16 thoughts on “5 Tips For Recognizing The High-Functioning Alcoholic Or Addict

  • February 3, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I like how you said that high functioning alcoholics are ‘masters of disguise’ there is no better way to describe these individuals. I have personally known a few addicts who fit the above description. It is very unfortunate because these individuals are not yet ready to admit that they have a problem; therefore, are not willing to get help. Thanks for the article David.

  • May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I am a high functioning addict. I have been so for 12 years now. Opium tea is my D.O.C

    Its legal, cheap and plentiful. It costs me less than it would to smoke 10 cigs a day.

    My partner uses the same drug. We are both professionals, we have our own house, pay the bills,care for my elderly parents, play the game. Neither of us drink or smoke, but when we get home we unwind with a cup of Opium tea. We picked the habit in Morocco where we lived for a year. Neither of us have had a bad lot, nor do we blame anyone else for our indiscretion.

    Life in all honestly, is not that bad at all. We live well and enjoy ourselves, we do not have kids to corrupt fortunately.

    But I do worry about our joint addiction. We definitely enable each other. I think it will be me who has to put my foot down and call time on it.

    The usual avenues are not open to us because of professional reasons. I intend to obtain some clonidine and a non addictive sedative to ease the ‘pains of sleep’ and get us both on the road to recovery.
    I have recently taken up yoga and meditation and think this skills will help in my recovery.

    Wish us luck.

    • February 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      I am also a high functioning addict. Two glasses of wine help relax my intense anxiety and self hatred.

      I am in treatment with a therapist. We discuss my problem because it often comes into the conversation when I discuss how much I self harm (cutting) and my suicide attempts. Only by sedating myself can I stop these impulses.

      I hope you will find the time and space to look to yourself, and find a therapist who is wise and gentle enough to help you work through the reasons for your addiction. Sometimes it isn’t the time to give up your ‘tea’ or wine or whatever works for you.

      There is always a reason for the addiction. You deserve to take care of yourself and discover how to self care without the use of substance abuse.

      Good luck and lots of love.

  • October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    A friend’s former boyfriend – still a friend -fits this or fit this in the past – he was charming, but the charm has gone. The first wife is gone, the children suffered and grew up pretty much without him; the jobs are now gone; his looks are gone. He is currently sober – just a short time, no reason to believe it’s over. He’s been through countless detoxes and programs, is capable of winning over any new counselor, while heading down to the depths. I don’t know how many people like him are out there, but I know that attempts to understand why nothing has ever been the “bottom” or why no drugs of program has ever been sufficient to maintain sobriety. I would appreciate it if you brought your expertise to the discussion of people like this – who don’t stop drinking (or using). What % of alcoholics are like this?

  • January 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Here’s my question: if there are no adverse effects — if the HFA does not “get sloppy” or miss dates or have health problems — what is wrong with being an addict?

    • March 2, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      Unfortunately, there is never “no” adverse affects. A HFA can go through the motions of life, but the reality is that they are not emotionally invested in their life outside their addiction. If choices have to be made, the addiction will win out. AND those around them will sense that they are committed elsewhere, that they are emotionally invested elsewhere. What the addict doesn’t realize is, that people around them are hurt that the addict looks to the addiction for comfort, and is committed to it. The addiction is really the HFA’s primary relationship and the HFA will protect it aggressively.

      • October 5, 2014 at 12:39 am

        Adverse effects are accumulative in all ways physically and mentally, and as Susan said, people around the HFA will grow to understand that the addiction is way more important to the HFA than the people and events in their lives. For 30 plus years, I was the one who actively raised three children and ran a business while my husband happily came along for the ride as long as he could drink. For ten years now, since the children have moved away from home, he basically drinks by himself and comes along if I plan to go and do something but relishes the times when he knows he will be meeting up with other drinkers so his excessive drinking will not be so noticeable and he can pat himself on the back that he is not drinking alone. His physical and mental health is deteriorating more and more as he approaches sixty. He left our business three years ago while I continue to manage it and now he doesn’t work at any job other than some home renos at our home which takes him forever, likely because he is drinking while he does it. He sleeps hours more than I do every night and his energy levels are half mine. Yet he acts like he has no problem.

