The High-Functioning Alcoholic

Understanding this Hidden Class of Alcoholics from a Professional and Personal View

Characteristics of High-Functioning Alcoholics

Alcoholics have poor attendance at work. Alcoholics drink every day. Alcoholics are mostly old men. Alcoholics are usually homeless. Alcoholics are unable to do well in their careers. Alcoholics always drink in the morning. Read More

So whats the problem?

A very interesting breakdown. My understanding of a definition of an addiction, one that appears frequently throughout the literature, is "continued (drug) use inspite of adverse consequences".

Your description of HFA's doesn't appear to include many adverse consequences of their alcohol use or life problems in general. How is a High Functioning Alcoholic distinguished from a High Functioning Person Who Likes a Few Drinks? Is it the craving? Or the magnitude thereof? Or the simple amount of alcohol consumed?

Great question!

Your understanding of the term addiction in the general sense is correct. However, in the case of high-functioning alcoholics(HFAs), they may not experience the tangible losses that other alcoholics may. This is why they may slide through the cracks diagnostically and have loved ones making excuses for their drinking. There are many adverse consequences of an HFA's alcohol usage that I briefly touched upon above under the "Drinking Habits" list and which I expand upon in my book "Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic." Although HFAs may not initially have all of the external losses leading to a dramatic "bottom", they report experiencing emotional pain, guilt and shame from their drinking. They also are putting their lives at risk by drinking alcoholically in terms of blackouts, drinking and driving, health risks, etc. In time, their level of functioning may suffer as a result of their drinking, which may put their personal and professional life at risk. The main difference between an HFA and a "high-functioning person who likes a few drinks" is his or her relationship to alcohol. An HFA is "alcoholic" in that when the individual takes one drink an insatiable craving is set off for more, he or she obsesses about alcohol/when they can drink again, and when drunk behaves in ways that deviate from his or her moral standards. A "high-functioning person who likes a few drinks" needs to examine his or her relationship to alcohol and the importance that it plays in the individual's life. Could this person imagine living without alcohol in their life?

www.highfunctioningalcoholic.com

HFA

May I add something to this answer, "What sets a HFA apart from a high achiever in general, who likes a few drinks?" Since alcoholism is progressive, the HFA will eventually start to show cracks. You can't keep up the high functioning charade going forever if you are an alcoholic, negative consequences start to happen and pile up as time goes on. What could be easily be dismissed or explained away at one time, can no longer be ignored. And, as always, keep in mind it isn't the amount that a person drinks that sets them apart, it's how alcohol affects them.

I want to make another point. The term "high functioning alcoholic" is a misnomer in many ways. Yes, there may be achievements and success in the alcoholics life. But, if a person is an active alcoholic he is not in any way as high functioning as he would be if he were not drinking. An alcoholic cannot drink and be their best self - period. So, high functioning or not, the person is but a shadow of the self they would be if they were sober.

I think those that label themselves HFA do so to justify their continued drinking. And, it is such a shame, really. Because, as a person who is convinced she would have eventually died of alcoholism, and lived in despair for years trying to get it under control (after a number of years as a HFA, being a business owner, a 25 year marriage, etc....), then eventually losing just about everything but my children (home, money, jobs, etc....), I can tell you honestly, that I have never been this joyous and happy in life (five years sober), including when I was a child.

There has been a blossoming in my life that is unbelievable and beautiful. I write, I paint, I create....I feel like I'm living my own personal Renaissance. Not only did I stop drinking, but I embarked on a path of emotional and spiritual growth, learned to use DBT, among other things. It's not enough to put down the drink, you have to grow as an individual and find ways to turn your negative thought patterns around, ones you habitually learned and reinforced while drinking.

Life is so beautiful that it is hard to believe I fought tooth and nail to justify and continue my drinking for years. I know part of that was not wanting to be "one of them", the broken ones. Or, so I thought. A huge part of the reason people like to point to their high functioning and achievements is because it's proof they are "okay", not "one of them". Well, the stigma is the problem. What we need to do is stop hiding ourselves and say, ""'m one of them. I had to stop drinking or it would have killed me. And, it's the best thing I ever did because I have the best life ever." When people have beautiful lives after getting sober, it's a wonderful testament to how amazing life can be without alcohol. We need to lift that veil and be willing to out ourselves. My life is really amazing. I know people who don't know me well might even be envious. Well, people who DO know me well, and my whole story, are also envious because, you see, nobody gets through life unscathed. We all have something big to overcome and mine was alcohol.

