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ACOA who is HIGHLY FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLIC

Old 06-19-2014, 04:35 PM
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ACOA who is HIGHLY FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLIC

I'm 33 years old. Since I can remember, my dad comes home from work, has 3 or 4 double jack & waters, eats supper, then "goes to bed". The first time I can remember seeing my dad "drunk" was in college. But, growing up, the drinking was still there, & as an adult, I've found out that many of my problems are a result of this. I suffer from ACOA, depression, anxiety, very low self esteem, perfectionism, people pleasing, & not trusting my own judgements among other things, as an adult. As a child, I was involved in lots of activities, did well in school, & had friends. But I always felt as though I was different from my friends, but I didn't know why or how. A few months ago, I entered a treatment program for depression. It was there that I learned my Father is a highly functioning alcoholic. When I confronted my mother about this, she told me that once he quit drinking for 3 days to see if he could, & he was fine. There has never been any physical or sexual abuse in his behavior. Although, he moods intensify when he's been drinking. I guess my question is, is there anyone else out there who has a High Functioning parent, that could give me some insight? I'm a little confused since my issues seem to measure up to growing up with a full blown drunk, but he wasnt. I haven't found any literature on HF alcoholism, except in relation to helping the spouse. Any experiences similar to mine would be GREATLY appreciated!!!
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Old 06-19-2014, 05:34 PM
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High-functioning alcoholic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thanks for posting this! When I first came on this site, I was looking for the same thing...and still looking.

So much of what you said sounds like a parallel to my life. My father goes to work every day and is well respected, but starts drinking the moment he gets home. I was in shock recently when speaking with my counselor as I realized there REALLY had been physical abuse by my father. It just didn't fit the stereotype (punch in the face, whip across the back, etc). He used the belt for spanking for a while, would occasionally pull hair, and was extremely intimidating. I remember when I got big enough that I said, "leave me the hell alone or I will beat your ass" - the intimidation stopped after that.

I never really viewed his behavior as abusive. I am questioning that now.

I was in my counseling session today wondering about this stuff. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Thus, is it simply that my father hasn't passed that point where society starts to finally say, "oh, he's not functioning anymore". Will that happen at all? How often do high functioning alcoholics stay that way? I'm not sure and wish I knew.

I felt upset with myself that I wished that the disease becomes more obvious to my family and my father. Will he finally go off the deep end so people will wake up and get a clue?? Maybe when he retires and his work is no longer there for him to white-knuckle his "functionality"?

It's a major conundrum for me - His ability to function in society completely propagates and supports many of my family members denial that anything is even wrong.

Yet, when I go to Al-Anon. The first day, I'm in a rush of tears. Full grown man blubbering about how different my father was when he cut-out the hard liquour. That much change when he was only cutting back!

My suggestion would be to attend Al-Anon or read as much literature as you can on alcoholism. You might be surprised at how much hits you right in your heart. Communication is one of the first "deaths" of alcoholism. People just don't do it - and if we do it, it's not done very well at all. Family members gossip about one another - we criticize one another relentlessly, etc.

I could go on and on about how the "functioning" alcoholism of my father has impacted my family and their behavior (no boundaries, enmeshment, etc).

I will take a breath and wait for some experience, strength, and hope from other forum members.

Awesome topic - thanks so much!

(PS - the Al-Anon website had a 20-question quiz for those that grew up with a problem drinker - I answered "yes" to over half of them when supposedly just one or two was enough to say, "you might want to go to a meeting and find some serenity and peace for yourself" - 1. Do you constantly seek approval and affirmation? - crap, I'm such a people-pleaser that hit me square in the kisser - and to think - that's a symptom of growing up with someone with the disease of alcoholism!)
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Old 06-19-2014, 05:55 PM
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Hi...lots of knowledgeable people here, you've come to a great place! I only found one book that was helpful, though actually, the Big Book (AA) had some helpful stuff in it too. The book is:

Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic by Sarah Allen Benton.

I was married to what I called an HFA. I tried to find info about it and struggled. The reason is because this is sort of a myth. People in my search eventually told me, it's not a TYPE of alcoholic...he might be HF now, but it's just a stage of the disease. The stage lasts longer in some people, but it rings true. The HF part can distract us into thinking it's not as real or as dangerous, but that's fallacy- and most often the behavior patterns are still there and just as bad.

My X's dad and grandpa were both HFA's that made it without major problems to very late in life. My X was still HF (I thought) when I found this site. My head spun because he was/wasn't an alcoholic...he never missed work, never hung over, etc. BUT he had the full suite of alcoholic behaviors, lying, manipulating, blaming, projecting, abusing, and drank half a bottle of gin nightly. And his shame was SO big because he was keeping up such a strong outer facade that his abusive behaviors and rage at home worsened a lot over time.

We split two years ago when my kids were 10 and 12, and they live with me full time- dad is 1,000 miles away. (Incidentally, he is no longer HF, as he crashed pretty hard, got into drugs too, lost his job...like in the movies.)

Both of my kids have different issues and are in serious counseling for behaviors that include those you struggle with. I don't doubt that your issues are real, and I'd say some good therapy and reading on ACOA, maybe even support groups...would be a good step. Understanding your dad's disease is less important than understanding the impact his behaviors had on you.

Peace to you!
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