  • February 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    I have 3 married daughters by my wife who became
    a serious alcoholic after 25 good years of marriage.She insisted on a divorce to join a man who would drink with her. That and other affairs didn’t work out well, so she has “rejoined the family” by moving close to one of my daughters. I asked her point-blank if she’s still drinking She said “Oh just a little wine on doctor’s advice”. Now she’s telling lies about me and alienating my daughters from me. There’s animosity spreading through the family, but they all seem to accept this sad behavior.Let “sleeping dogs lie”, they say. I’ve suggested consulting an interventionist, but no else likes the idea. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.Perhaps I must accept the
    loss of my family. I don’t want a fight with my ex-wife. That would just cause more pain for all of us. Warmest regards, Dad Ken

  • April 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    My boyfriend of two years is highly functioning and heavy drinker every night after work due to “stress” in his business, then “stress” selling his business, then “stress’ in the sale taking so long, then “stress’ because his father was ill.
    All reasons to drink,,could hardly make it past 5:00 each night. His father on his death bed wanted him to stop drinking vodka ( actually stopping drinking, So when his father died a week later, he switched to getting drunk on wine. I finally couldn’t watch him and left him. He had a quad heart bypass 6 years ago, and lies to his Dr on how much he drinks (just in the evenings) Last week he had a TIA that lasted more than 30 minutes. ended up in Emergency, and is now on major blood thinners, told by both Dr’s that he can’t drink anything or he could bleed out and die. Now he’s been sober two weeks and thinks life is good and wants me to come back to him. I don’t think I really know who this guy is anymore.. during the drinking he bounced from saying he loved me, and then backing up “scared” of commitment Lots of false promises, and now everything will be wonderful as he CAN”T drink.. Never been through anything like this and would love some insight and advise on how to handle this.
    Bless all of you that help…

  • May 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I am in love with a high-functioning addict. He’s so wonderful; intelligent, brilliant, really. Handsome, kind, generous, funny, all those great things. But ever since I met him, he has had issues with drugs. Coming from a family without any addiction problems, it took me some time to understand addiction – including recognizing it, how it manifests itself, and how it impacts me as a person. It took me going through major personal transformation to finally realize that the neglect I suffered throughout the relationship wasn’t a personal slight; I will always be “less than” his drugs.

    The hardest part for me in living in the same city as my coke-addicted ex-fiance is that no one else knows the suffering I am going through and no one else can see that he has a problem. He hides it so well. I want to love him and help him. I’m torn between sticking around and helping plan an intervention, or just leaving him all together and forgetting about the painful last three years of my life.

    If anyone has advice, experience or some thoughts to share, please do. Always open to more advice.

    Thank you.

    • July 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Onemorefix,

      Sorry to hear what you are going through. I put my Wife through exaactly the same as you suffered. She would describe me in a similar way to how you described your ex-fiance. However, I hid my coke addiction from her initially, but trying to hide a coke problem is like trying to hide an elephant! When it came out, she was shocked but stood by me as I was very convincing when I said I wanted to give up. I was convinced my willpower would enable me to give it up once and for all. However, each time I tried with a new resolve, I would fail a couple of weeks later, going out on a huge binge which would be triggered by alcohol. Each time I failed, I would try again with a new resolve – ‘this time will be different’ I thought. However, I have since been told the definition of madness is to do exactly the same and expect a different result. My Wife left me several times as she couldn’t understand why I kept on having these coke binges and how could I do it to her? However, the addict is powerless, which to functioing addicts with a history of success is just unimaginable. ‘Of course I can do it, I will just try harder’ – ha ha, no chance. An addict using willpower alone is like trying to lift a house above your head – impossible. Please don’t take it personally, because it is not you and nothing you can do will change him. I would advise you to leave him and move on with your life unless he seeks help. I don’t mean go through the motions, I mean go to Alcoholics Anonymous / Cocaine anonymous for 100 consecutive days. The problem is not the drug / booze etc. – he is the problem and he HAS to give up all mind altering drugs, and let’s be clear, alcohol is a drug too. If he doesn’t, he has no chance whatsoever. Also, if you do stick around, don’t let him fool you / himself that AA is a cult, or ‘is not for him’ or ‘they’re not like me’ because if he LISTENS, then he will hear loads of stories that are just like him. It’s weird at first that some old granny or the down and out drunk have similar experiences, but that is because addiction affects a myriad of people and strip away material things and our egos and we’re all the same. Today, I have been clean and sober for five years; I am still with my Wife and we now have two beautiful children. My family trust me, my conscience is crystal clear and life has never been better. All I had to do was admit I was powerless, put in some hard yards by going to lots of meetings initially and initially put my recovery ahead of EVERYTHING because without it, I would have nothing. Funnily enough, very few people know about my addiction other than close friends and family and I haven’t been brainwashed by AA! I still follow the 12 steps but rarely go to meetings; however, it was a wonderful journey of self exploration when I really find out who I was. Going back to you though, sorry you had to get caught up in his sh1t, but he really is powerless, so try not to hate him, because he already hates himself. I hope this little story helps.

