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The Functioning Alcoholic: Gaps in Functioning?

As drinking and driving becomes less tolerated, many communities have volunteer programs, as well as paid services, to get people home safely if they’ve been drinking and shouldn’t drive. Their existence is a reminder that parties, family gatherings, weddings and other celebrations push up alcohol consumption.

A few of all the people celebrating will already be full-blown alcoholics: they may drink a bit more than their normal level, but generally will blend in with everyone else. After all, they hold jobs, serve on volunteer committees, have families and have friends. These are the so-called “functioning alcoholics.”

So what’s wrong with being an alcoholic if you can function normally?  This  is the first of three articles on the issue.

The functioning alcoholic is the alcoholic who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing his or her alcoholism. Some can do these things successfully, but how well do they handle the other functions in living? How do they function in the role of spouse, parent, driver, financial manager and community volunteer? The job or profession isn’t their only function in life.

Two famous entertainers come to mind, a very popular late-night TV host and a famous singer-entertainer: both were alcoholics, but both were also known to be wife beaters. We are all aware of other public examples: the successful politician charged with impaired driving, the wealthy businessman who abandons his family, claiming poverty.

Multiply the public examples of alcohol abuse and dysfunction by a thousand, and you get a picture of the neglect, abuse, lies and cover-up that are probably out there among the population of so-called functioning alcoholics: the alcoholic farmer who sexually abuses his young daughters, the alcoholic teacher who amasses a large collection of child porn, the mother whose children die in a house fire because she had passed out while drinking.

Consider the successful professional who pours himself a drink as soon as he gets home. Since he won’t drink and drive, he never attends his children’s games or takes them camping. Is he “functioning?”

What it comes down to is this: to function is to function in life, not just in one part of life. Ask yourself if you know any alcoholics who not only do their jobs, but are also truly functional in life. I can’t think of any, but there may be a few. However, can they measure up to the second criterion of human function, to be discussed in the next article?

What is your experience with functioning alcoholics? Leave your comments below.

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145 comments to The Functioning Alcoholic: Gaps in Functioning?

  • Donna

    I have managed to detach and keep active with my friends, family and job. My husband functions well at his job, but not at anything else. It makes me sad that we don’t talk much, have a sex life, or go anywhere together. Even though I am committed at this point to continue in my marriage of 30 years, I wish somehow these voids could be fulfilled. I miss the physical and emotional intimacy.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Donna,

    My heart goes out to you. There are so many women (and men) out there who are quietly living a life parallel to yours, without intimacy of minds and bodies. A marriage without these can be the loneliest place in the world. I’m glad you are staying active. I hope to be releasing a book this year for women who live with functioning alcoholics.

    Stay tuned.

    Neill

  • kelly

    I’m pretty vocal about my childrens’ father being a functioning alcoholic. I’m not nice about it, I list off his symptoms and then tell him how they effect the rest of us. He tells me that those are just my opinions and he disagrees. He becomes the “better person” for being so diplomatic about the situation. There’s no getting through, but I do not allow my kids to be around him after he’s been drinking or the next day.

  • lulu

    i have an awsome boyfriend who i’ve been with for 6months or so and i think i’ve seen him without a drink 2 days during our relationship. i’ve not gone a day without seeing him. he’s super smart and funny and kind and sweet. he has a great job and does very well at it. he helps friends when they need something with which he can help, he is responsible in every way shape and form. he drinks a lot though. a lot. on the weekends he usually stays up late—like 2, 3 or 4 am and more or less passes out the second he lays down—sometimes on the couch when he is sitting down. i love him more than i’ve ever ever ever thought i could love anyone and i don’t want to change him. i’m concerned. neither of my parents really drank when i was growing up which makes me think that i may be over reacting. my dad might buy a 6 pack of beer and finish it over a 3month period. sometimes it would be there so long mom would toss it. mom made some rum balls every now and then and i saw her once have a sip of champagne. i want my guy to be around and in my life. i want him to be healthy enough to enjoy life for the rest of both of ours. i’m afraid to say much of anything to him because i don’t want to make him feel bad. he’s not a bad person. he gets down on himself because he gets to drunk to have sex. i miss having sex with him when he is drunk. we’re both under thirty so we’ve got a lot of life to live. i want us both to enjoy it. i feel like it is one of those situations in which if i care about him i should say something. i’m scared and don’t know what to do. but i feel like i need to say something…any words of advice?

