The Drug Class Blog

Oct 15

High Functioning

Functioning Heavy Drinkers and Drug Users


Many people believe that a person who drinks too much or who uses drugs will be completely unable to function within their life. The common conception is that a person of this caliber will be of the type to just lay around all day getting wasted and they are incapable of holding down a job or any family responsibilities.


While for some people this characterization is true, as they have crossed over that invisible line into addiction or alcoholism and are now ruled by their compulsions, not everyone who drinks heavily or abuses drugs falls into this category. This is the insanity of denial in active addiction that is crippling for most and often contributes to them needing to hit low bottoms before accepting that they have a problem. The issues it that for many addicts this functional ability to use and still maintain a normal life usually comes to an end and in time they find that their lives become unmanageable. There are some heavy drinkers and drug users, who are completely functional in many aspects of their lives, except in the manner that they drink or drug. These people are known as functioning drinkers or drug users.


Functioning heavy drinkers and drug users are an enigma of sorts because they flaunt conventional wisdom as to what it means to abuse alcohol or drugs. They can wake up in the morning without any problem and go to work, their bills are usually paid, their relationships may still appear to be intact, and their family life seems together. From the outside looking in no one would be wiser that just under the surface alcohol and drug usage was running rampant. For some people of this type they have lost their ability of choice in whether they are going to drink or use drugs, but since they are not experiencing many of the negative consequences that are usually attributed to drug addiction and alcoholism, realizing that they may have a problem is often difficult.


As well and capable as these types of people appear, as they usually function very well intellectually,how they function emotionally is a different story. Part of the reason for the excessive alcohol or drug use is because of an inability to cope emotionally and  they self-medicate through substance use.


This means that the internal life of the functional heavy drinker or drug user is usually not as neat as their outward appearances. Having to manage and control their alcohol or drug intake, all while maintaining an external facade of stability is a precarious balancing act. Just one wrong move this way or that could throw the balance into disarray, causing the whole house of cards to tumble down.


Living with this sort of tension can take a tremendous toll on a person mentally and physically and although they may not show any physical signs of distress, the functional heavy drinker or drug users normally lives with a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt.


For many high functioning people, it is this internal pressure that usually results in their giving up their partying ways, as they begin to weigh the options of whether or not drinking and using drugs is worth the risk that is involved. It becomes apparent the longer that this continues that eventually there will be fall out and so people of this type, who are not suffering from addiction or alcoholism, will eventually reach a point where they decide to stop and they do so.


There are however some high function heavy drinkers and drug users who fall into the category of being actual addicts and alcoholics. For people of this kind, they may find that when they want to stop drinking or using drugs they can’t and so they are trapped in a cycle of having to maintain outward appearances and feed their addictions all the same.


Similar to their non-addict or alcoholic equivalents, it is usually once again the internal pressures that lead these people to eventually sober up. Since they more than likely have not lost anything during their active using, the choice to get sober is not predicated on anything external but is based solely on their want to no longer feel the tensions they are experiencing.

For people who are high functioning deciding to put down the drink or drug can be more difficult than for those whose lives are completely unmanageable. Their ability to justify their actions is greater than a person who has lost everything and many operate under the false notion that having a problem with drugs or alcohol means that they need to loose everything or be homeless on the streets. This, however, is not the case and having a problem with alcohol or drugs is not based on anything external. Some of the most successful people in the world have been high function heavy drinkers and drug users and yet at some point in their life they decided that they needed a change.

At the end of the day the only person who can decide if they have a problem is the person experiences the issues, so if you think that you may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, yet you haven’t suffered any consequences because of these issues, seek someone out to talk to rather than go it alone. Therapists are great outlets for discovering whether or not you are a high functioning heavy drinker or drug user and they can get you resources necessary if you need to seek additional help. If you believe that your problem may have escalated into an addiction then seek out a 12 Step meeting and see if you can’t relate. Remember you don’t need to lose everything in order to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and you don’t need to lose everything to overcome your problems.


Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.


You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram


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