7 Signs of a Functional Alcoholic

Alcoholism has become a widespread illness that is negatively impacting the lives of millions of Americans. Usually, when people hear the word alcoholic, they are imagining someone who is always under the influence, unable to keep a job or nurture personal relationships. However, that’s not always the case. At our rehab center in Pennsylvania, we know that there is something that’s labeled as functioning alcoholics. If you have a doubt that someone in your vicinity might be one, there are some signs of a functional alcoholic to look out for. We will be happy to delve into the seven main signals that someone might be a hidden alcoholic.

What is a functional alcoholic?

A functional alcoholic is a term that is used to describe a person who is dependent on alcohol. However, their dependency usually doesn’t interfere with their everyday life. They are able to function effectively, have a social life, and keep their jobs. In fact, a functional alcoholic can even be someone who excels in his or her career, which is why you would never think to label them as an alcoholic. Keep in mind that they can also have a rich personal and family life, so they can seem like they have it all. You should know by now not to judge a book by its cover.

A group of friends celebrating a birthday.
Functional alcoholics can be social butterflies and the favorite person in the group.

Even though these people can function well in their day-to-day lives, they will still benefit from a stay in an alcohol rehab Pennsylvania facility. Alcoholism is an unpredictable disease. While you might not have any problems controlling it at the moment, there’s no telling when it might start interfering with your life. Generally speaking, it becomes a lot more difficult to control one’s addiction once it starts impacting their life. Besides, the more time passes between the start of addiction and the moment you seek help, the harder it will be to achieve sobriety.

Whether you think that you might be a functional alcoholic or you want to confirm or deny your suspicions about an important someone in your life, there are a few signs that you need to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind that noticing only one of the signs doesn’t mean that your loved one is an alcoholic. But if you notice a couple of them, it would be wise to look for additional help from addiction recovery professionals.

The top seven signs of a functional alcoholic

Remember that every person is different and will, therefore, exhibit different symptoms. Someone could be showing a set of completely different signs, which doesn’t mean a lot, as they still might be able to benefit from inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers in PA. However, we did our job in compiling the seven most likely signs that someone is dealing with high-functional alcoholism. Here’s what they are.

1. Excessive drinking is one of the first tell-tale signs

Alcohol is a legal substance that is oftentimes used in social settings. This means that all of us have been exposed to it. And, likewise, many of us have at some point gotten drunk – there’s no shame in it. However, there’s a huge difference between taking a few drinks during important occasions and drinking on a daily basis. Unfortunately, high-functioning alcoholics might not be able to tell the difference. You can oftentimes notice whether a person has an alcohol dependence simply by looking at their drinking patterns. If you go out with a person, do they tend to drink twice as much as you do? Do you know that they frequently go out and drink excessive amounts of alcohol? Then there’s a chance that they have developed a drinking problem.

People in a bar drinking and talking about the signs of a functional alcoholic.
Keep an eye out for how many drinks your loved one consumes per night. It will reveal significant information.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14.5 million people aged 12 and older have Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States of America alone. Thus, there’s a good probability that someone you know is suffering from this problem. That’s why it’s good to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms that point to this disease. Besides, you might want to do it for yourself, as well as others. You can never know when you might develop a problem of this sort, so it’s good to keep yourself on high alert.

2. Blackouts are one of the signs of a functional alcoholic

It might sound ridiculous to say that someone who constantly experiences blackouts could be considered functional. However, memory gaps and even blackouts are pretty common things when a person is drunk. Of course, you’d have to be very much intoxicated in order to lose all memory or even consciousness. If this has happened to you once or twice before, it doesn’t mean that you are an alcoholic. But if it keeps happening frequently, then this is a sign that something is wrong. In that case, a person would usually benefit from outpatient detox rehab PA.

All you have to do is monitor your loved one when drinking. If you notice that they are drinking so much that they are on the verge of passing out, then you need to be on high alert. And if you are monitoring yourself, then keep track of how many days/nights you go out and return home with no recollection of the events that took place. If this happens on a regular basis, it would be wise to seek immediate help and support. You have better chances of solving the issue if you nip the problem in the bud.

