As summer brings plenty more drinking opportunities, Private Rehab Clinic Delamere shares the signs that you’re a functioning alcoholic and what you can do about it.


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The summer is here inviting with it cold beers, Pimm’s o’clock, Aperol Spritz and cider on ice. It’s a fact of living in Britain that the sun brings plenty of drinking opportunities. As Christians we know the Bible says not to get drunk on wine (Ephesians 5:18), but when the July’s day drinking kicks in the effects of that glass of rosé can sneak up on us.

The long summer evenings can mean that we feel an additional pressure to drink socially and our weekly intake can start to stack up. For those who struggle to keep their alcohol consumption in check, this could be disastrous. As people who may on the surface be doing well, actually feel unable to control their drinking.

These people may be functional alcoholics. Experts at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, explained exactly what that means and what to look out for.

What is a functioning alcoholic?

A functioning alcoholic is a person who suffers from alcohol use disorder but is still able to hold down a job, play a role within a family and to most people, appear to be coping. They are not always easy to spot. Those that suffer from alcoholism are exceptionally good at hiding their condition. With few apparent negative consequences, a functioning alcoholic is unlikely to want to change whilst they feel they still have time.

Signs and symptoms of a functioning alcoholic include:

  • Frequent intoxication and smelling of alcohol
  • Loss of control around alcohol use
  • Hiding alcohol in strange places such as their garage, at the office, in bushes or in their car
  • Drinking between work times or appointments, or drinking just enough to keep their alcohol levels topped up if they are alcohol dependent
  • Frequent binge drinking after daily responsibilities are taken care of
  • Justifying their drinking as a way of unwinding after work, a busy day with the kids or as a reward
  • Becoming irritable, anxious, restless and unable to sleep if they are unable to drink
  • Regularly drinking in the morning before going about their day, or at odd times of the day such as lunchtime in order to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Always drinking at social events and ‘preloading’ prior to attending a social event
  • Avoiding social events or activities that do not involve alcohol
  • Alcohol has become a problem at home, with them either drinking excessively alone at home or disappearing to a pub or bar straight after work for hours
  • Becoming defensive or flippant when challenged over their drinking
  • Denying they are an alcoholic, reasoning that they still hold down a job or take the kids to school on time
  • Alternating alcohol and prescription pills in order that they can function
  • They may become erratic, spontaneous, angry or change their character completely whilst intoxicated
  • Difficulty in recalling events that took place whilst heavily intoxicated – experiencing an alcoholic blackout
  • Risk-taking, they may well drive to work or drive children to school whilst still over the limit from the previous night or from taking a morning drink

Tips on helping a functioning alcoholic

When trying to help a functioning alcoholic it’s best to keep an open line of communication between you. If you have previously tried to talk to them and they have become defensive, flippant or angry, you may want to try the following tips on how to get functioning alcohol to accept help:

  • Set aside a time to talk to them when they have no plans, are not in a rush and are not too intoxicated to understand what you have to say. Preferably they will be sober but if they are alcohol dependent you will need to choose a time before they start drinking heavily.
  • It is often quite helpful to speak to a functioning alcoholic about their alcohol use disorder after they have just suffered a negative consequence related to their drinking. They may be remorseful and less able to deny they have a problem.
  • Regardless of their emotional response, try to remain calm and not argue with them. Arguing will give them an excuse to leave the conversation and return to their drinking. Instead, try an empathetic approach and one of showing concern and support.
  • Explain to them how their drinking is affecting you and other family members. Give clear examples of when their drinking has affected you and others or caused concern and how you feel about their drinking.
  • Say that this is more common than they think and that there are others who suffer just like them.
  • Give them hope by explaining that alcoholism is treatable and that a professional detox and rehabilitation programme will give them the time and space to comfortably get well
  • If the conversation goes well, the functioning alcoholic admits they have a problem and they need help, it is important to act quickly and without hesitation. In the addiction treatment field, we refer to this as a window of opportunity. It rarely lasts for very long before they shrink back into denial.
  • Acting swiftly and engaging professional help whilst they are receptive could well save their life. If they are not receptive and still deny they have a problem or become confrontational, drop the subject and try again at a different time.