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High-Functioning Alcoholism

by Landmark Recovery

September 8, 2020
A man walking on the street


Is it possible to be a “high functioning” alcoholic? And what is that, exactly?


Some individuals who abuse alcohol may seem, on the outside, to be relatively normal members of society. They succeed at work, have beautiful families, and they likely have hobbies or give back to the community. For all intents and purposes, they’re keeping it together.


But just because someone has the outward appearance of normalcy does not mean that everything is fine. We perceive these individuals as being high-functioning because they’re doing everything we think a ‘normal’ person should do, all while drinking heavily and regularly. They always seem to bounce back. Even after drinking to excess, they get up and keep on going about their daily lives. That doesn’t sound like an alcoholic. Or does it?


The Social Perception of the Alcoholic

We, as a society, have a certain perception of what an alcoholic looks like. We don’t like to admit it, but we tend to envision alcoholics as reckless partiers, people who have nothing going on or lack the willpower to curb their inhibitions. These are stereotypes, which stigmatize everyone and serve no one.


The thing is, alcoholism is incredibly ingrained in our social consciousness. Our weekend social life is about going out for drinks with friends or having a glass—or two, or three—of wine in the evening. We celebrate with drinks. We mourn with drinks.


Sometimes, there can be a very fine line between what we think ‘normal’ alcohol consumption looks like and what is just unchecked alcoholism.


And unfortunately, alcohol addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Alcohol addiction can look like unemployment, isolation, and drinking away your depression. But alcohol addiction can also be the super-mom who packs fancy lunches for her kids, does Pilates, and cleans the entire house before settling in for an entire bottle of wine (or two) in the evening.


To the untrained eye, the former example may be perceived as a “low-functioning” alcoholic, while the latter might seem like a “high-functioning” alcoholic. But the reality is, there is no such thing. Alcoholism is dangerous and devastating, no matter how it appears on the outside.


Escaping Reality

Being productive does not rule out an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol can be used to take the edge off whatever you may be feeling. It takes you away from reality for a time. But it can also prevent you from creating and living the life you want. It can keep you from uncovering the real reasons you feel the need to escape in the first place. It numbs the pain, makes you “fun,” helps you forget, but it never addresses the core of the problem. It’s a band-aid solution for a much, much deeper issue.


Even if you feel like alcohol use isn’t a concern because you appear to be “high-functioning,” you might be harming yourself and hiding the evidence. Just because you can do the things people expect of you, you may still be hurting, and you deserve to get the help you need. You don’t need to live in denial. Landmark is here to support you on your journey to wellness, and we genuinely care. Reach out today to learn how we can help.


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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.