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Lulu,

    Your boyfriend certainly sounds like a good man, a keeper. I agree you should tell him of your concern and what it does to you. He may decide he wants to do something about his drinking, which appears to have progressed to full-blown alcohol dependence(alcoholism). He may need professional help, but that’s not a forgone conclusion. He will have to figure that out.

    One thing is certain: alcoholism is progressive. The situation will get worse unless he takes action. You will handle things (and yourself) a lot better if you’re better informed about alcoholism and if you are more aware of the typical mistakes people make when their spouse is an alcoholic. My book, “Living with a Functioning Alcoholic-a Woman’s Survival Guide” would answer a lot of your questions.

    My very best wishes to the two of you,

    Neill

  • Gail

    I live in a very similar situation. I do not hide the fact to my son, and we discuss openly the fact that he drinks too much. I myself gave up drinking any alcohol at all because I became so concerned about the fact that my husband just blows off the fact that he can consume large amounts of vodka and beer each night. The first thing that he does when he gets home from work is pour a drink and doesn’t stop until he goes to bed or passes out in “his chair”. Financially, I am in a position where I really have no place to go and am getting to the point where I want him to go. I no longer share a room with him, having moved my room downstairs in our home. I totally understand your feelings.

  • TRUDY

    My problem is that my husband comes from a father that is a recovered alcoholic. He is 45 out with the boys all most every night. Drinks every day sometimes he can’t make it home because he can’t drive he’s to drunk. He holds down a job, pays the bills, but we have no life together. we will be married 2o yrs this year. I am at my wits end and do not know what to do. My 19 year old thinks this behavior is ok because he’s old enough to make his own decisions and he lets our 19 year old have a fewe beers at home. I am frustrated.

  • Stephanie

    I believe my sister is a functioning alcoholic. She is a beautiful, smart 33 year old with 2 daughters, 14 and 2. She recently went through a very bad divorce and was left with a lot of debt. She lives with my parents and works 40 hours a week as a radiology tech. She has always had a history of alcohol abuse. She was raped as a teenager while passed out at a party, she got pregnant as at 17 while drunk and has gotten in physical altercations. When she was married she drank wine at home on weekends or in the evenings. Now, she goes out to clubs every weekend and starts drinking even before she goes out. Sometimes she has gone home with men she meets at the clubs or passes out on friends couches. She says she isn’t sleeping with these men, and they usually never call her when she gives them her number. Our family has tried to tell her how dangerous her life style is and what could happen, but she has an answer for everything and doesn’t think she has a problem. She’s single now and likes to have fun and everyone is is boring and has no life. Our family has a history of alcoholism, our dad, both grandfathers and all of our uncles on our fathers side of the family. Since she lives with our parents she doesn’t drink in evenings, only weekends. Are we overreacting? Is there anything we can do, or should we just wait for something bad to happen that might open her eyes and change on her own? We don’t know what to do? Any advice?

  • Elle

    My problem is that I am just now ready to admit that my Fiance’ is a functioning alcoholic. He drinks everyday. A typical day is when he’s at business lunch he’ll have a few then comes home early and starts in for the evening around 5 and we go to bed around 9pm.He has at least 6 drinks a night every night or more. Last weekend, he drank alot (13 drinks) in front of my family and then he starts getting louder and louder and more and more opinionated etc. I went to bed cause I KNOW he will have and episode. When in bed he explodes into anger throwing things, yelling obscenities, and slamming doors. I walk down to find him and talk and he is passed out. I know there is no reasoning with him whn he is drinking. Next day he said he is sorry but he didn’t know why…he didn’t remember. This is the worst! How do I accept his behavior.This is just one episode out of many. Do I stand by him, love him for who he is, or do I force him to get help?

