There isn’t just one type of alcoholic. Alcohol abuse is a spectrum, and the road of addiction is a deeply personal journey. This widely assumed belief was codified back in 2007, when scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (part of the National Institutes of Health) studied a group of alcoholics and identified five typical subtypes within that larger group: young adult, young antisocial, intermediate familial, chronic severe, and functional alcoholics.
What Is A Functional Alcoholic?
First, there was the “young adult subtype,” consisting of young adult problem drinkers with low rates of co-occurring disorders or drug use. Then, there were “young antisocials,” who have drinking problems along with mental illness and/or drug abuse. Third was the “intermediate familial subtype,” a group of middle-aged alcoholics with a family history of alcoholism and tendency to have mental illness. The most severe group, with just 9% of alcoholics falling within it, was the “chronic severe subtype.” Finally, nearly 20% of the alcoholics in the study were what the researchers called “functional” alcoholics.
Functional alcoholics typically look good from the outside. Generally middle-aged, they tend to have families, jobs, nice cars, an education, and all the trappings of “success.” With all of that going for them, why do they drink? According to the study, most of the individuals in this group had a family history of alcoholism. In addition, nearly 25% of the “functional” alcoholics suffered from major depression at least one point in their lives.
Those findings point to the sad truth of “functional” alcoholics. Despite all of the signs of outer success, they’re not functioning well on the inside. Many functional alcoholics are suffering from years of pain that they have tried to drown with alcohol or bury in all of their success.
Does A Functional Alcoholic Need Rehab?
Even if they never hit “rock bottom,” functional alcoholics absolutely are candidates for addiction treatment, including residential addiction treatment. First, they deserve it. Family history of addiction can cause deep-seated trauma — both a cause of and fuel for depression. It is only through dedicated treatment that such individuals can hope to find true freedom and happiness. Without treatment, the symptoms of that trauma will only get worse. At a certain point, no amount of alcohol will help soothe the pain any more.
Second, functional alcoholics need to know that rock bottom is where you stop digging. Even if you haven’t lost your job or your family yet, are you willing to? Getting help for your drinking before it takes a toll on your life is a great decision — and one that many people don’t ever have the opportunity to make. Choosing to ask for help means you don’t have to let a judge, doctor, or boss make that decision for you.
What Happens In Rehab?
You might be surprised to know that it isn’t only “rock bottom drunks” that seek addiction treatment. As a patient at a residential treatment center, you’re likely to find at least one other person who’s walking a similar path. At the same time, you’ll meet people who’ve fallen even further than you — so you can see what awaits you if you decide to continue drinking.
In treatment, you will have the time and support to truly heal the trauma and pain that you’ve buried for years. Masters-level clinicians can help you explore your emotional wounds at a pace that feels comfortable to you, equipping you every step of the way with tools to make your life even better.
How to Get Help for Drinking
If residential addiction treatment is more of a commitment than you are willing to make, explore the possibility of intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). It’s often even possible to fit IOP sessions around your day job, so you don’t have to disrupt your life any further than your drinking already has done.
No matter which treatment path you chose, at the end of treatment, you’ll be able to do more than just function. You’ll be able to thrive, living your best life in recovery.
Do you have questions about addiction treatment for high-functioning alcoholics? Contact Acqua Recovery for more information.