Entries tagged with “Addiction”.


What is a functioning alcoholic?Alcoholism can take many forms. While some people end up on the streets or incarcerated as a consequence of their addiction, many others continue to lead outwardly successful lives while struggling with their inner demons.

About High Functioning Alcoholism

Someone with high functioning alcoholism is able to hold down a job, socialize with friends, and maintain intimate personal relationships while demonstrating a pattern of dysfunctional drinking behavior. High functioning alcoholics still suffer from an addiction, but it’s harder to see evidence of the problem unless you’re looking very closely.

A functioning alcoholic may be able to hide the signs of a drinking problem by restricting drinking only to certain times or in certain situations. However, many functioning alcoholics are successful in hiding the signs of their addiction because they have someone in their life who is unconsciously encouraging or enabling the addiction by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior. For example, this person may loan them money when they’ve overspent on alcohol or make excuses on their behalf when they’re too hungover to go to work or attend a social engagement.

High functioning alcoholics are more common than you might expect. Studies estimate that nearly 20 percent  of alcoholics meet these criteria. Of these functioning alcoholics, about 1 in 3 have a multigenerational family history of substance abuse.

High functioning alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and educated people who are actively involved in the community. They may be your coworker, your next-door neighbor, or your best friend.

Problems Associated with High Functioning Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, tolerance to alcohol increases. This leads to increased consumption, eventually to the point where a high functioning alcoholic starts to experience the adverse lifestyle consequences we all traditionally associate with alcoholism.

In cases where a high functioning alcoholic works in a professional role responsible for the safety and welfare of others, the consequences of substance abuse could be disastrous. For example:

  • A doctor could make a mistake that harms a patient.
  • A lawyer’s mistake could land his client in jail.
  • A CEO’s poor business decisions could put the entire company in jeopardy.

It’s also worth pointing out that even someone who drinks excessively while maintaining the outward trappings of a successful life is still causing a great deal of physical damage. Some of the many health problems associated with alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mouth, throat, liver, breast, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Traditionally, substance abuse disorders are defined by having alcohol-related problems with your personal relationships, career, finances, and/or the law. However, identifying a high functioning alcoholic requires taking a closer look at drinking-related behaviors.

Signs a person may need substance abuse treatment include:

  • Engaging in binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women or five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men
  • Relying on alcohol to feel powerful, confident, and in control
  • Drinking to handle mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the mornings
  • Frequently finding yourself drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Saying things you didn’t mean while you were drinking
  • Having trouble remembering the details of what happens when you were drinking
  • Being secretive or defensive about alcohol use

Dealing with Denial

Denial is the most common challenge associated with getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. These individuals honestly believe their alcohol use is under control. Since they’re not unemployed or in trouble with the law, they don’t feel they meet the same standard as the alcoholics portrayed in popular culture. In many cases, they think only someone who has hit “rock bottom” meets the criteria for alcoholism.

Staging an intervention is one tactic that may be effective in getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family present their concerns to the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs, offer treatment options, and state the consequences for refusing treatment. For example, a wife may share that she is worried about her husband’s alcohol-related health problems and concerned that the children have noticed their father is absent from social events when he’s been drinking. As a consequence, she might state that she wants a separation if her husband doesn’t seek treatment.

Interventions are not 100 percent effective, but a well-planned intervention using the services of a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist could be just the push your loved one needs to get help.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders


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How to help a parent who struggles with addictionWatching a loved one battle addiction is never easy, but having a parent who struggles with substance abuse presents unique challenges. You must balance the desire to see your father or mother get help with the need to address how parental addiction has affected your own mental health.

Recognizing the Signs of Parental Addiction

In many families, addiction is a secret that everyone knows and nobody acknowledges. Children grow up knowing that their parent abuses drugs or alcohol, but not fully understanding how to change the situation.

However, it’s possible for an addiction to develop so gradually that you might not realize there is a problem right away. In cases where an adult child is concerned about an elderly parent’s recent changes in behavior, retirement, illness, or the death of a loved one may serve as a trigger event for substance abuse.

If you’re worried about a parent’s alcohol or drug use, here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Slurred or difficult to understand speech
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty remembering conversations or details about important family events
  • Confusion
  • Glazed eyes
  • Pupils that seem unusually small or unusually large
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Lying about daily activities or habits
  • Change in activity levels, such as excessive energy or extreme exhaustion
  • Disheveled or unkempt personal appearance

Note that in cases where seniors are drinking to excess or abusing prescription medication, the warning signs of addiction are often mistaken for age-related cognitive decline or the early signs of dementia. Since addiction is often mistakenly seen as a younger person’s problem, it’s somewhat easier for seniors to hide the signs of drug and alcohol abuse from the casual observer.

Getting Help

If you’re worried about a parent’s substance abuse, discussing your concerns with other family members is a good place to start. You may find that your siblings or your other parent have similar concerns, but were too afraid to speak up until you began the conversation. Joining together to discuss the problem in a calm, rational way will help you decide how to best proceed.

Planning an intervention can be an effective way to convince your parent to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. An intervention is a meeting led by concerned family members and friends. The meeting begins by having everyone share examples of behavior that they’ve witnessed and how these actions have negatively affected them. Then, the group presents a prearranged addiction treatment plan and the consequences for refusing to accept treatment. After listening to everyone speak, the addicted person is then asked to make an immediate decision about seeking treatment. If the addicted person refuses to accept treatment, the intervention team must be prepared to follow through on the consequences—which may include limiting contact or refusing to provide financial assistance.

Some key points to remember when talking to a parent about his or her addiction include:

  • Try to avoid using the word “addict” since older people are more likely to view substance abuse as a moral failing instead of a chronic illness.
  • Be supportive and compassionate by taking about happy memories you have with your parent. Stress that your concern is coming from a place of love.
  • Don’t bring up topics that are unrelated to your parent’s substance abuse. Keep your focus on the need to get your parent into addiction treatment.

If you believe that your parent may become violent if confronted about his or her substance abuse, do not try to have an intervention without the assistance of a mental health professional. Ensuring the safety of everyone in your family should be your top priority.

Taking Care of Your Own Needs

Having a parent who struggles with addiction is a traumatic experience due to the role reversal it involves. Normally, your parent is the one to care for you, guide you, and teach you how to prepare for the future. When addiction forces you to become your parent’s caretaker, feelings of confusion, anger, shame, and betrayal can result.

Seeking counseling can help you learn to deal with your feelings surrounding your parent’s addiction in a constructive manner. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Al-Ateen may also be useful in helping you to better understand the challenges associated with your situation.

Finally, you may find it useful to remember the 7 Cs of addiction as taught by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics:

I didn’t cause it.
I can’t cure it.
I can’t control it.
I can care for myself
By communicating my feelings,
Making healthy choices, and
By celebrating myself.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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