3. Legal problems are popping up

If you were to take a look into the life of any alcoholic, you would notice that most of them have quite a few legal issues piled up. Now, there is a big difference between functional and non-functional alcoholics. But the former group is not immune to legal troubles which oftentimes stem from alcoholism. Driving under the influence is one of the most common problems that people with addiction face. Drinking and driving under the influence is notoriously dangerous, as it can affect the life of the person driving, as well as the other participants in the traffic.

A woman driving.
Drinking and driving are never a good combination, so avoid it at all costs.

Keep in mind that making the decision to drive under the influence even once is bad enough, and it puts you at significant risk. If your loved one has already been arrested for a DUI, you can rest assured that they need help. Apart from getting help from a lawyer and obtaining some legal counseling, a person will also need to search for an IOP Pennsylvania. With this treatment, a person still gets to live in the comfort of their own home while attending rehab for three to five days per week. Therapy sessions and rehab will last a few hours per day, which is why this form of therapy is also called day treatment. Which end of the spectrum you will be at depends on how far your addiction has come.

4. Denying problems and making up excuses

Sometimes, a functioning alcoholic might be exhibiting some signs that they are struggling with alcohol use and abuse. Even though they can function pretty well, they are still unable to hide their drinking patterns completely. Hey, some of them are not even trying. So once the people in their environment pick up on their addiction, they could confront them with it. Do you know what’s one of the main ways to recognize a functional alcoholic? Simply pay attention to what they will tell you once you express your concern and confront them about alcoholism.

Denial is one of the tell-tale signs of a functional alcoholic. Have you ever heard someone claim that they could stop with alcohol whenever they wanted to? That’s their way to try and minimize the problem. Keep in mind that this is also something almost every addict will do, as their first reaction is usually to deny the problem and avoid facing it. Almost every person that’s currently in our heroin or cocaine addiction rehab facility has reacted in the same way. However, some addicts will respond well to an intervention, and they will realize that it is done with their best interest in mind.

A man and a woman talking in a coffee shop.
Whether it’s your partner, family member, or a friend, talking is a great way to try and estimate whether a person has a problem with alcoholism.

Making up excuses is another way a person can react when faced with alcohol or drug use. You should prepare yourself to hear all kinds of excuses. From telling you that they only drink during special occasions to telling you that they only consume one to two beers a night, a functional alcoholic can come up with a lot of things. Ultimately, you are wise enough to understand that these are just that – excuses. We advise that you be very careful about how you voice your concerns and what you say during your intervention.

5. Work and social problems are among the main signs of a functional alcoholic

We’ve mentioned that a functional alcoholic is someone who could have a great career and a rich social and love life. However, that doesn’t mean that all functional alcoholics will be like that. Many times, they will suffer from some small yet detrimental changes in their professional and personal life. Those changes could entail many different things. Some people who are in our alcohol and heroin rehab Pennsylvania facility will tell you that missing work was the first physical sign of their problems. Others will tell you that they have started isolating themselves and spending less time with their loved ones.

Likewise, many functional alcoholics will start treating their loved ones and partners in a different manner. If a person was extremely dependable in the past, they could become someone you can’t rely on. If they have always been open to participating in different activities but are now shutting down, their underlying alcoholism could be the one to blame. Those who have a loved one who is suffering from this problem need to exhibit a lot of compassion and understanding. Of course, you don’t need to put yourself through uncomfortable and ultimately risky situations. Set some boundaries early on and keep your eyes open.

A man at work.
A person that starts exhibiting career problems and setbacks could be suffering from addiction.

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the person that you love. If you notice that they are having a significant or even subtle shift in their behavior, it’s important to take the necessary action. This doesn’t mean that a functional alcoholic will reach sobriety more easily than someone who is struggling with an obvious addiction. In fact, the complete opposite could be true. Someone who is aware of their addiction and the way it is impacting his/her life will have more motivation to take the necessary action. On the other hand, functional alcoholics might not have enough awareness to realize the severity of their addiction.

6. Stashing alcohol

Sometimes, a person will be aware that they might be having a problem with alcoholism. At least, they will understand that they are doing something wrong. However, since they won’t yet admit it to themselves (let alone their environment), and they won’t be able to quit, they will do what seems best to them at the time – stash bottles of alcohol. This is one of the main signs of a functional alcoholic, but it’s also something that non-functional alcoholics do, as well. Be careful, as alcoholics can be very imaginative when it comes to hiding the fact that they have an addiction. Thus, you could find bottles stored inside shoes, drawers, closets, etc.

