Let’s face it… Habits can be difficult to break, but sometimes they can be even more difficult to admit. This is what can make them so dangerous sometimes. Habits that are extremely difficult to quit but can also start with denials such as smoking or drinking.
Although there are tons of programs and therapy methods for quitting these habits, the person has to want to change to make the change happen. If a person is happy, comfortable, or used to their habits and patterns, it can lead to lifelong issues and possibly even terminal illnesses.
Drinking is a difficult one. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a casual drinker and someone who has borderline or high functioning alcoholism. Especially because people with these issues can barely admit it to themselves.
You may not recognize it, but there are a few signs that can help to discover if you or someone you love is actually a high-functioning or borderline alcoholic.
1. Drinking for a Meal: If someone you know comes out to dinner and just orders alcohol in the place of their meal, this can be a tell-tale sign that they may be having issues. It can mean that they are hyper focusing on the drink and would rather fill their guts with a couple beers than actually have a meal and get the nutrients they need. Sure, everyone skips a meal once in a while, but if you notice that your loved one has been repeatedly swapping their dinner plate for a wine glass, it might be time to speak up for their own good.
2. No Hangovers: Someone who has developed an alcohol tolerance will not experience hangovers. If someone you know is able to drink a ton and not experience any repercussions the next day, they might be a high-functioning alcoholic. Even if they go out clubbing and knock back as many drinks as their friends, a red flag should be going up if they are still able to walk straight and carry a coherent conversation. Being able to hold your liquor starts to turn into a problem once you leave the college party scene.
3. Irritation: A person suffering from alcohol dependency will feel a certain sense of irritation if they know they won’t be able to have any. Whether they’re on vacation and don’t have access to alcohol, or the liquor store is closing, if they get physically irritated or upset this is a huge warning sign. People with alcohol problems have tunnel vision when it comes to their booze. They will plan the entire day around it from when they are going to start drinking to what time they are going to make a trip to the liquor store. Worst case scenario is when going to the liquor store becomes a part of regular ‘errands’ as opposed to something done on the weekends and Holidays.
4. Excessive Consumption: One or two drinks will not cut it for a functioning alcoholic. They’ll usually binge and will always ask for one more. In worst case scenarios, the person will always act like the drink they’re holding is the last. They drink without realizing the quantity and can also lose count. This is what leads to the person developing a higher tolerance and therefore feeling the need to consume more alcohol to reach whatever buzz they are chasing. Unfortunately though, once alcoholics get to a certain level of tolerance they most likely won’t be able to reach the same levels of intoxication, so all they are really doing when they’re dumping back ‘one more drink’ is damaging their liver.
5. Memory Loss: If you notice your partner or yourself experiencing memory loss. This happens because people can black out after a certain amount of drinks. They’ll have no memory of what’s happened during their blackout periods. It can also manifest in smaller ways that are harder to pick up on. For example, they may forget that you told them a certain story or asked them to pick up something from the store in the morning. Perhaps they ask you the same questions more than once or repeat information they have already relayed to you while they were intoxicated. A person can be extremely high functioning and still have a problem with alcohol.
6. Denial: A person suffering from functioning alcoholism will never admit it. If their problem is brought up they will most likely feel uncomfortable talking about it and will get upset whenever asked about cutting back. They may even flat out deny there is any problem at all. This is a tell tale sign of most addictions, but alcoholics will be extremely persistent. They will find any reason in the book to excuse their drinking, or they will try to explain why it’s ‘not that bad.’ A person who displays this many signs of high-functioning alcoholism should probably consider something like Alcoholics Anonymous. Being around other people going through the same issues might be the key to change or at least bring some much-needed motivation.
7. Justifications: A high functioning alcoholic will often give senseless justifications as to why they drink so much. They might say the booze is to help them deal with stress or to loosen up and socialize with friends. Perhaps they’ll say that they need it to go to sleep. While all these things may be true to a certain extent, it doesn’t make their actions correct or healthy. If any of these signs are sounding familiar to you you may have some evaluating to do.
