Nearly 20 percent of alcoholics are “highly functional.” That means they have good jobs, a large circle of friends and, in some cases, an overall fulfilling life. Because a high-functioning alcoholic might feel as though drinking isn’t affecting their life, they often deny that they have a problem.
However, excessive alcohol use always has consequences. Eventually, alcoholism increasingly affects areas of someone’s life until they reach a tipping point. In other words, there is a point at which a high-functioning alcoholic stops functioning. Here are some of the consequences of an unchecked alcohol use disorder.
High-functioning alcoholics start to push the boundaries of what they’re capable of when drinking. For many, this means getting behind the wheel of their vehicle after a drink or two. If there are no consequences, they feel comfortable driving after three drinks, then four and so on. They push the limits until they get pulled over by the police or cause a serious crash.
Drunk driving charges often force an alcoholic to come to terms with how their disorder is affecting their life and the lives of others. If the intoxicated driver is fortunate, no one will be hurt by their actions. However, in many cases, an alcoholic causes a crash that severely injures themselves or somebody else.
Health Consequences of Alcoholism
Even if someone struggling with excessive alcohol use isn’t noticing any consequences at work or in their personal lives, they are still harming their bodies. Health consequences of alcoholism include…
- High blood pressure,
- Liver disease,
- Heart disease,
- Digestive problems,
- Increased risk of cancer, and
- Mental health problems.
Even the highest performing alcoholic cannot outrun the damage they are doing to their bodies. If other areas of their life aren’t affected, their health will inevitably suffer.
A trademark of a high-functioning alcoholic is their ability to stay connected to large social groups. Eventually, excessive alcohol starts to impact relationships. Alcoholics find it increasingly difficult to be around people who aren’t also heavy drinkers. For many, this means that relationships with family members become casualties of their disorder.
Though an alcoholic’s disorder might not initially affect their career, declining cognitive performance and mental health issues will eventually catch up to them. This might happen at a time when job responsibilities increase and the delicate balance an alcoholic maintains is no longer sustainable. If alcohol use causes an incident at work, then employer-mandated treatment might be the only way an alcoholic can salvage their career.
A Physical and Emotional Breakdown
Maintaining an alcohol use disorder while also attempting to keep the pace of a demanding life is exhausting. The burden inevitably becomes too much to bear. One major setback could create a domino effect that shatters all the systems a high-functioning alcoholic has in place. Sometimes the toll of an addiction leads someone to experience a complete physical or emotional breakdown, which then affects their relationships, work and personal life.
Warning Signs a High-Functioning Alcoholic Is Reaching Their Tipping Point
If you or your loved one is showing the following warning signs, it could indicate that their drinking is about to have a major impact on their life…
- Obsessing about the next drink.
- Inability to go long periods without drinking.
- Blacking out from excessive alcohol use.
- Driving after drinking.
- Suffering mood swings after drinking or when they are unable to drink.
- Withdrawing from others because of their alcohol use.
- Preferring to drink alcohol instead of eating food.
- Sacrificing exercise in favor of drinking.
- Hiding alcohol use from loved ones.
These are all indicators that alcoholism is keeping a person from living their life to the fullest. If you notice these signs, it’s time to think about finding solutions. No one wants to see a loved one suffer the devastating consequences of an alcohol use disorder.
High-Functioning Alcoholics Need Help
Alcoholics are only highly functional until they aren’t. Ideally, they can address the problem before it causes catastrophes in every facet of their life. If you are a functioning alcoholic, maybe you see in yourself the warning signs of a looming breakdown. Perhaps you’re the loved one of an alcoholic, and you know that terrible things are in store unless something is done.
Regardless of how alcohol is impacting your life, help is available. Austin has many support groups available, both for alcoholics and loved ones of alcoholics. At Sober Austin, we also help people find the treatment they need to address their alcoholism. We encourage you to browse our site to find the resources you need or to contact us directly by calling 512-981-6572 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.