I just couldn't take anymore. He would ruin every social situation we would be in and we no longer have any friends. He still insists he doesn't have a problem...
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Old 12-11-2009, 02:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Ah, myawakening, "He still insists he doesn't have a problem..."

I could have written your description of AH except mine never hides his beer but as soon as he is home he goes straight for the fridge.
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Old 12-11-2009, 04:50 PM   #8 (permalink)

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My ex ahbf is what one considers 'functioning.' He works in the software field, has a great job making 75K a year, is the lead on his technical team. He once told me he feels like he's "doing something right," if he's holding a job like that. Nevermind the fact that he drinks every single night, which is the only real way he sleeps, he wakes up in the morning late for work once a week (his work currently doesn't seem to mind), feels like crap all day, and plans his evening around his alcoholic clock, all the while, wreaking havoc on relationships and people around him. He doesn't seem to have many friends, his family all lives far away (not entirely sure they know what all is up) - whether all that's the booze or him not really being the most social person, I dunno. I do know, however, it ruined us.

I hate that term, "functioning alcoholic." They should label it something like "sub-par human existence." Functioning alcoholic is something my ex ah touts. "My grandmother's 83 years old and she's an alcoholic. She's lived to be 83! I have a great job, do well for myself, I'm a functioning alcoholic!"

To that, I want to say, "Yeah, great! If only I could lose weight by stuffing cake into my face all day long! Wouldn't that be the life?" It's the same thing.

So, excellent. Since you're cool with the sub-par living style this "function" gives you, I guess you're cool with constantly making an arse out of yourself because you, yet again, said something jerky, you're cool with ducking into business alcoves to vomit randomly, or how about trying to figure out excuses to get out of plans for the evening a bit early because you just realized the convenient store that sells your wine is closing in a half hour and you have to get there beforehand? Nevermind the shame, embarrassment, and anger you feel the next day, not to mention the fact that your body feels like it's been hit by a Mack truck and you can't remember jack about anything that happened ten hours prior.

But you're functioning. So it's cool.

I just don't feel there's any "functioning" to it. Maybe on the most minimalist level, but I feel the havoc that's wreaked on people, and the fact that it limits your life in so many ways, makes it more of a wicked disability, than anything functioning.
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Old 12-12-2009, 05:52 AM   #9 (permalink)

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Its pretty amazing how "functional" the alcoholic can be from your stories. As I said, my AH says he wants to not drink but until he really does something about it, I don't give him much hope. I know he misses me in bed but I feel that because I always caved, something has to since I know I can't change him and that route never worked in the past. Oh I am sure he will quit (for a while) and seem to be "normal" but without some support group inplace, odds are againist him. It is sad because he really is a good man and I hate to see his dimise due to this addiction. Hopefully I will be able to stand my ground, get a job and feel at least somewhat secure in my actions. My life and possibly his will depend upon it. thanks to all for your stories, keep them coming...misery loves company...and it appears I have alot of that here.
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Old 12-12-2009, 06:46 AM   #10 (permalink)

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I agree with Member because mine does the same thing. He stops and starts and tries to be normal and function. I do not believe that functional and alcoholic can be in the same sentence. It is progressive and eventually, if they are truly alcoholic, the functional will give away to non-functional. It is just one of the stages they go through on their journey with their good old buddy "Booze".

Merry Christmas to all! It is freeezing here in Boston and I already miss the great 60 degrees we had in November. The older I get, the more I want to flee Boston from December to April. I will come back, just not in the winter. Ok, wishful thinking, Kids in college, not gonna happen!

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Old 12-12-2009, 05:13 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I liked to call myself a "high functioning alcoholic" as this made me feel better.

Now that I am in recovery, I see that I am no different than any other alcoholics. I am one drink away from being back in my old life.

From what you are describing, I wouldn't say that he is a high functioning alcoholic at all (e.g. lost his job, health issues, weight problems, multiple detoxes).

I would ignore the labels. He is an alcoholic and therefore not functioning too well.

I just don't want you to cling to this label if it in any way justifies his drinking.

Alcoholism is progressive. Soon, if he keeps drinking, his downward spiral will accelerate downward.

I just hope he can get off before it gets too low (and remember, you CANNOT do it for him).
The New Me as of 1/11/09

Still searching for that darn wisdom to know the difference. Do you know where I can find some?
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Old 12-12-2009, 06:04 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I heard this long ago but it always resonates for me when I hear the phrase "functioning alcoholic."

"Nothing gets in the way of their drinking."

So if they have to hold a job to keep the money flowing for their booze - they will hold a job. If they have to hold a job to maintain just enough self-esteem and respect in the community so that they can keep drinking. They will hold a job. If they have to play the pity card with family and friends so they can keep drinking they will play the pity card. If they have to deny they have a problem so they can keep drinking- they will deny. If admitting they have a problem gets everyone to back off for a while so they can keep drinking - they will admit they have a problem... if they have to blame their miserable childhoods or their lousy parents for their need to drink - they will blame their lousy childhood etc., etc., ad infinitum!

