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The Functional Alcoholic



The Functional Alcoholic

Excerpted from Recovery Sunday Resource Guide: Reconciliation by the Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church (Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church, no date), pp. 8-9, adapted from an article by Janee S. Parnegg.  Used with permission.


The Functional Alcoholic does not necessary:

·        get drunk every time he or she drinks

·        drink a large amount

·        have hangovers

·        miss a lot of work

·        drink during the day, week or month

·        drink every day week or month

·        look bleary-eyed

·        have slurred speech

·        stagger

·        get unpleasant or belligerent with other people

·        drink in the morning

·        become physically abusive

·        crave a drink

·        show up late for work

·        have a hangover

·        get a DWI/DUI

·        ever look drunk

·        have blackouts

…the family usually sees the first symptoms, but don’t always know what they mean.


The Functional Alcoholic may have problems with:

·        sleeping

·        finances

·        sex

·        thinking

·        mood swings

·        health

·        flash anger

·        relationships

·        emotions

·        self-esteem

·        family

·        employment

·        the law

…maybe these are just normal problems, but they may be a cue to something bigger.


The Functional Alcoholic may:

·        drink the first couple of drinks rapidly

·        fix a drink first thing upon arriving home to relax after a hard day

·        need a drink before dealing with any family problems

·        consume a “drink or two” more even after others have stopped

·        have a ritual nightcap “in order to sleep”

·        be uncomfortable where no alcohol is available

·        make an excuse to leave a party early if little alcohol is served

·        “draw a blank” about conversations or happenings which occurred while   drinking—blackouts

·        explain drinking patterns, even though no one asked

·        make promises that aren’t kept


The Functional Alcoholic may miss work:

·        the 24-hour flu, especially popular on Monday

·        sinus headaches

·        food poisoning

·        allergy flare-ups

·        minor accidents

·        upset stomach

·        severe illness in family

·        death in family

·        bad cold

·        back pain

·        car trouble

·        migraine

·        cramps

·        toothache

…but does someone else make the call to the boss?


The Functional Alcoholic becomes disinterested in normal family activities:

·        home repairs

·        gardening

·        meal preparation

·        auto upkeep

·        children’s school work or special school programs

·        going out or staying home

·        forgetting appointments

·        errands not done


The Functional Alcoholic shows emotional signs:

·        irritability

·        throwing a fit over trivial things

·        aloof, sarcastic

·        showing mood swings—super happy or very down

·        melancholy and/or extremes of anxiety


The Functional Alcoholic shows physical signs:

·        disinterest in or an aggressive attitude toward sex

·        spending more time alone

·        losing weight, gaining weight

·        not grooming

·        skipping meals or picking at food

·        annoyed over any talk of his or her drinking

·        complaining about the use of or lack of money

·        procrastinating

·        becoming more withdrawn and isolated

…but surely there are other explanations for these signs.

·        the death of a friend or relative

·        job pressure

·        health problems

·        divorce or separation

·        “passages”


The Functional Alcoholic shows more obvious signs:

·        flushed face or grayish pallor

·        eyes less clear

·        nervous symptoms, high keyed, possible chain smoking

·        a very uptight appearance

·        drinking becomes less and less predictable

·        making sure there is “enough” liquor in the house

·        buys in large economy sizes

·        having more frequent memory blanks (blackouts)

·        when confronted about their drinking, becomes immediately defensive,    angry or belligerent

·        needs a morning drink—a beer or two “to get going”


The Functional Alcoholic explains (rationalizes) his or her drinking:

·        drank on an empty stomach

·        had to switch drinks, beer to gin

·        someone spilled the drinks

·        wasn’t drunk, was coming down with the flu


The Functional Alcoholic shifts the blame to you because you are:

·        nagging

·        extravagant

·        picky

·        cold

·        demanding

…you make me drink!


The Functional Alcoholic talks about:

·        controlling their drinking

·        going on the wagon

·        drinking only beer

·        drinking only vodka

·        stopping after three beers

·        limiting to just one glass of wine

…it’s only one drink!


The facts are that:

·        one 12-ounce beer has 0.42 ounce of alcohol

·        one 4-ounce glass of wine has 0.40 ounce of alcohol

·        one 1-ounce jigger of mixed drink has 0.40 ounce of alcohol

…in other words, a drink is a drink; alcohol is alcohol


…it won’t happen again!


Alcoholism is a progressive disease.  Look—do you see The Functional Alcoholic?


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