5 Things to Do If You Suspect Your Loved One Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic

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Drinking alcohol can be part of a regular routine of an individual. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is normal for women to consume a maximum of one glass of alcoholic beverage per day and two glasses a day for men. However, when alcohol consumption gets out of hand, it might be a sign of an underlying drinking problem.

Alcoholism can be defined as the compulsive need to consume alcohol for a longer time or in larger amounts than originally intended. Apart from that, alcoholism often results in the individual’s inability to fulfill personal obligations, in addition to leading to poor judgment and dangerous behavior. A high-functioning alcoholic, on the other hand, is able to maintain a veneer of sobriety. However on the inside, they may already be experiencing the multiple negative physical and mental effects brought about by alcohol abuse.

There are many alcohol abuse treatment centers that offer individualized treatment programs for alcoholics. But there are ways you can help your loved one if you are suspecting them to be a high-functioning alcoholic, even before they begin treatment. Here’s how:

  1. Learn about Alcoholism

The first and probably most important thing to do when you suspect a loved one to be an alcoholic is to learn more about their addiction. Many articles that can be found online can provide insight on what alcoholism looks like in different people, or its warning signs. You may also want to learn more about the reasons or risk factors for becoming an alcoholic. This way, you can be more certain about your suspicion, and you are helping yourself become the right person to give support to your loved one.

Here are just some of the warning signs that your loved one may be a high-functioning alcoholic:

  • They are starting to have trouble keeping up with responsibilities at work or school.
  • They always drink in the morning, especially when they are alone.
  • They usually obsess about how and when to get their next drink.
  • They tend to brush off their drinking as something they do only as a way to reward themselves.
  • They pretend to be not really drinking too much when questioned about their behavior.
  • They joke about their drinking problem.
  • They hide bottles of alcohol in secret spots around the house.
  • They get angry when confronted about the way they consume alcohol.
  1. Know the Right Things to Say

When you suspect your loved one to be a high-functioning alcoholic, you have to be more tactful about how you communicate with them. Phrase your words in a positive and supportive manner. Let them know that you want to extend your help, but be wary about being too intrusive. Also be careful about inadvertently putting the blame on the person as this may cause them to be more distant rather than seek help from you.

For example, saying “I think you need help” may be judgmental and insensitive. Conversely, saying “I’m here if you need help” expresses your support without being hurtful.

  1. Listen with compassion

Listening with compassion means more than just hearing what they have to say. It means trying to understand where they are coming from without judgment and without making them feel guilty for it. You have to be prepared for whatever they will tell you, and you have to be ready to give advice if necessary.

If the other person reacts negatively to your words, you must also understand that they might still be in denial of their situation. However, don’t take it against them. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and make them feel that they still have your support no matter what.

  1. Encourage Them to Seek Treatment

If an honest and open-hearted conversation takes place, then it might be a sign that your loved one may be ready for the next step: getting help. Do some research and look for reputable rehabilitation centers you think will be convenient for them to go to. Present options so they don’t feel forced into choosing just one, and let them know that whatever option they take, you will be by their side.

Encouraging them to seek treatment, however, does not automatically mean they will want to get treatment right away. Many patients will refuse treatment the first time it is offered, so it is important that you do not give up as they prepare themselves for this long process.

  1. Plan an Intervention

An intervention may be the next best step if your loved one adamantly refuses to seek treatment. It is a deliberate course of action that involves thoughtful planning and a careful assessment of the situation. In planning an intervention, it would be wise to get help from a social worker, a psychiatrist, or an addiction expert and ask for their opinion and recommendations. 

An intervention is an encounter where the individual’s family and friends gather to show their support and “intervene” with the addict’s problem. Interventions are often emotionally charged, and there is a chance that the person will feel judged and walk out, so it is important to think about what to say in the intervention even before it takes place.

During an intervention, each family member and friend gets a chance to speak about the individual’s addiction issues. The goal must be to help the person recognize their own behavior and how it affects their well-being and relationship with others, especially with those in attendance. The intervention is being staged in the hope that the person will be encouraged to seek treatment for themselves.

Alcoholism is a highly treatable condition. For treatment to be successful, early intervention is necessary, and there are many ways by which a family member or friend can help through this process. It is especially important to recognize signs that a person might be a high-functioning alcoholic since more often than not, such individuals receive treatment only when the problem has become more manifest. Indeed, successful recovery from alcoholism requires the constant emotional support and involvement of the patient’s loved ones.

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