  • Dr. Neill

    Dear Elle,

    Unfortunately, you can’t force him to get help, or at least, you can’t force him to change. And to make matters worse, he probably won’t change for the better while you are together. What you are facing is whether or not to stay or go. Do you have an escape route? When alcoholic men become violent, as he has, it is usually only a matter of time before the violence escalates to violence against his partner, and sometimes that’s too late.

    Do take care of yourself first. I would strongly urge to to seek professional local guidance for yourself before you do anything else. My book may help you ask better questions.

    Neill

  • Hi Stephanie,

    Although your sister clearly has a severe alcohol problem, there isn’t a lot you can do. A family intervention where you all gang up on her with the same message, and ultimatum, sometimes works, but if any one of you enables her…

    Please understand that many people who have gone through a loss–in her case, her marriage–escalate their drinking/acting out for a couple of years before the settle down. It is part of their grieving. This could possibly be a factor in your sister’s present behavior.

    Are you overreacting? Probably not, because she may be in real danger. But try to get her talking about the normal grief that follows the loss of a marriage, even a bad one.

    Best wishes,

    Neill

  • Leigh

    You should not marry this man, no matter how great he seems. I cannot see him being functioning for long, and then you will be stuck with an alcoholic husband who cannot function. Please do yourself a favor and leave this man. The heartbreak you will feel now is miniscule compared to the heartbreak of watching a husband deteriorate and ruining his life, your life and the lives of any children you may have.

  • Cindy

    How come alcoholics do not get sick hang overs? Like throwing up the next morning? Sometimes I drink a little more than usual (to cope with the fact that I’m married to a functioning alcoholic) especially at Christmas and new year. If I’m not carefull, I get sick. How I wish the same sickness on the alcolics in the family.

  • Dr. Neill

    Hi Cindy,

    It doesn’t seem fair, does it? One of the typical characteristics of an alcoholic is that they have built up a high tolerance to alcohol. Yet many still get sick, especially the next day and most get hangovers.

    There is recent evidence that some alcoholics are genetically predisposed to not get hangovers. I was one of them. The alcohol still marches on doing its inevitable damage to the health of the alcoholic, but the alcoholic does not have the benefit of the warning sign, the hangover. By the way, there are healthier and more hopeful ways of coping with an alcoholic in the family that to drink with him. but i suspect you already know that.

    Make it a great New Year!

    Neill

  • Cindy

    Thanks for the reply. I have another question. How come alcoholics do not eat in the evening when they’ve been drinking. If I have a few beers, then eat dinner, I’m wiped out and gone to sleep. It seems that alcoholics will eat, when they have decided that they are ready to stop drinking and call it a night. Or do they really just not get hungry at supper time?

  • Carole

    Is it possible to mitigate the physical affects of alcohol abuse by taking vitamin supplements such as folic acid, vitamin B, etc., or are the long-term affects inevitable when alcohol consuption is extremely great? I probably shouldn’t even care anymore as I have already filed for divorce and am attempting to collect the pieces of my life and reassemble them the best I know how, but I am curious…and probably a little (a lot) co-dependant. My husband will drink 2-3 gallons of vodka in a matter of a weekend but then takes vitamin supplements in an attempt to stave off some of the physical consequences. Is this effective?

  • Dr. Neill

    Dear Cindy and Carole,

    Thank you Cindy for your continued interest in understanding, and congratulations Carole for your taking action. If Either of you have been reading my book, I would be most interested in hearing from you as to how helpful it was.

