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The really successful, really annoying alcoholic

If getting clean and sober was about discipline, a guy like Michael Phelps would not have needed to go to rehab.Isolated arrogant business man finger flipping on little woman

Some of the most disciplined people I know are addicts and alcoholics. They actually use their discipline to sustain their habits. I know that sounds ridiculous but let me explain.

In order to prove to ourselves that our lives are not out of control, we exert control. The more out of control our drinking and drugging become, the more control we force upon other activities – and people – in our lives. Here’s how that worked for me.

I have been an athlete my whole life. Swimming, tennis, running, skiing and cycling. Sports gave me the confidence, endorphin rush and order in my life I needed to survive some tough times when I was a teen.

As the years passed and my alcoholism and drug use progressed, I relied on my athleticism to prove to myself and others that I had everything under control – including my drinking and drug use.

Sure, I might drink like an alcoholic but could a real alcoholic run a marathon? So, I ran a marathon. Then another marathon. And another. Could an alcoholic do a century – a 100-mile bike ride? So, I did a century. Then another. And another.

I had an opinion on every topic and you were entitled to it regardless of whether you asked for it.

We  become the director of not only our own lives but the lives of others. If only people would do things our way. We impose our will on others. The more they reject our demands, the harder we push.

Of course, we become isolated because no one wants to be around us. We pretend that is fine because you are a loser anyway. Friends slip away. Screw ’em.

The irony is that sometimes, this self-righteousness combined with a fanatical work ethic makes some of us very successful in our careers. And that only reinforces our belief that we are right and you are an idiot.

This gives us a right to drink and drug even more. It’s a crazy cycle and it goes on and on until the marriage ends in divorce, we lose our family and friends, end up in a major depression, in jail or with a gun in our mouth.

We are called high functioning alcoholics and addicts. How long can we keep this up? Years, decades…a lifetime.

We are very, very disciplined.



The really successful, really annoying alcoholic

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2016). The really successful, really annoying alcoholic. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 2 Sep 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Sep 2016
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