The Functioning Alcoholic

A functioning alcoholic is a person who can hold a job and carry out their normal daily responsibilities, whilst being dependent on alcohol. Many people might not even realise the person has an alcohol problem. They may routinely sneak alcohol into work in their coffee mug, may be drunk at a family meal or under the influence whilst driving a car or attending their child’s school event.

Their body may even require some amount of alcohol on a consistent basis to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Given the opportunity, and this most often occurs at home at night. The functioning alcoholic will get completely intoxicated before struggling into bed and starting a new day of working and drinking the next morning. The problem lies in the fact they are still functioning. Ironically, their success is a curse that leads to their problem going untreated.

Functioning alcoholics are often heard to deny that there even is a problem or argue that they are not hurting anyone but themselves so what is the problem? It has been argued that some are even proud to be functioning alcoholics; Commend themselves on their ability to balance their alcohol intake with the rest of their life. They have no intention of stopping. Lying and hiding alcohol become a daily part of their life.

Physical and Emotional Damage

The problem lies not only in the physical damage that alcoholism does to the body, but the emotional damage it does the people close to the alcoholic. In addition to this, the functioning alcoholic can affect those who they are not close to; an employer with a less productive employee than a sober one, or an over-the-limit driver with the potential of ruining lives with an accident.


It is not just the violent, open alcoholics who have a negative impact on their family. A functioning alcoholic, although in denial of this, will not carry out their duties as well at home. Their alcoholism often sacrifices a close relationship with their spouse or children as they become emotionally withdrawn. Putting aside the financial strain that alcoholism can cause. The alcoholic’s partner often finds that they are fulfilling the parental role of two people around the house. Drinking to excess does affect everyone close to the alcoholic, though they are often blind to this point. Someone who sees nothing wrong with their dependence on alcohol is not looking closely enough.

Hard to Convince to Get Help

It is often extremely difficult for friends, loved ones and colleagues to gain ‘leverage’ to convince the functioning alcoholic to get help. Interventions are not so effective when the consequences are not as obvious. Such as the loss of a house, regular violence or the breakup of a marriage. A conversation with a functioning alcoholic persuading them to take help would need to focus on the physical damage to themselves and the emotional damage to others. They need to be aware that one day their luck will run out.

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol rehab and alcohol addiction treatment centre which not only successfully teaches people how to stop drinking but also offers drug rehabilitation treatment.