An alcoholic often brings a grim image to our mind of an individual, who is shelter less, moneyless, or wanderer without family or friends.
This is a picture prevalent in the society and also reinforced by movies and media. But there are good numbers of alcoholics, who do not fulfil these criteria; they are called the ‘functional alcoholics.’
Who are functional alcoholics?
They are high achievers in terms of professional front, relationships and social performance. They appear like normal people because they haven’t been affected by the consequences of their substance abuse or dependence.
These people, though they drink but they haven’t lost it completely in layman’s language “not hit the rock bottom.” Various researches establish the fact that about 20% of alcoholics belong to this category. Functional alcoholics can be people from any stream of life like a movie star, doctor, engineer or entrepreneur …
They are comfortable with their addiction; their families are ignorant about the degree of their dependence and hence, unknowingly are enabling their addiction to the substance.
Functional alcoholics often live in a world of denial, until a major event in terms of ill health, problems with law or relationships strikes them.
They usually rationalize their drinking pattern as part of celebration of their success or as stress busting mechanism.
Most alcoholics have similar story to share, it starts with occasional social drinking and gradually they develop tolerance to the amount of alcohol they consume.
To get the same high, they need to consume more every time.
Functional alcoholic, like other alcoholics also spend time obsessing about alcohol, getting it and giving explanations to consume it. They do get intoxicated like other alcoholics but neither incapacitated nor knocked by it. But, due to large quantity that they often consume they start showing cognitive impairment and organ damage.
They are the unreported cases in terms of treatment and seek help only when things have taken a turn for the worst.
The following strategies are recommended for the families of functional alcoholics:
- Try talking to the addicted person about the problems and only start the conversation when the person is clean.
- Do not be sarcastic or negative with the addicted individual; instead positively encourage their abstinence.
- Stop enabling addiction by explaining or feeling sorry for their behaviour, absenteeism from work or social commitments.
- Treatment not always is voluntary; one can force the person to seek help.
- Caregivers should not ignore their mental health. Join AL-ANON, support group or see a mental health worker to share your feelings.
- Last but not the least never give-up on your patient. Keep trying and don’t lose hope.