The High-Functioning Alcoholic

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

April is Alcohol Awareness Month: Great Time to be Mindful of Drinking Habits!

Challenge: take a few moments to be mindful of your drinking habits...

April is Alcohol Awareness Month which is intended to educate people and communities about the consequences of alcohol-related problems. There are over 18 million individuals or 8.5% of Americans who suffer from alcohol-use disorders. In addition, there are millions of individuals who experience the devastating effects of the alcohol problem of someone in their life. In fact, 25% of U.S. children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.

April 9th was National Alcohol Screening Day and an important part of Alcohol Awareness month. This day is intended to help individuals who may not know how much is too much to drink or if the amount that they drink is putting them at risk for injury, illness and addiction. Screening for Mental Health, Inc. was the first organization to introduce the concept of large-scale mental health screenings in 1991. These programs now include both in-person (mainly held at colleges and universities) and online screening programs (intended for the general public and military).
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According to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, only 25% of alcoholics ever receive treatment. High-functioning alcoholics (HFAs) and potential HFAs are the type of drinkers that need to take alcohol screening tests but are not always the ones that do. These individuals could benefit from using Alcohol Screening Day as an opportunity to take a brief amount of time to honestly assess their drinking habits. So often, drinking is something that is done mindlessly and individuals are not paying attention to how much nor how often they are drinking. Therefore, this can be an opportunity for individuals to be mindful about their drinking habits and assess if they need to make cut back on their drinking or ask for help.

Online Alcohol Screening Resources:

Mental Health Screening, Inc.
online alcohol screening tests for the general public, military and college students (colleges participating in Alcohol Screening Day are listed with links):
http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
"Rethinking Drinking" online assessment of drinking habits as well as a brief program to help individuals to set goals and cut back on their drinking:
http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/

Counseling Resource.com
4 question CAGE self-test screening:
http://counsellingresource.com/quizzes/alcohol-cage/index.html

Thinking About Your Drinking...

Mindfulness can involve simply taking a few moments to check in with yourself about your drinking habits.  You or a loved one may want to consider answering the following questions in order to be honest about the role alcohol plays in your lives.

Examining Your "Relationship" with Alcohol:

o Why do you drink?
o How often do you drink? Can you go more than a week
without drinking?
o Have you tried to control your drinking and if so, how
much time do you spend thinking about drinking or about
how not to drink too much?
o Can you imagine your life without alcohol?

Friendships:

o What activities do you and your friends like to do
together?
o Do you have friends who do not drink?
o Can you socialize or go to parties without drinking?

Interests:

o What is your favorite thing to do?
o Do you have interests, activities and hobbies that do
not involve drinking?
o Does drinking alcohol distract you from taking part in
these things?

Career/Academics:
o Does drinking interfere with your job, your grades
and/or the effort you put in (even slightly)?
o Do you excel professionally/academically and use your
success as an excuse to drink?
o Is alcohol your reward for working hard or doing your
academics?

Family:
o What is the drinking culture of your family?
o Do you hide your drinking from your family?
o Do you have a family history of alcohol problems?

More information about high-functioning alcoholics, alcoholism and treatment resources is available at: www.highfunctioningalcoholic.com

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.

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