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The term “functioning alcoholic” often brings to mind someone who maintains a seemingly normal life while secretly struggling with alcohol addiction. Unlike the stereotypical image of an alcoholic, a functioning alcoholic might hold down a steady job, maintain relationships, and fulfill daily responsibilities. However, this façade can mask a deep-rooted issue with alcohol dependency. Facilities like Sana at Stowe are equipped to provide specialized care and support for those grappling with this complex condition. Whether you are examining the stages of alcohol detoxification or wondering the criteria for alcoholism for yourself or a loved one, healing and recovery are possible. 

Defining a Functioning Alcoholic

A high functioning alcoholic is someone who can maintain a level of daily functionality despite an underlying addiction to alcohol. This individual often hides their drinking problem well, appearing to manage work, relationships, and personal responsibilities effectively. However, this illusion of control is fragile, and the consequences of their drinking often become apparent over time.

Misconception 1: Functioning Alcoholics Don’t Have a Real Problem

One of the biggest myths surrounding functioning alcoholics is the belief that they don’t have a serious problem because they seem to manage their lives. The reality is that alcohol addiction, regardless of how well it is hidden, poses severe physical and psychological risks. Over time, the health consequences can be just as devastating as those experienced by individuals who are unable to hide the amount of alcohol they consume.

Misconception 2: They Can Quit Anytime

Many functioning alcoholics believe they can quit drinking alcohol anytime they want, which is a dangerous misconception. Addiction alters brain chemistry, making it incredibly difficult to stop without professional help. This false sense of control can delay seeking necessary treatment from a medical professional and worsen the addiction.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Physical Effects

Alcohol addiction can lead to numerous health problems, including:

  • Liver Disease: Chronic alcohol consumption can cause fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
  • Heart Problems: Long-term drinking increases the risk of high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and stroke.
  • Digestive Issues: Alcohol can damage the stomach lining, leading to ulcers and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Immune System Suppression: Chronic drinking weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections.

Psychological Effects

The psychological impact of alcohol addiction includes:

  • Depression and Anxiety: Alcohol can exacerbate or contribute to mental health disorders.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Long-term alcohol use can affect memory, learning, and cognitive function.
  • Emotional Instability: Mood swings, irritability, and emotional outbursts are common among those struggling with alcohol addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Identifying a functioning alcoholic can be challenging, but there are signs and symptoms in daily life to watch for:

  • Increased Tolerance: Needing more alcohol to achieve the same effect.
  • Hiding Drinking: Concealing alcohol consumption from others.
  • Drinking Alone: Regularly consuming alcohol alone or in secret.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Gradual decline in work performance, neglecting personal responsibilities, or missing important events.
  • Legal Issues: DUIs or other legal problems related to alcohol use.
  • Health Problems: Frequent illnesses or unexplained health issues.

Criteria for Alcoholism

If you are unsure whether you or a loved one is a functioning alcoholic, you’ll want to complete the AUDIT assessment to take a deeper look at daily use. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder (AUD). These criteria include:

  • Drinking more or for longer than intended.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control drinking.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from its effects.
  • Craving alcohol.
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations due to drinking.
  • Continuing to drink despite social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up important activities because of alcohol use.
  • Drinking in hazardous situations.
  • Developing tolerance to alcohol.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Stages of Alcohol Detoxification

Once you’ve decided to get help for alcoholism treatment, the first step is detoxification. Detoxification is the first step in treating alcohol addiction and involves several stages:

  1. Withdrawal Symptoms Begin (6-12 hours after last drink): Symptoms like anxiety, nausea, and tremors can start.
  2. Peak of Symptoms (24-72 hours): Symptoms may peak, including severe tremors, hallucinations, and seizures.
  3. Gradual Improvement (4-7 days): Symptoms gradually decrease but can linger for weeks.

Medical supervision during detoxification is crucial to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Speak with an alcohol addiction treatment facility like Sana at Stowe in Vermont to find the best option. 

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

After detoxification, you’ll want to start your treatment for alcohol use disorder. This involves several approaches, often combined for the best outcome:

Rehabilitation Programs

Rehabilitation can be inpatient or outpatient. Holistic residential treatment centers, like Sana at Stowe, provide intensive care and support in a structured environment, while outpatient programs offer flexibility for individuals to continue their daily activities while receiving treatment.

Therapy and Counseling

Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy address the underlying issues of addiction and teach coping strategies.

Support Groups

Finding a support group provides peer support and a sense of community for individuals in recovery.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic treatments, including yoga, meditation, and nutritional counseling, support overall well-being and help manage stress and triggers.

How Long is Alcohol Rehab?

The length of alcohol rehab varies depending on the individual’s needs and the severity of the addiction. Programs can range from 30 days to several months, with longer stays often leading to better outcomes.

If you are Ready for Recovery, Sana at Stowe, VT is Ready

Understanding what a functioning alcoholic is and debunking the myths surrounding this condition is crucial for recognizing the severity of alcohol addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s important to seek help from professionals who can provide comprehensive treatment. 

Facilities like Sana at Stowe in Vermont offer tailored programs that address the unique needs of each individual, guiding them towards recovery and a healthier, alcohol-free life. You can reach us at (802) 566-5906, to start your healing journey.