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What is with the term "functional"?

Old 01-11-2011, 05:24 AM
  # 21 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by DMC View Post
I had a nearly identical experience. Opening up allowed others to open up around me.
Kind of off topic but this is why meetings, and sharing at meetings, is very important. I don't care if it is AA/NA for the addicts or Alanon for the family and friends, when you are with others who are fighting the same battles and you find out you are not the only one, or you can share your experience strength and hope, that is a powerful thing.
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Old 01-11-2011, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by justjo View Post
Functional -

To me means, not quite in trouble yet. Can still do things that most people see as normal. You know taking kids to basketball practice, going to work and cooking tea.
Tell that to the wife in physical and emotional pain who looks to her husband for support, but only sees that vacant, uncaring, emotionally dead stare in his eyes.

Tell that to the child who wants to play in the morning, wants help building something, or gets to do nothing all weekend because daddy's too burnt to do anything, except to go buy more booze.

Tell that to the co-workers who have to keep bailing the 'functional' alcoholic out on an ever increasing basis.

Tell that to the unknown number of people who's lives may have been enriched if the 'functional' alcoholic hadn't squandered his or her energies on scheming to get, getting, drinking, and recovering from alcohol. What impact would they have had in the lives of their immediate families and in their communities had they actually worked towards the dreams they once had for their own lives?

Doesn't sound like a life functioning too well to me.

Murray
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:32 AM
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So we're all putzing around in our little bubbles of shame and thinking everyone else has it together, when we could be supporting each other...
Thanks Lillamy. This runs so deep.
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:55 AM
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My dry drunk husband is highly "functional" at work......but forget about his responsibilities to his family and to me. The last thing he would lose is his "position". He saves his "lack of functioning" for his family and for me. I have posted here, where I felt he abandoned me this last year by refusing to pick up his part of our marriage. He was active duty air force for over 22 years. I think we have all seen movies about basics, cleaning out tiolets with toothbrushes.....or having to fold their clothes just right! This is REALLY part of their training......and he has had lots of training in the air force!

It's really up to the alcoholic when they want to be "functional". I agree with crystal226 "I guess I was just thinking it seems like that label itself is a type of enabling." At the very least it's NOT accepting reality!

Just my personal opinion. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Love and Peace,
Phoenix
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:44 AM
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I can see where everyone is coming from on this in feeling like this term is a cop out or an oxymoron. I think it really refers to a stage of alcoholism that alcoholics may or may not experience.

The very existence of this term was actually a lightbulb turning on for me. It's true that the stereotype exists of people who are staggering around, raving drunk all the time. When you recognize that someone can hold down a high-status job, keep a driver's license and sustain relationships with family members --in essence, function the way non-alcoholics do -- AND still be an alcoholic, you're breaking the wino-under-the-bridge stereotype.

That's not to say that someone can't transition from a "functional alcoholic" into someone whose job or relationships start to suffer, or whose relationships have always suffered without an obvious cause. I still find myself asking whether my dad's really an alcoholic because some days, he can have just one drink. That doesn't sound like an alcoholic to most people because they don't see him earlier that day when he's shaking from withdrawals, or on the days he throws back a whole magnum bottle of wine.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:39 PM
  # 26 (permalink)  
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Yes! daughter333, thank you for saying that, that's exactly how I felt and wasn't sure how to put it.

Some people hide behind the term, and others use it to finally accept that their loved one is a real alcoholic. I kept thinking that G couldn't be, because he could do everything else right when it didn't involve me.
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by daughter333 View Post
I can see where everyone is coming from on this in feeling like this term is a cop out or an oxymoron. I think it really refers to a stage of alcoholism that alcoholics may or may not experience.

The very existence of this term was actually a lightbulb turning on for me. It's true that the stereotype exists of people who are staggering around, raving drunk all the time. When you recognize that someone can hold down a high-status job, keep a driver's license and sustain relationships with family members --in essence, function the way non-alcoholics do -- AND still be an alcoholic, you're breaking the wino-under-the-bridge stereotype.

That's not to say that someone can't transition from a "functional alcoholic" into someone whose job or relationships start to suffer, or whose relationships have always suffered without an obvious cause. I still find myself asking whether my dad's really an alcoholic because some days, he can have just one drink. That doesn't sound like an alcoholic to most people because they don't see him earlier that day when he's shaking from withdrawals, or on the days he throws back a whole magnum bottle of wine.
That's a really good point and looking at it from a different angle to the one i posted.

Bearing in mind this is F&F i think functioning alcoholic could be a useful phrase for a person to identify that someone is an alcoholic even though they may appear to be functioning in some aspects of their life, which will allow them to take action sooner than sticking around for the inevitable progression of the other person's alcoholism.

From my side functioning alcoholics are drunks plain and simple and it is important that they understand this or very little progress can be made:-)
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:42 PM
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Exactly. My dad's excuses to keep drinking are that he's never been physically abusive, been arrested or missed work. To him, since he is "functioning" that means he is not be an alcoholic. Using "functional alcoholic" to describe him helps take those excuses out of the line of reasoning.
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:52 PM
  # 29 (permalink)  
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When you recognize that someone can hold down a high-status job, keep a driver's license and sustain relationships with family members --in essence, function the way non-alcoholics do -- AND still be an alcoholic, you're breaking the wino-under-the-bridge stereotype.

I agree, Daughter. Thanks for posting that.

Every time my EX and I would have one of those useless conversations about addiction and seeking help, he would tell me he wasn't an alcoholic because he wasn't blacked out in the gutter homeless without a job. Most of his coworkers didn't know he drank the way he did and his family was unaware of the depth of it as well. Had I known that there was such a concept as having an addiction to anything and still holding life together however tenuously, I might have understood sooner what I was up against.

In our time together, I saw the progressive nature of alcoholism in his case, I saw how my enabling made his drinking less apparent, and I saw how when I stepped out of the way of his disease, he could no longer keep it together.

Even as bad as it had gotten before we went our separate ways, I still had trouble explaining why to some friends and family. They just didn't "see it," and they too expected an alcoholic to be the age-old stereotype.

Great discussion!

Alice
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Old 01-11-2011, 02:50 PM
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I saw how my enabling made his drinking less apparent, and I saw how when I stepped out of the way of his disease, he could no longer keep it together.
Maybe we should start a new saying. Instead of "Behind every great man there's a great woman" we say "Behind every functional alcoholic there's an enabler." Oh well, thought it might sound good but nah.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:50 PM
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The "functional" addict often "functions" by leaning on enablers (i.e., friends and family who help the alcoholic to maintain the charade that he/ she is able to keep job/ home/ etc. in order). My sister, who just died from alcoholism, was a tenured professor and taught at the same university for 12 years. A network of people who loved her, including me, her close friends (also faculty) and some students kept her going throughout these years, until she finally deteriorated to the point of death. She was about to lose both her job and her driver's license. I now believe that this network kept her from bottoming out and ultimately from wanting to maintain sobriety. Not being functional any longer is a prerequisite I've heard many alcoholics needed to find the desire for sobriety. Perhaps "functional" when referring to addicts should be used as a warning rather than as a sort of praise, as it sometimes is?
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