From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict

The Counselor's Corner - Questions about addiction and recovery

In house drug testing and the functioning alcoholic

In my previous blog, I stated that I receive many questions regarding a loved one's substance abuse issues. Though they are not long enough for me to write an entire blog, they merit comment, and are poignant and thoughtful. Hence, the Counselor's Corner - Questions about Addiction and Recovery will be a frequent blog on this site.

"Should we drug test our own child"?

I have a client whose 22 year old son lives with her and her husband. They are concerned about his non-compliance with remaining clean and sober and she wants to implement drug testing in an effort to monitor his progress.

I am an absolute proponent of RANDOM drug testing. It is a very effective and 99% fool proof way to know if your loved one is remaining clean and sober. However, I strongly advice against a family member administering this test on their own for the following reasons;

1) No matter how good the relationship is between child and parent, this situation may put a bit of a strain on it and if the relationship is prickly already, this commitment will only add additional pressure. No one is ever thrilled to participant in UA testing, so why generate any anger and resentment.

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2) Testing your loved one puts baby sitting on your schedule. Could be a real drag to your already full day of other responsibilities.

3) What if you and can't or don't want to take the time to test? Or your son states that he is too tired, too busy with homework or whatever? Are you going to stand there and pound on his bedroom door until he acquiesces? In addition, if he tests positive are you prepared to follow through with the consequences if it's in the evening or late at night? Not a particularly pleasant way to spend a night.

4) UA (Urinary Analysis) testing is personal and one has to watch very closely at the urination process so as to make sure the "testee" does not do a "pee switcheroo."

5) If you use a professional testing facility, there is no way to blame a parent for a faulty drug testing kit. Also, a professional center is set up so the alcoholic/addict calls in to find out if they are supposed to report for testing that day. Since the testing is random, they have to call in daily. By you getting out of the picture, your son will have to take full responsibility for his own testing; calling daily at a designated time, getting himself to the testing site and testing clean. All these factors are important toward him taking accountability toward a sober lifestyle.


"Is a "functioning alcoholic" still considered an alcoholic"?

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a 1000 times. The alcoholic/addict contends that they have never been fired from a job, had a DUI or drives intoxicated, only drinks at home, doesn't nearly drink as much as their friend Bob or Sue, can handle their liquor, so since all of that is true they can't possibly be an alcoholic. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Having a designated driver so you can get blitzed at a party or calling a cab at the end of an evening of heavy drinking is responsible for sure, but it does not make you exempt from being an alcoholic, just like any of the excuses listed previously.
If ones family members or friends are uncomfortable with the alcoholic intake or one can't remember the evening before then there is an alcoholic addiction. In a previous blog I listed 12 questions one can ask to determine alcoholic tendencies. You may want to explore it and see how many are answered "yes".

I had a client whose loved one hid his bottle of alcohol by the trash containers. Every night she would take out the trash several times to get a "pick me up" yet vehemently stated that she did not have a drinking problem. Really? Doesn't sound like sane behavior to me.

So, the answer is yes. I do believe that a functioning alcoholic is still considered an alcoholic, but is just luckier than other alcoholics and has bought more time. However luck and time eventually does run out.

If I can be of service, please visit my website at In addition, I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life - You and the Alcoholic/Addict at or on Amazon.
I am offering a holiday special to help family members with their boundaries and communication with the upcoming holidays. More information can be found on my website.


Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.


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