I now have a great family life, a beautiful home, a business I built from scratch, a wonderful man, a healthy body, etc....I do have it good. But, I also lived in a squalid pit of despair. It was only after removing alcohol from my life that I created this beautiful jewel I am living. And, I'm not ashamed.

My biology was a huge part of why I became an alcoholic. I was a HFA for years - until I was not. I had a choice and it was truly life or death. Nobody stays in HFA limbo forever. It will catch up with you.

Life is so good. Who needs alcohol?

HFA

This: So, high functioning or not, the person is but a shadow of the self they would be if they were sober.

You've captured the situation perfectly with that one simple statement.

What surprises me about your

What surprises me about your post is the lack of acknowledgment of the upset that you caused on your close family. Your post is all about your lose but you show no remorse on the impact you had on others. HFA can be very self centred and this is what you are displaying in your post

I know that I am some form of

I know that I am some form of alcoholic. I need a drink each evening to have my routine. The only time I abstained from alcohol was
when I was pregnant with my son. I got right back on the train when he was 2, and I went back to work

In time

You make a point that the HFA person has yet to lose significant things in thier lives and therefore does not recognize a bottom. This seems to suggest that not feeling out of control helps sustain the drinking behavior. Once a notable negative consequence occurs are HFA's more likely to stop drinking than the low functioning alcoholic? It seems to me like the bum on the street represents a person who has lost everything and still continues to drink while the HFA is a person who continues to drink because they have lost very little. So, is a HFA at risk for ever becoming a LFA? It seems thier attempts at life mangement serve as a protector from this darker form of alcoholism. Once the loss comes they will stop. Also, almost all homeless people suffer from severe mental health issues. They have co-mormid substance abuse issues. Very very few were once successful people who lost everything to booze. They had little to begin with.

Response to "In Time"

It is really important to note that alcoholic “bottoms” are different for each person. For some, the bottom is emotional, others it is a professional loss and still others legal trouble. Part of the disease of alcoholism is the inability to stop drinking even when negative consequences are occurring. For HFAs, they may be blacking out, going to work hungover, embarrassing themselves when drunk but continue to drink because the visible entities in their life are still in place such as their job, home, romantic relationship, etc. Some HFAs report seeking treatment and getting sober when their grades slipped or when they felt their work performance was suffering. Yet others were arrested for a DUI or ended up in the hospital because their psychological and physical health was failing, but both continued to drink. Alcoholics often report that they may have a moment of “grace” that allows them to see that they need help, but some go one to drink after that, there is no true pattern. HFA's efforts towards “life management” often give a false sense of security, for they are “playing with fire.” Some HFAs are able to maintain a level of functioning personally and professionally into late adulthood without ever becoming low functioning. They will experience internal losses and their health and level of functioning may deteriorate significantly through the years. However, these HFAs either do not believe they are alcoholic, or don't have the sense of desperation often necessary to seek help for their drinking. Other HFAs may be high-functioning for a shorter amount of time and then experience serious losses (ie, career,family, housing) becoming more like the stereotypical "skid row" alcoholic (which according to the NIAAA represent only 9% of all alcoholics). Your comment is correct about homeless people often suffering from mental health(dual diagnosis) and substance abuse issues. Which is further evidence that the stereotype of the “typical” alcoholic is not accurate.

www.highfunctioningalcoholic.com

a book that's right in line with this

I just finished a book called Raise the Bottom. As a manager, it's important to know that alcoholics can be high functioning. In fact, some attributes of alcoholism are the same as attributes of people who are succesful in the workplace, until the disease progresses. Great read and I recommend.
http://www.raisethebottom.come

alcohol dependant

Nice article. Alcohol dependent of every person is cause to many factor. It has many reason of their addiction and that is why it should be threaten differently.