  • November 23, 2013 at 3:45 am

    My husband fits this profile and I believe he is HFA. I confronted him and asked him to seek for screening. He said if he cause no problem then why is it a problem to me? I said alcoholism is a problem and he argued so someone walks funny is a problem? Someone talks strangely is a problem? He kept asking what is a real problem with his drinking? I expressed that I don’t want the kids to see their daddy drinks every night is okay. I express alcohol damage your liver. He said it won’t be for 30 yrs if it’s going to happen. I said the kids will be in their 30s in 30 yrs and why would you want to put the burden on them? He said that he will tell them that he can take care of himself if he ever has cancer. I turned it around if your dad ever said that to you would you just let him be or you would be sad, scare, and worry about him? I am not a professional so I don’t know how to provide constructive response. Do you think what I mentioned above about him are excuses and denial? He drinks every night except the days he’s sick like a flu. He can finish a bottle of wine by himself in 2 days. Obviously if you ask him he will say that he doesn’t drink everyday. What do I do from here? He doesn’t want to seek for professional opinion. I don’t want to sit around and watch him hit rock bottom years from now.


  • March 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I agree. I did not quit drinking because I was an addict. I quit because I was a mess. Even though I know I am a drunk, if I could control myself, if I could do the things I thought I should be doing, I would still be drinking. And I would still be enjoying it.
    Those are the early to lover middle stages of alcoholism. Once you get beyone those levels things drop off very quickly. I didn’t quit until I was 41 years of age. I was an alcoholic by the time I left high school. The first decade after high school went well; the second decade was a slow and humiliating (painful, too) decline until I kicked.

  • March 21, 2017 at 10:41 am

    It’s hard to believe that someone could hide an addiction this well. Knowing heroin addiction symptoms and the symptoms of other addictions is important information for those around a high functioning addict.

  • May 22, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    I started dating a man back in late 2016, about 7 months ago. We have a lot in common and like to do many of the same activities. I have been noticing his heavy drinking. He has stood me up a few times after making tentative plans. He also has told me his best friend needs him sometimes, and he doesn’t get much notice before he has to go take care of HER. That leads me to believe he is lying to me about what he’s doing and with whom. I don’t have a say over his life, but if he’s going to lie to me that is another story. I don’t want a liar to have my intimate trust and confidence. Additionally he has been divorced for a few years. His wife left him and has not spoken to him in 2 years without explanation, according to him. I believe she sought treatment and has separated herself entirely from him and his life. He does not elaborate, but this is what I believe, so therefore he is lying about that as well. I really care for him and want to be in a relationship with him, less and less. He won’t be friends with me on his facebook, and he doesn’t want me to say we’re in a relationship at this time. I feel the more he lies, lets me down, and overdoes it on the alcohol, the more I want to confront him and tell him although I care for him deeply we can’t be in a relationship due to his inability to tell me the truth at all times and get help or counseling for his unsolved issues. However I can’t seem to get this accomplished because we are getting closer and closer all the time. And what’s the harm of dating him ? Well he doesn’t care for himself and he lies. Two good reasons there is harm. The pros, his friendship, support, caring, and social activities we enjoy together. Can’t really depend on him though. This would be a great time to break up — but it would hurt us both so much. How can I do this and stay friends?

  • May 30, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    I was married to someone most would consider a high functioning alcoholic. I ended our marriage long ago because I couldn’t handle it anymore. He got abusive after drinking. 27 years later, he is an even heavier alcoholic. At the time our couples therapist tried to mediate a compromise on his drinking. It took participation in a family program for me to see it as it is and to help our daughters navigate into adulthood successfully without too much trauma caused by their dad. I wish people wouldn’t tolerate alcoholism. Employers, other family, friends, etc. They enable such a person to continue with their problem. He damaged 4 kids, some very significantly as a result of his alcoholism. He’s on marriage 5. Sigh… At least I’m out.


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