NOTHING gets in the way. Not love. Not hate. Not money. An active alcoholic will find ways and means to drink. Because that is what alcoholics do.

"Functioning" is just a stage. Alcoholism is progressive and there are many "yets" in the future of an alcoholic who does not seek recovery.

Hasn't sobered up, yet.
Hasn't gotten a DUI, yet.
Hasn't had pancreatitis, yet.
Hasn't lost his family, yet.
Hasn't killed anyone while driving, yet.

When you ask about a turning point did you mean to post this in the "Alcoholics" section to get answers from recovered A's?

My turning point as the daughter and sister of alcoholics came when I realized my life was not what I wanted it to be and I was not who I wanted to be becuase I was so caught up in the drama/trauma/pain of my brothers alcoholism it had started to make me nutso. I just didn't know how to handle it - and I had yet to reconcile all the damage done to me by growing up with an alcoholic father and a codie mom.

AlAnon got me on the right track.

Have you considered AlAnon for yourself or AlAteen for your daughter? I hope she is able to talk to you about what she's going really sux to grow up in alcoholic household -- yes, even a "functioning" one, where most of the time people pretend nothing is amiss!!! It teaches some very warped lessons I gotta tell ya!

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Old 12-12-2009, 07:17 PM   #13 (permalink)

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Thumbs up Functional Alcoholic?????

Hi All,

I called myself a "functional alcoholic" and when I learned the phrase "self-medicating"...I chose to use self medicating with alcohol for my depression & anxiety. It sounded more like an illness than alcoholism. Don't know who I thought I was kidding?

My turning point was the Thursday morning I had to look in the garbage to see what I had cooked my daughter for supper the night before. She was 12 years old and had been dx with Juvenile Diabetes three months prior to this. She had a weekly appointment to go over her diet & insulin/blood sugar results with her doc.

I made an appointment at Mental Health that same day & the next day was in the local hospital for a medical detox. I was 48 years old, working, & had my youngest child of five kids still home. This was 21 years ago....a very hard & long road to get where I am today...still sober & receiving help for my anxiety and depression.

I wanted to be sober a long time before I was able to stay sober any length of time. I thought I was doing okay because I hadn't met any of the "yets" & did function well on my job, kept my house clean, and daughter neat & clean but I was divorced by my own choice twice. I was so depressed I felt like my brain wasn't functioning but did not relate that to my alcoholic drinking.

When I asked for help I wanted a sober life more than anything else. I wanted sobriety for "me" only me so I could relate with the rest of my family. That is what helped me...also counseling, AA, a sponsor, the Serenity Prayer and a whole lot of work on myself.

I was, am, and always will be an alcoholic one drink away from certain death. I have no desire to drink but I know people that have drank after many years of sobriety and also some that died alone in their drunking state. I have a 40 year old son that is a quadriplegic from a suicide attempt. The family predisposition for an illness or disease is a true fact in my case.

I thank all of you for seems we hear so much about the male alcoholic when there are many female alcoholics that can destroy their life too.


God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change..the Courage to Change the Things I Can Change..and the Wisdom to Know the Diifference.

Sobriety Date: July 10, 1988
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:46 PM   #14 (permalink)

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AH used to be a high functioning A, but he was fired six years ago from his job. He still claims it was because the company wanted him to put in 60 to 70 hours a week. In reality, he was leaving the house for work at 8:30 am, (when his hangover let up) coming home at 3:30 so he could start drinking by 3:35. Given it was a half hour drive that doesn't come close to 40 hours for which he was salaried.

After several months he found another job which lasted two years. He insisted seeing a doctor an hour away and refused to schedule appointments on his regular day off. So every appointment was another day off from work. Emergencies? Nope. He routinely went to the doctor's office to have the wax cleaned out of his ears. It wasn't as if this would be hard to schedule, because he the same weekday afternoon off every other week and the schedule was set at the beginning of the year. He was laid off because business was slow, but he sure made the decision easy for the boss.

He found another job though, and he seemed to like it at first. Then he injured his leg while he was drunk, trying to cut up a huge log. The leg didn't heal well, and he ended up at a wound clinic every couple weeks. So, he was late to work one day every two weeks. They likely would have let that go, but now he has admitted there were other problems. His boss complained that he spent two hours on the internet. AH was in maintenance - there was nothing that require two hours of research on the internet. I don't know what else was going on, that's just the only thing he's admitted to. He was laid off in March. He has been careful to only apply for jobs he won't get to keep unemployment off his back, and only the minimum number to fulfill the requirements. Job three lasted a little more than a year.

So he's not really high functioning any more, and at 59 is not high on anyone's list for hiring. Add to that his hands shake from the time he gets up to the time he starts drinking, and he perspires alcohol now, and he probably is reluctant to take a job that interferes with the schedule he's adopted (drinking by noon, slurring his words by 3:30 in the afternoon) the prospects aren't good.
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