Nice article and very

Nice article and very informative. But the question is how can you approach an HFA person if they can say to you that they do nothing wrong and proven it by their status in life?

response to "Nice article and very"

Part of the denial that high-functioning alcoholics (HFA)experience is the true belief that because they are successful professionally that they could not be alcoholic. If you are planning to approach an HFA it is important for you to be informed about the truth of alcoholis and the ability to challenge the HFAs denial. Alcoholism is not about how a person can maintain their "status" but about their relationship to alcohol (ie, loss of control of their intake, obsessing about alcohol, loss of morals when drinking, etc.).

It also can be effective to express how the HFA's drinking has negatively affected you or those around you. HFAs often do not have concrete evidence that their drinking is hurting others and it is crucial that their loved ones have the courage to express how the HFAs drinking has negatively impacted their lives.

It is also important to set boundaries and limits with an HFAs so that they get the message that their drinking is a serious problem leading others to choose not to be around them.

Al-Anon support groups can be a great support for loved ones of alcoholics to help navigate the complicated dynamics that can occur when you have an HFA in your life.

Nice article to read. The

Nice article to read. The concerns about this HFA persons is their health and not their prepositions in life.

But I don't want to change

Yes, I admit to being a high-functioning alcoholic. I maintain "caps" on my drinking. I drink alcoholically, yet I never drink during the morning or daytime -- I live a normal life -- and I stop drinking long before I black out or sow the seeds of a hangover. Also, I NEVER combine drinking (even a sip) with driving. Despite these sanity checks, I know that I'm dependent on alcohol. I drink to reward myself for good times or relieve the stress of bad times. I can't go for very long without alcohol.

I don't want to change. I've made a compromise with my addiction, and I'm happy with the balance. So, what's the big deal? I'm not hurting myself, and I don't hurt my loved ones. I'm a happy drunk. Why should I worry?

Dear happy drunk:

I don't know what your family situation is, but I have to wonder if you believe that whoever it is that loves you, cares what happens to you? What about your health? I am married to someone who sounds a little like you. I worry about his health because I plan to stay married to him and would hate to see him get sick, and possibly die young, due to irresponsible drinking. What about my kids? Don't they deserve to have their dad around? Also, if you don't drink and drive, then who drives you around when you're drinking? What if one of your loved ones needed you, and you couldn't help due to being under the influence? What then? Just wondering if you have ever thought about these types of things...

You deserve to get away from

You deserve to get away from that person love or not, do not allow your love for him turn into co-dependancy that you will only pass on to your children, then they too will make the same or similar choices.

Getting married to any alcohilic is only asking for a lifetime of sevastation, sorrow and disapointment. If you got married to that person before he began drinking,you might want to ask yourself what happened? What was that person's childhood.
If you married that person and he drank before, you might want to ask yourself, did you thinking you could change them? If this is the case, that too is an alcoholic trait. Being co-depenant makes people think they can fix others when the truth is, you can only fix yourself and teach your kids good healthy boundaries, good healthy coping skills because it sounds like they are going to need it!

If they do not learn now what is going on wrong or the wrong things they are learning, the alcoholic traits being driven further into their psyche every day,year they live around an alcoholic, you and your children should find therapists to help you and them to identify the alcoholic traits before its too late...
Good luck to you. I hope you seek advice from someone who is not or was not an alcoholic,because this person is still in denial blaming society for those who drink. They do it because something went wrong somewhere in their lives,whether childhood, or ??? Instead of admitting there was anyting wrong they began drinking as a method to cope with whatever it was. Just like this person saying they do not harm those they love, drinking 1 drink, their behavior, their traits, all placing kids at risk, how is that love?

Please don't confuse love with co-dependantcy there is a difference, there are many self-help books on the subject, you might go find an Ala non group, sometimes they are difficult though because many in ala non are recovering alcoholics, support groups don't always mean no alcohol ever.... Educate yourself about your situation, then get help. Your kids are counting on you to make the best choices for them since they are not able yet to make their own.....Parents are supposed to protect their children,and that is not just from sex offenders,or drugs,sometimes it is from the person we sleep next too every night.

Unfortunately we don't always make the best decisions when it comes to either the father we love, the wife we love who do drink everyday. We want to keep them because we love them,but if they are not loving themselves, how much love are you or you kids actually getting.

"Wherehousing", my word from my book, is also not love. Roof,food,money,, that is not love, that is just money....

