At Transformations Care, our admissions team will help you figure out the best path to recovery for your spouse. If you’re asking yourself these questions, chances are your partner may be a functioning alcoholic. Functional alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking and well-educated. Their professional status or personal success can make it hard to approach them about having a “problem” with alcohol. Nearly 20% of alcoholics are highly functional and well-educated with good incomes. Because these types of users appear stable and mostly unaffected by their drinking, the steps to effectively confront a functioning alcoholic and work with them on their behaviors can be even more difficult.
- It may be difficult to self-diagnose your loved one because of bias and an emotional attachment.
- There is a possibility of losing your children if things get out of control.
- Any conversation with an HFA about his or her drinking should occur when the alcoholic is NOT under the influence of alcohol and can often be most effective when the HFA is hungover and possibly feeling guilt or remorse.
This is part one of a three-part series of blogs about some of the common causes of divorce. For the purposes of this blog about marriage to the functional alcoholic, we’ll refer to the drinker as “he” and the spouse as “she” or “the spouse”. We fully realize that although in the past more functional alcoholics were men, research shows the gender gap is closing. So we recognize that the drinking spouse in this scenario is almost as likely to be a woman, but for the sake of editorial clarity, please forgive the gender-specific pronouns. A “functioning” alcoholic refers to a person that can actively still function in everyday life while still excessively drinking. This includes managing to go to work, supporting a family, having relationships all while heavily drinking almost everyday.
Ask about their support needs
A codependent relationship has one partner’s behavior dependent on the need to care for or control another person. Sometimes this can take the form of purposeful or subconscious enabling behavior for alcohol abuse. More often, the spouse with the caretaker role might be helpless and unsure what to do. Alcoholism affects everyone in a household — not just the individual who drinks. Alcohol abuse increases the risk of physical and emotional violence, as well as substance abuse in other family members. An addiction therapist can help you find positive ways to deal with the stress of living with a functional alcoholic.
Being an HFA affects every aspect of that individual’s life—but they are often unable to see this truth until they get sober. In terms of family life and friends, there is also the problem of “secondary” denial that loved ones may have about an HFA by not believing that they are “real” alcoholics. This powerful sense of denial also prevents the loved ones of HFAs from intervening. HFAs may provide the main source of income for a family and therefore the spouse or partner may not feel that they have the leverage to persuade the HFA to get help.
How to Help a Loved One With a Drinking Problem
You know it in your bones; you’re reminded of it every time you ask yourself why you stay. But I’m not going to be like everybody else and tell you you’re wrong. I’m going to tell you that, even though sometimes you feel like an island, you’re not alone, and there are many of us who have lived — are living — the same truth; it’s just that we’re all pros at keeping it under wraps. And no amount of shaming from your family or friends is going to force you into a decision you aren’t ready to make. To begin, talk with friends and family members about staging an intervention and gather input from all concerned parties.
When dealing with a functioning alcoholic, it may feel like the lines are blurred as to what will help them stop drinking or what will make the drinking or substance use increase. Some Top 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Sober House spouses of functional alcoholics may display co-dependent behaviors. By continuing to work, the functional alcoholic provides income that sometimes makes the tradeoffs seem worth it.
Solutions to Help the Functional Alcoholic in Your Life
Every night, my then-boyfriend would pour drink after drink and sip out of his Tervis Tumbler while watching TV or doing some work. He never even showed a “buzz” or acted any different than when he was sober. Anger and frustration can be tough emotions when supporting someone with AUD. Reminding yourself that you can’t “fix” your loved one — but you can be there for them — can help you cool off, says Elhaj. Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today. “Love yourself more than you love him,” they say, as though the phrase alone is enough to empower you.
- You’ll need to choose a time when you are both sober in a good place emotionally.
- All experts agree that when talking to your loved one, it’s best to be patient and compassionate.
- If you have children, you may be worried about their welfare and safety if, say, your husband has been drinking before driving them to their soccer games.
- Substance use disorders (SUDs) have such stigma in today’s society and people with SUDs want to believe they’re in control of their life.