Often, when people think of drinking excessively, they picture binge drinking. This type of drinking is often portrayed in movies and television, for example, because it has a larger immediate impact. Maybe you have found yourself binge drinking at a party, doing things you might not normally do and then waking up the next morning feeling low.
While binge drinking is a real problem for many people, functional alcoholism can be just as damaging. Functional alcoholism often goes undetected because it is not as easily recognizable. However, if you are a functional alcoholic and get the necessary treatment for it, your life can become even better than you could ever imagine.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is incredibly common in the U.S., with one in six adults binge drinking four times a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Binge drinkers bring their blood alcohol concentration level up to at least 0.08 grams or consume at least five alcoholic beverages in one occasion at least one day per month.
If you have had issues with binge drinking, you may have experienced a number of health problems, like injuries and liver disease. Binge drinkers are also more prone to contract a sexually transmitted disease and have unplanned pregnancies because of not being able to think as clearly, which can impede decision-making skills.
Maybe you use alcohol as a way to escape unpleasant thoughts, to feel connected to your peers or to elevate your mood. Binge drinking can provide short-term pleasure, but often with unpleasant results. At best, you may feel hung over and sluggish the next day, and at its worst you may suffer alcohol poisoning, which can be really serious for your health.
While binge drinking can have real and lasting consequences, with the right treatment and support, it’s possible to change your life for the better. Reaching out for help is the first step toward a healthy future.
Am I A Functional Alcoholic?
While binge drinking can prevent someone from functioning until the hangover goes away, this isn’t true with functional alcoholism. Functional alcoholics usually drink throughout the day but can still participate in daily activities and routines. Women with functional alcoholism consume more than three drinks a day or seven drinks a week, and men consume four drinks a day or fourteen drinks a week.
Many functional alcoholics go to school, go to work and maintain relationships. These alcoholics may not appear to have a problem to an outsider looking in. If you are a functional alcoholic, you may experience some denial, as your alcoholism does not fit with what people normally think of when they picture someone who drinks too much. You might even feel like your successes wouldn’t be possible if you were an alcoholic and that you have a handle on things.
Many functional alcoholics are able to compartmentalize their drinking to the point where they think it’s under control. You might even work harder than your coworkers and find yourself up for raises and promotions. You might excel in your college environment at a level above that of your friends and classmates.
These successes may seem incongruent with the lifestyle of an alcoholic, and you could even begin to think that your success is tied into your drinking. This is a common belief and one that may be the biggest barrier to trying to get help.
Over time, functional alcoholics are not able to thrive in their daily activities, either because of being “found out” or because of a fear of being found out. You may find yourself on edge trying to keep up an appearance of control, all the while unable to stop focusing on when you can have your next drink.
For any alcoholic, the major sign of the disease is a dependency on alcohol. If you find yourself using alcohol as a coping mechanism, even if you’re able to function, alcoholism probably has a hold on you that you can’t shake.
Binge drinking and functional alcoholism are not always mutually exclusive. For example, someone can drink and function regularly during the week and then binge drink on weekends. While the two types of drinking look different, the dependency and the reasons for drinking are often the same.
Luckily, professionals are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about treatment and support programs for both binge drinkers and functional alcoholics. You can take steps toward reclaiming your life by reaching out to people in recovery. Recovery can be a lifelong process, but it is often able to help you lead a more quality and purposeful life.