HFA

Hey, I am what you call an HFA... but I am confused by the references you make, because I am a WOMAN HFA... I DO NOT obsess about the next drink, I DO NOT sustain family relationships, ONE drink does NOT set the craving... the time of day or the stress sets it off.. but yes, i feel the emotional and guilt and pain and blackout problems you discuss.. and yes, I am playing with fire, and i make embarrassing decisions. But the writer who told you that she was an hfa wanting to continue, and whats wrong with that? well, coodos to her.. if she can control her drinking, she is NOT one of us.. idiot...ps. the reason I came here was to find out the hard facts. Why do we loose control of our bowels? it is causing me problems in my sexual life now... and I do not know what to do to stop shitting on my lover.. thanks, hfa confused.

NORMAL, Not hurting anyone!

You tell yourself you are NOT hurting those you love... Why don't you ask them, really ask them. I bet none will tell you the truth because you think each time you yell or get elevated in tone you are just the most pleasant human to be around...
That is the narcassim taking telling yourself you are not hurting yourself, or those you love when you are hurting yourself every day, year your puttin gyour liver and pancreas in modes to produce more to sustain your insulin due to the sugar in the alcohol you consume. Or your liver whether you bet blackout drunk or not the stress you place on your liver is being self injurous, self loathing, meaning you don't like yourself very much so how can you love your family members. That is your denial...Alcoholics functioning or not harm every single person they come in contact with, each time someone has to smell the alcohol sweating out of you,kiss you with the stench of alcohol on your breath that they have just gotten confortable or as you call it (NORMAL). Even a beaten dog will think after they take a beating everyday is normal...You're not normal, normal for a drunk maybe,but normal in the sense you have some idea what life is without alcohol, you have no idea. All of you who do what you do, and I don't believe you have NEVER driven under the influence and I am NOT talking sloppy fall down drunk either, I am talking, 1 maybe 2 drinks even just a beer is drinking under the influence, you just haven't gotten caught yet, or killed someone yet.
That is denial.... The same denial that keeps you drinking everyday telling yourself you are not hurting yourself or those you love when you are every single drink you swallow.....If you are talking about kids, they will be when they grow up adults of alcoholism, ADA's or become one just like you because they are in danger being predisposed of alcoholic traits even if they never take a drink. They are already alcoholics, learning poor coping skills because that how you deal with stress. Thats how you are teaching them if you have kids to deal with problems. They will copy you and lie to themselves and maybe they will not care about driving after they become blackout drunk and kill someone or just injure whomever to a point where that person wants to die everyday because they can't handle the physical pain they live in everyday due to someone else drinking while under the influence like my son. My son didn't do anything to that guy,yet its my son who wishes and says a lot how he should not be here, why did that dr. bring him back! He did work hard becoming a Jet Boat Captain, and someone else said, naw,,it was only one beer,,im not drunk...

You all say the same thing and it is selfish just like my mother who used to say,"To bad Im the grown up". Yet at age 8 I was cleaning up her vomit, dealing with the different man in my house every single morning eating what food we did have. Do as I say not as I do she'd say, I am just glad what she did disgused me so much I never wanted to be like her. Strong enough seeing her be a disgusting human,that made me strong enough to never be what she was.
Every drink you drink and tell yourself you are not hurting anyone so its your right, your body, your life, it is your families life too and you are affecting them in very negative ways that oyu are too narcissistic to see the harm you are causing and unwilling to let anyone say what they really feel and think about you and your drinking that you say is normal, and okay because you go to work everyday therefore thats normal. Normal for an alcoholic who goes to work,yep normal for an alcoholic who works.....

I am like you...this is what

I am like you...this is what I do also

Response to "But I don't want to change"

I have actually addressed the question of what is the problem with being a high-functioning alcoholic in another posting on this blog:
http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-high-functioning-alcoholic/200...

Specifically, alcoholics often set rules and limits around their drinking in order to justify and excuse it. When you have to control something then it is out of control. Therefore, given the progressive nature of alcoholism, it is crucial to keep in mind that you may reach a point where you are unable to maintain your "caps" on your drinking.

You have a condition that you are choosing not to receive treatment for that can lead to a variety of health problems. In addition, drinking is a maladaptive coping mechanism that prevents alcoholics from learning ways to deal with stress and life problems- essentially stunting emotional growth. What could you do with your life if you were free from the shackles of alcohol?