8. Hiding their Alcohol: Those who drink alone or in hiding are most likely dealing with some sort of dependency problem. They don’t want others to see them when they are drinking and will often enjoy their drink in their car or at their desk. This is because they want others to remain oblivious to their addiction and would rather not share with others the true amount they are consuming. An obvious sign of an alcohol problem would be frequently drinking during the day, but smart high functioning alcoholics will do their best to make sure that people don’t find out what they are up to. This can mean tip toeing around spouses, children, and even lying to oneself. It can be quite the delusion.
9. Behavior: A person who is addicted to alcohol will most likely experience mood swings. A person who is typically quiet or soft spoken might become aggressive or obnoxious. The people who they hang out with will be affected by their addiction, or they may try spending more time alone in order to be with their alcohol. The chemicals in the alcohol can actually change a person’s brain, wiring them to become more short tempered and impatient. Because of all these things, the person with the problem might not even recognize it for themselves. They have become so washed up in their addiction that it basically runs their life now and will stop at nothing to get what they want.
10. Happiness: People dealing with an alcohol problem will not be concerned with the happiness or feelings of their friends and family. Even if they can see that they are hurting their loved ones, the alcohol and having the alcohol can be more important to them. It can really turn you into a selfish and careless person, one who makes rash decisions or constantly makes a fool of themselves. This is why it can be so easy to become deluded when you’re in this state. And why it can be so difficult to free oneself from that situation.
11. Making a Joke: Another tactic to cover up the problem is keeping a sense of humor about it. A person suffering from this addiction might try and play it off as not a big deal, or make fun of themselves so that others don’t or so that things don’t get serious. It can be easy to be fooled by this one because a person so light hearted and able to make funny jokes probably doesn’t seem like the type of person to be suffering from an addiction. But the fact of the matter is, these are all cover ups. Unfortunately, unless you are actually living with the person you may never be able to tell if someone is living with high-functioning alcoholism.
12. Timing: Many people enjoy a drink or two with dinner each night, but there comes a point where the timing can be off. There comes a point when drinking becomes an issue. For example, if a person drinks in the mornings or when they are by themselves. Or if they say that they need it to loosen up. A person dealing with these issues with find any excuse in the book to try and normalize their drinking but the fact of the matter is that often they don’t realize or they don’t care to realize that the way they are living is dangerous and that they have some serious changes to make.
13. Anger: A person deeply rooted in their alcohol problems will even get angry if they get caught or confronted about alcohol. Even if it’s someone who they truly love and care about, the alcohol can really change a person. Like I mentioned before, it can turn a person into a selfish, greedy, shell of who they used to be. If any of these signs are sounding familiar, you may want to tell your loved one to consider taking the steps to recovery. It won’t be an easy road but it’s one that has been traveled before by many successful people. It’s also not something that has to be done alone.
14. Help: Accepting that you have a problem and getting help can be the first step to recovery. To quit an excessive drinking habit, it is usually recommended to get professional help. There are alcohol rehab centers and services, groups, and counselors all over the world that are there to help people dealing with alcohol and other addictions. Although this may be an intimidating step to take, it’s a very important one.
15. Getting Better: There are tons of therapies to attend, diet plans, lifestyle moderations and other techniques to chose from. Sometimes, the only thing a person needs is something else to focus their time on. A good place to start would be trying to remember what pushed you or the person to start drinking excessively in the first place. Was it a habit in school that got carried into adulthood? Or perhaps they went through some sort of emotional turmoil that caused them to turn to alcohol. Sometimes going back to the root of the problem can be a good way to reverse it. Once the person realized that they might not actually ‘need’ to be drinking anymore, they may feel more inclined to stop.
16. Patience: It’s important to be patient during this process, even if you’re the one who is going to be embarking it. It might be challenging at first, and there will most likely be some hiccups but it can be done. Many people have done it before, so it’s not impossible even if it seems as though it is right now. Be resilient and if you are feeling nervous about confronting a loved one, try writing out your thoughts first or perhaps you could send them this article. Good luck with your endeavors, I hope that you are able to successfully help someone break free from their addiction. Remember, even if it seems like it might be hopeless, anyone is capable of overcoming this. The key to change is to become determined. Don’t give up.