    Let me caution you up front that I am not an expert on nutrition and vitamins. Nevertheless, when a person replaces nutritional food with sugar or other empty calories like alcohol, it quells their appetites and deprives them of nutrients they might have got from food. I understand that some experts recommend mega doses of a number of vitamins and minerals, some taken several times each day, to attempt to compensate for the deficiencies. Some go even further and suggest that the heavy drinker needs to consume 2000 to 3000 calories per day of food, none of it junk food, plus the vitamin and mineral supplements, just to stay even. Having said that, one study reported that 70% of hospital admissions of an older population were alcohol related. And that’s just among those who made it to “older.” To the drinker: if you want to maintain some semblance of health and keep drinking, GET PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL AND NUTRITIONAL ADVICE. Nutritional needs differ from one individual to another.

    My best to both of you.

    Neill

  • Vanessa

    I am going to stage an intervention for my twin sister (47 y.o.) who has had a drinking problem for 20 years. The past 2 years she has gotten extremely worse. She blacks out, she is a danger to herself as she falls all the time when she is drunk, she has broken ribs, cut her face, broke a toe. She also has skin lupus, osteoporsis, and apropcia all which has gotten worse with consuming that damn rum she drinks. She has a job, never misses work due to drinking and really only gets drunk on the weekend. It’s to the point now that whoever is with her ends up babysitting her so she doesn’t fall down stairs or catch herself on fire. Of course there are no free treatment centers in NJ where we live and her ins only covers 7 days (which I am going to try to talk her into taking). I am at my wits end. She is the most kindhearted person in the world, what else can we do to help her fight this “demon”?

  • Dr. Neill

    Dear Vanessa,

    What you describe is so sad…but so widespread! At some level she is trying to kill herself. She may succeed, and it’s not your fault.

    Do your intervention(s) only when she is sober.

    Avoid all contact when she is drinking. I realize she is at risk, but rescuing her( “babysitting her” ) only deepens the alcoholism.

    Be a model of self care.

    Never stop loving her.

    This may be one of the most difficult things you have to face in life.

    My very best to both of you.

    Neill

  • Joanne

    Your comment “Consider the successful professional who pours himself a drink as soon as he gets home. Since he won’t drink and drive, he never attends his children’s games or takes them camping. Is he “functioning?” hit home. Years of lonliness and denial and caring for my children alone…and wondering “does he have a problem?” Is it me????

  • Debra

    I have a friend that works 24 hour shifts(day on, day off) and does not drink during that time. However on all the rest of his days off he starts with beer around 1030-1130 in the morning and drink it slowly but constantly throughout the day until around 10-11 at night. He will abstain when he is really sick. He is not obviously intoxicated, but never really sober either. I have known him for 20 years and in the beginning his “beer-30″ time was after noon, now it is when the morning coffee is gone. I love him dearly, and I think he has an alcohol problem. But he got very offended when I told him that he might become a drunk when he retired if he didn’t get help. Apparently he feels there is difference between a “drunk” and an “alcoholic”. Because he does not drink for 2-3 days per week, am I wrong in my feeling that he has a problem.

  • Dr. Neill

    Dear Joanne,

    An important part of alcohol addiction is doing whatever is necessary to convince those around (and themselves) them that there is no problem.

    When that fails the task switches to convincing others (and themselves) that it’s not their fault–they blame their drinking on their spouse, work, children, bad luck, the lottery, the car, the scarcity of money, excess money, their father, genetics, personality type, their cell phone. Functioning alcoholics almost by definition do not take responsibility around their drinking.

    It is sad what you and your children had to endure. But go easy on yourself. It never was “you.” Functioning alcoholics are professionals at justifying and blaming. They have made a ’successful’career of it.

    Neill

  • Dr. Neill

    Hi Debra,

    Of course you are not wrong!

    But first read the response I just made to Joanne. It’s quite relevant to your question.

    If your friend is dependent on alcohol, by definition he is an alcoholic. It doesn’t matter whether the pattern is day-long slow drinking with multi-day breaks, drinking only when off work, daily drinking to unconsciousness or weekend binges.

    When we hear “he’s a drunk”, it’s a slang expression applied to someone with an alcohol problem. Many alcoholics (’drunks’) never get drunk and many hold important positions–senators, judges, doctors and chiefs of police–for a time.