You mentioned that you are a "happy drunk" but the real question is are you a happy person when you are sober?

"Happy" drunk

Touche !!!

I don't mean to be harsh, but he sounds like he has a "great" rationalization system going on. And WHY post to this blog if deep down he isn't saying "HELP ME!" ?

I've BEEN THERE. I didn't want to CHANGE (for me- I DON'T want to GROW UP) and I couldn't conceive the notion I COULD be HAPPY without being "under the influence."

I'm grateful I know NOW what I didn't know THEN (only by committing myself to abstain from alcohol and drugs- WITH the help of others).

Your reply to happy drunk

I think you ARE being harsh. I think what's important is that this guy found this blog and is saying what's on his mind. Let this be a place of dialogue, not judgment. If you have "been there" then surely you must have some compassion.
I will share with you one of my favorite quotes:
" A thing cannot change, until it becomes what it is."

We are all just trying to find our way through this thing-where ever we are on the path.
-Peace-

seriously?

Hey, I am what you call an HFA... but I am confused by the references you make, because I am a WOMAN HFA... I DO NOT obsess about the next drink, I DO NOT sustain family relationships, ONE drink does NOT set the craving... the time of day or the stress sets it off.. but yes, i feel the emotional and guilt and pain and blackout problems you discuss.. and yes, I am playing with fire, and i make embarrassing decisions. But the writer who told you that she was an hfa wanting to continue, and whats wrong with that? well, coodos to her.. if she can control her drinking, she is NOT one of us.. idiot...ps. the reason I came here was to find out the hard facts. Why do we loose control of our bowels? it is causing me problems in my sexual life now... and I do not know what to do to stop shitting on my lover.. thanks, hfa confused.

Spread the word...

Just found this website after my lawyer recommended it. Going through a divorce with HFA who literally ignored me (would walk past me, say hello to the dog, on his way to vodka). The final straw was escalating drunk violence with children...the result is his recent arrest and removal from home for punching my six year old daughter while passed out. But he doesn't have a drinking problem and the divorce is all my fault b/c I found someone else. Gee, wonder why...

This started 6 weeks after marriage when I discovered he was using cocaine. That was 12+ years ago. He switched to vodka after kicking the coke habit in 2004. The sad things is, that despite his going through 4th rehab by court order, I know he still hasn't hit rock bottom and he will drink again.

I think this issue is more prevalent than we know because so many people are HFAs and "don't want to change." It's easier to believe the stereotype of the falling down drunk than to admit to being an HFA and doing something about it, right?

response to "Spread the Word"

I am glad that you found this blog and I hope that some of the topics are helpful for you. It sounds like you are going through a painful divorce.

As you mentioned, the stereotype of the "falling down drunk" allows so many HFAs to justify and minimize their addiction. For HFAs it is easier to compare themselves to the worst case scenario, which feeds their denial that they have not hit "bottom."

I would encourage you and your daughter to attend therapy in order to have additional support and means to process all that you have experienced as a result of your husband's addictions.

My HFA and the price we all pay

After 24 years of marriage and two children, I have just recently accepted the fact that I'm married to an "alcoholic", a High Functioning Alcoholic, but an alcoholic none the less. It was as if a light bulb went off when I finally realized that the numerous problems we were experiencing were due to his drinking. It's really only been in the last 5 years that the problems have escalated to a point where I began to wonder what was going on. When I would ask him how much he had to drink, he would always lie and say 2 or 3. Then I found his hiding techniques and started counting and I realized that this has been going on a long time. And when I started watching his behavior I realized he is obsessing over alcohol, when he can drink without me noticing, where he can hide it to avoid detection, how he slams down a 6 pack before noon and then sleeps it off and why he goes on in the evening to finish another 6 pack and he's "so tired" he has to go to bed early. He also minimizes his drinking and surrounds himself with very heavy drinkers. He's experiencing health problems that he thinks are totally unrelated, a groin pull that isn't getting better. But when you drink as much as he does, his joints are dehydrated, he falls and is not steady and over time it just takes its toll. His body is too busy metabolizing alcohol to heal properly. At least this is my suspicion. He's also too checked out to go to the doctor when he should and follow the doctor's orders. Why should he when he can drink his pain away.

