In simple terms, a functioning alcoholic is the one that typically flies under everyone’s radar for a long time. They fly under radars because many of them are still holding down jobs, even careers and never seem overly intoxicated. They usually stick to a pattern or set specific times to drink. Because they seem so in control and can maintain a lifestyle that mimics successful living, many people look the other way or may not even know that they are dealing with an alcoholic at all. If you live in South Carolina, and believe someone in your family may be an alcoholic, time is of the essence, see: South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.
Realistically, most drunk-on-the-floor alcoholics were once “functioning” within their disease. This for some is a fleeting stage of the addiction, but for many it can mean “functioning” for years. They give the “appearance” of having control over their drinking which is far from the truth. Over time, the “functioning alcoholic” will cease to be “functioning”. Where once they may have seemed the fun loving person that nursed a few at a party, to the one that has to be dragged out and taken to jail to sober up for the night. Rest assured, all of them were once “functioning” and all of them will succumb to the drink eventually.
Functioning alcoholics use a wide range of excuses and reasons for their drinking, and because they appear to be holding everything together and only do it at certain times, their loved ones have a hard time finding fault with their reasoning. The “I only drink on the weekends to unwind because I work so hard…” is a typical reply once their drinking comes into question. In their eyes they are just rewarding themselves for their hard work. The problem is, anything that a person “has” to do, on a “regular” basis that is a known cause of “addiction” is a problem. What starts out as “only after work” or “only on the weekends” will progress to “sometimes during work” and weekends will suddenly start on “Thursday.”
A functioning alcoholic can only fly under your radar as long as you chose to overlook or ignore it. Do not fall for their rationale and do not ignore the problem. It will get worse. Take steps to seek treatment before they become “non-functioning”. Once they enter this phase in their addiction-and they ALL do,
it is extremely difficult to reason with them or get them into treatment. It is only a matter of time before the disease has their talons set deep into your loved one and nothing short of a miracle will save them from it. Tackling it early can only be a good thing, for you, your loved one, family, friends and the innocent person on the road when that “functioning” alcoholic decides to take a drive.