If you find out that your family member is hiding alcohol and empty bottles, you might feel discouraged, enraged, or sad. In fact, there’s no telling how you will feel in the given situation. But you shouldn’t look at this as something terrible – quite the contrary. The fact that a person is hiding the fact that they are using alcohol is something you can work with. This means that they understand that what they are doing is wrong and bad to a certain extent. You will be able to hold an intervention in that case, as a person might be more open to listening to what you have to say.

Alcohol bottles - hiding them is one of the signs of a functional alcoholic.
Stashing bottles is a clear sign that a person has a problem with alcoholism.

If you are not confident in your skills, don’t hesitate to enlist professional help for this task. Having professionals conduct and/or oversee a family intervention comes with many benefits. They have sufficient experience in addiction recovery, as they have spent years working in a heroin, cocaine, or marijuana rehab center. Therefore, they will know how to be assertive and explain that help is needed without overburdening a person who is going through a challenging time.

7. Drinking alone or in the morning

Let’s be honest – drinking in a social setting is something that many of us will do at some point in time. Drinking with your friends from time to time usually isn’t something that would be considered problematic. The problems begin once a person starts drinking a lot more frequently. The problem can also form when a person stops needing other people or a reason to drink. Many functional alcoholics will actually have no problem drinking alone. This is closely tied to the fact that they will start to hide alcohol so other family members can’t find it.

Likewise, many functional alcoholics will have no problem drinking at all hours of day and night. If you walk in and see that your loved one is having a drink before going to work, you have every right to be worried. If we are talking about what is socially acceptable when it comes to drinking, most people agree that having a drink after 5 PM is allowed. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should have a drink every day after five, nor does it mean that one drink should turn into an entire bottle.

A black alarm clock on a desk.
Someone with an alcohol abuse problem will not see an issue in drinking alone or in the morning.

Another way to spot a functional alcoholic is by listening to what they have to say about drinking. If they start justifying and glorifying alcohol, then you can rest assured that there is some problem there. An alcoholic will not see a problem with drinking without a special occasion. And we can all agree that most people reserve drinking for those times when something important is happening. Of course, it’s also possible to take a drink when a person is under stress. But that’s not a reason for drinking to become a potential coping mechanism. That’s how an addiction usually forms.

What to do if you notice the signs of a functional alcoholic in your loved one?

The first step is not to panic. We understand that you are going to feel a lot of worry for the person that you love. You will start imagining them as someone who will constantly be drunk and fail in life. However, that’s not the way it has to be. What we suggest you do is, first and foremost, ensure that your loved one is showing a few of these signs. After being almost 100% certain that they have a problem, it would be wise to do your research on interventions. It’s a general suggestion to always have an idea of how you want to begin the conversation. You can never know how the flow of the intervention is going to go. But you can research and do your homework. There are some things you will want to avoid when confronting your loved one. They include:

  • Accusing them of something
  • Being judgmental
  • Being too harsh
  • Having an intrusive attitude and mannerisms
  • Getting angry because they have an addiction
Two women talking about the signs of a functional alcoholic.
Your loved one needs to feel like they have your support and like you have their best interest in mind.

We understand that keeping your cool in a situation such as this one could be difficult, to say the least. However, that’s never a good enough reason to add insult to injury. Someone who has a problem with addiction will already have a tough time with their daily life. What they might be seeking from you is support – not judgment. Keep in mind that it’s important for them to want this sort of help. If they ask you for help when it comes to searching for a rehab facility, then by all means go ahead and do it. But if they aren’t asking for any favors, doing them anyway would be seen as an intrusion of their privacy.

What’s the best you can hope for?

The best case scenario would be if you could get them to consider a residential rehab facility. Getting treatment is almost always mandatory once a person develops a dependence on alcohol. Keep in mind that there are many different programs available. Thus, if your loved one doesn’t want to stay inside a rehab facility, they don’t have to. Outpatient programs were designed for those who wish to remain in the comfort of their own home.

Don’t make any predictions about the possible outcome once you notice these signs of a functional alcoholic. Instead, do what is up to you and hope for the best. Consider it a victory if you manage to get the other person to understand that they might have a problem. Even if they don’t opt for treatment right away, it should be right around the corner. Of course, you can always contact us if they do opt for treatment. Our rehab professionals will be happy to help and provide guidance.

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