He is very deceptive and I guess I had an incentive to look the other way or just not pay much attention to what was going on around me. He is the primary bread winner, now the sole money earner and insurance provider in our family. He is very smart, able to fix anything, flips houses and makes lots of money doing it, flies airplanes, can do anything he wants or sets his mind to. He is also an excellent money manager and someone who I rely on for lots of things.

The problems arose when I realized what this was doing to my older daughter and now our 2 year old. He would have these mood swings and act funny. Either mad at the world and his job loss or mad at me a lot. We would get in huge fights. He would feel sorry for himself or would be overly jovial and act very annoying. I seriously thought he was losing his mind or that there was something wrong with me. He had had a few violent outbursts over the years but nothing like hitting me. He threw a chair at the dinner table once in front of my daughter but for the most part he is a "sleepy drunk". This made the problem even more difficult to diagnose because there wasn't any on-going violence but when added all up it all made sense. Both of our families have noticed the change in him recently and have made comments like what's wrong with him etc. which I guess is the effect of the progression of the disease. He tries to pick fights with me when he's drunk and he recently had a problem at work where he almost lost his job. He slowed his drinking down a lot after that but then it gradually picked back up. He drinks every day between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 6 packs a day. I had no idea he was drinking this much. But now I know.

There is also a huge emotional toll on me and our family. He's checked out most of the time. Unwilling or unable to participate in family outings. Too "depressed" or too "tired" to go anywhere and mostly sits in his chair. We have grown so far apart I'm afraid we may never get back to a normal family life again. I'm losing sleep over this and have a hard time concentrating on anything but this problem at the moment. It's making me depressed and I feel VERY lonely.

I am so glad I found your blog and the articles and when I read them it was if you were describing my life. Al-Anon has really helped me as well. I've only been to a couple of meetings but I was surprised at how I could relate to the problems these people describe with their own reactions to their alcoholic. I could also relate to the things their alcoholics do and say. It makes me feel better that I'm not alone.

Sorry for such a long post but this is all so new to me and I needed to vent. Hopefully someone can learn from my experience and from your blogs and book. If nothing else, the person that wrote about why should I quit, it's not hurting anyone else can see that that may be true, even for 15 or 20 years, but eventually it takes its toll and progresses to a point where there is no turning back, where the damage can't be undone to your brain, your body, your job or the people around you.

I am in the same situation

Thank you for writing what you did. It is so nice to know that I am not the only person in this situation. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and have two children, 16 and 14. I have just come to the realization that my husband is a high functioning alcoholic. He has a very good paying job that he hates, but he has always hated his jobs. When I ask him what kind of job would make him happy...he says that he would just like to retire. He's 50. This scares me because I'm afraid that he will just drink more if he has more free time.

I finally talked to him last week and told him how worried I was about our relationship. I also saw a counselor who said that the alcohol could be a causing major issues that we are having. There is a history of alcoholism in his family. I think I was in total denial. At the time I didn't realize that many of our problems were related to his drinking. But now I'm realizing that the fact that we don't connect emotionally and that he can't talk about his feelings is because he has been using alcohol as a buffer?.

I feel incredibly guilty because I don't work, live in a beautiful house, have 2 great kids and convinced myself that my marriage was fine because I had all of the material things. The drinking has started to affect his health. I have been researching all of the physical issues that he has and realize that they are all connected to his drinking.

Since I talked to him last week...he has been trying to make things better, but I am just angry at this point and don't know what to do. I'm seeing the counselor again this week and hope that maybe she can help me figure out if I can or should fix my marriage.

Wow...talk about venting. Please let me know how you are doing and what has happened since you wrote your post.

Thank you for reading this.

Treatment options for HFA's or others

Sarah,
I just came across your blog and have read a fair amount of it.

I will qualify myself in that I abuse alcohol. I may be a HFA or even a a medium functioning alcohol abuser. Right now I identify myself as a person with an alcohol problem/addiction who is in a growth process. I have experienced long tern sobriety (16 years without alcohol or drugs) and then lapsed. It has been nearly 4 years since I started drinking again. I left AA consciously after about year 5 and continued to grow in my sober life through therapy. After a bad depression I chose to pick up the drink again. I remain in therapy and have also tried SMART mtgs. Truth be told, if I could afford it I would go into treatment today; an alternative treatment center that offered a non-AA program. I believe there are a few in the United States. ( It seems to me that generally medical insurance is covering less and less in the way of treatment for alcohol abuse-even12 step centered treatment.)

