High-functioning alcoholics are those people who seem normal on the outside but are struggling with an addiction to alcohol on the inside. These individuals are often middle-aged, highly educated, well-off financially, and able to maintain a successful career and home.
Since they are not battling financial instability, isolation, or legal issues, they generally don’t fit into the stereotype of an alcoholic. Functional alcoholics may also be less likely to seek treatment because they don’t experience the same struggles and consequences that average alcoholics do. They may be reluctant to go to rehab even when their family and friends seem concerned about them because they don’t think their drinking problem is as bad as the people who go to rehab.
If someone you love is struggling with high-functioning alcoholism, you may be wondering what you can do to help. If you play your cards right, you can successfully convince a high-functioning alcoholic to go to rehab.
What Makes a High-Functioning Alcoholic Different from other Alcoholics?
Up to 20% of people with alcohol use disorder can be considered “high-functioning alcoholics.” These people won’t be slurring their words, acting erratic in public, or suffering the same consequences from their drinking as other alcoholics do. While other people with alcoholism may get into trouble at work, school, or home, functioning alcoholics may continue excelling at everything they do despite drinking excessively.
Because of their success, functioning alcoholics may be in denial that their drinking has gotten out of hand. They may be completely in the dark about how serious their alcoholism has become. They may also justify their drinking problems by chalking it up to stress or being too busy.
When trying to help other types of alcoholics, you can focus on the things they have lost or sacrificed due to their drinking. You can bring up things like job loss, family issues, or relationship problems as motivators to get sober. However, a functioning alcoholic may still have all of these things, so they can easily say “I’m not as bad as them” or “I don’t really have a problem, see?”
The truth is that although they may be a high-functioning alcoholic today, they can only remain one for so long. Eventually, their drinking will catch up to them, often in the form of serious health problems. Even if your loved one seems healthy and functional now, addressing the problem sooner rather than later can prevent their alcoholism from progressing over time.
Convincing a High-Functioning Alcoholic to go to Rehab
Getting help for a high-functioning alcoholic requires a carefully thought-out approach that is full of love, respect, and compassion. First, you can try having a simple conversation, then escalate the steps you take accordingly.
1. Have a Conversation About Their Drinking
Approach your loved one when they are sober and clear-headed. Make sure you speak with them while they are alone and away from children to avoid embarrassment.
Begin by expressing your concerns and discussing how their drinking has negatively affected your life. Avoid lecturing them, name-calling, or blaming them for their drinking. Continuously express your compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and sympathy.
If your loved one responds positively, that means they are experiencing some sort of guilt or emotional distress from their drinking, and they truly want help. This means you can begin helping them find treatment options.
However, if your loved one gets angry or aggressive, you may end the conversation lightly, back away, and let them know that you are always there to talk if they would like your help.
2. Encourage a Doctor’s Visit
Perhaps your loved one seems open to addressing their drinking patterns, but they aren’t quite convinced that they are an alcoholic. In this case, you can encourage them to schedule a routine doctor’s visit. You can even offer to drive them or go with them for emotional support.
During the exam, encourage your loved one to discuss his or her drinking habits with the physician. Their doctor can run any necessary tests and discuss the potential impacts of continuing their alcohol abuse. This kind of professional opinion may make a high-functioning alcoholic more receptive to the idea of getting treatment.
3. Stage a Formal Intervention
If all of your other efforts have failed but you are still concerned about your loved one, you may stage a formal intervention. The best way to do so is to hire an addiction specialist or professional interventionist who can guide you through the process.
Alcohol addiction interventions typically involve the following steps:
- Planning the intervention
- Making treatment arrangements
- Holding the intervention
- Reading impact statements
- Escorting the addicted individual to treatment
Formal interventions can be very convincing because they allow a group of loved ones to confront a person together. This sort of team effort can be very impactful, opening your loved one’s eyes to the seriousness of their drinking problem.
Professional Help for the High-Functioning Alcoholic
When high-functioning alcoholics finally decide it is time to get help from an alcohol rehab center, they must come to terms with their unhealthy relationship with alcohol and learn how to remain high-functioning without using alcohol as a crutch.
When it comes to the alcohol rehab and recovery experience at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we incorporate 12-step immersion, the careful development of a personalized treatment plan, and an effective combination of therapeutic and holistic treatment methodologies to help clients get to the root cause of their drinking. Our alcohol rehab program in Woburn, MA combines proven therapeutic methods of healing with effective holistic modalities, making for integrated and highly individualized care that cannot be found anywhere else in the area.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, don’t hesitate. Call now to speak with an admissions specialist about starting your recovery journey.