I am GLAD to read that this topic (of HFA's) is being explored--The idea that there are many degrees and "looks" to alcohol abuse (and other addictive behaviors).

What I take issue with is the treatment options. AA is not the cure all. Only 1% of people that go to AA are known to maintain long tern abstinence (defined as1 yr.) These are AA's numbers.
I wish that therapists, doctors, treatment professionals would begin to open up to other modalities. And that alcoholism is a disease has not been proven.
It's great that we can all have more awareness of the many faces and colors of addiction, whether it be food, chemicals, the list goes on...but I believe that until the treatment community and those who fund them remain attached to the very limited 12 step model, then only the same small numbers will benefit.

Further I think long term sobriety is just difficult to maintain. The few folks that I do see that have achieved long term sobriety seem depressed or just staving off the drink. Sure, AA can help that 1% get a running start, but can't see one through the long haul, in my opinion.

I bring up my personal situation because I think it qualifies me to talk about this. I really have experienced this from many sides. I took issue with AA in sobriety and I believe in my heart of hearts, that group and one on one therapy was what helped me to stay sober as long as I did. That was what *I* needed then. ( I realize I have introduced another topic here: long term sobriety.)

I guess my point is: scientist and psychologists are finding out so much about how to identify addiction, but there is not much new developing in the area of treatment. I don't blame my personal situation on this specifically, but it seems like if we have all of these "addicts"/ "alcoholics" on our collective hands then we (the treatment community) have got to be significantly more open-minded, creative and proactive in helping to treat them.

Reponse to "Treatment Options for HFAs or Others"

It seems that you have traveled a long road in terms of your recovery process. You mentioned several important points, the first is that your depression led to your relapse after 16 years sober. It is really important to seek help for co-occurring conditions through therapy and if recommended, medication treatment. Alcohol recovery programs are meant to treat alcoholism and not outside mental health issues.

You also raised the point that there are many ways to get and remain sober. However, it is recommended that alcoholics getting sober (detox first for those physically dependent on alcohol) attend a recovery program (A.A., SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety) as well as therapy. Group therapy can be helpful as you had mentioned.

In terms of the statistic that you reported about A.A.'s supposed recovery rate of 1%. I wanted to clarify that according to the 2008 A.A. membership survey, 31% of members have been sober less than 1 yr., 24% have been sober between 1-5 years, 12% have been sober between 5-10 years and 33% have been sober for more than 10 years. (http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-48_07survey.pdf)

It is possible to obtain long-term recovery, I have seen people sober for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, etc. who have found peace in their lives.

It may be important for you to explore in therapy what has blocked you from finding happiness in recovery- for until you get to the root of that issue, you will always romanticize drinking and be tempted to drink again.

Thank you for addressing my

Thank you for addressing my comment and I tend to agree with you on most points you make.

As for me personally, yes I have been on medication and in therapy for depression through out my sobriety and in my re-lapse. I continue to explore my drinking and remain as conscious as possible during this time. I have not given up working on this.

I believe that the 1% I alluded to includes people who go to AA initially. Unfortunately I am unable to fund my source at this moment, ( A book I lent out and was not returned) but I believe professionals such as Stanton Peele say it may be around 5%. I'm glad to see AA posting some numbers, though.
So the numbers AA proclaims are 8,000 random people who attend AA., ot everyone who ever tried AA. It is interesting to note that AA's numbers on the document you sited are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male.

Anyway, it sounds like you are open to other treatment options. I'm glad you are open-minded. Thank you for the dialogue. I felt the need to get my thoughts posted on behalf of people who AA is not a fit for and also for some who may have lapsed after a long term sobriety. Since my long road in a recovery process (which I remain on) I have seen, for me and others, that treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
I wish you success with your book, your findings, your practice and your recovery process.
Sincerely, -Charlotte

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C., LPC, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic: Professional Views and Personal Insights.

more...

Subscribe to The High-Functioning Alcoholic

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?