    I hope this has been of some help.

    Neill

  • Cindy

    I am wondering what to do when living with a functioning alcoholic starts getting worse. I’ve never suggested to my husband that he has a drinking problem. It’s been fine for the past 10 years or so but drinking after work has turned into drinking till midnight. He’s a great husband who even helps with the housework. He cooks too. But it’s just busy stuff to do while he’s popping the top one right after another. Now it’s to the point that I’m No Good and he recently has started talking down to me. I sorted the laundry and put a few loads in on Sunday and then I get chewed out while I’m on the computer (working, not playing). It’s all because I’m relaxing and taking it easy on the week end and he’s had all weekend to drink and start talking mean.

  • Dr. Neill

    Hi Cindy,

    He’s at a crucial but predictable place in the progression of his alcoholism. Right now it is particularly important that you do and not do certain things that will only make things worse. There are a couple of chapters devoted to the dos and don’t in my book. But for now, whatever happens don’t let him persuade you that his drinking is in any way your fault. He may (or must) do that to convince himself that he doesn’t have a problem. So don’t buy in.

    Best wishes,

    Neill

  • Christine

    I have an ex-bf that I still care about. I think he’s an alcoholic. He started drinking around the age of 16. He is now 37. When I was with him, he would ususally drink 5-6 beers during the day (he works from home) and then he’d drink more at night when we were at his house or out. The usual was cranberry juice and vodka on top of the beer or more beer. I once saw him consume 2 pitchers of beer by himself in about 2 hours. He starts to drink early in the day. I’m pretty sure drinking is everyday event for him. I would find “emptys” everywhere around his house and backyard. He says that he “knows his limits”, he’s “allergic to caffeine” and can’t drink anything else. I’ve been told by his friends that his wife left him because of his drinking and anger issues. I was told that he drinks so much that he 1) has passed out before with his feet in a campfire and never felt the heat. He woke up the next morning acting like he never touched a drop of alcohol 2) He has urinated on himself in the past during/after drinking 3) His wife found him in their hallway urinating because he thought it was the bathroom. 4) He becomes verbally abusive when drunk.. hitting walls even. I think he’s having physical symptoms of his abuse… His legs become swollen/painful and tingly sometimes, he’s recently had pain in his shoulder and tingling in one of his hands. I think it’s alcoholic neuropathy. He’s an alcoholic isn’t he?

  • Dr. Neill

    Hello Christine,

    Undoubtedly he is a deteriorating alcoholic, based on what you have said.

    My question to you is this: If he is an “ex-bf,” how do you know all this current stuff about him? If you are keeping in touch with him, then it it highly likely that you are contributing to his staying in his alcoholism. And what are you getting out of it?

    The bottom line is that if you really care about this man, get out of his life completely at least for a couple of years and give him time to deal with his addiction…or not.

    Take care of yourself.

    Neill

  • Christine

    He is an ex-bf. I ended things for good with him a few weeks ago. I am no longer in contact with him. I’ve heard about his other drinking episodes/issues/accidents from mutual friends of ours. They told me all of this after we broke up… Maybe to protect him or to protect me. These people are actually his friends that he’s had for close to 20 years. They’ve told me that I’ve made the right decision by leaving him. I know that I’ve made the right decision too. I am taking care of myself. He’s left me no other choice. The physical symptoms he shows, I saw for myself. I guess I just wanted a professional’s decision to put the final nail in the “coffin” so to speak. How can I stop caring about someone I once loved who’s slowly killing himself? Any advice?

  • Dr. Neill

    Christine,

    I’m glad you clarified that and I feel relieved that you have disconnected and are taking care of yourself. It is perfectly normal to care for someone for long periods after you decided you couldn’t live with him. Of course you care! just don’t fall in the trap of going back.

    You are also grieving, an inevitable human process that following the loss of someone you care for…he was there and now he’s not. Grief is something you can’t avoid, deny or “get it over with.” Acceptance is key.  I wrote a couple of other articles on acceptance on this site; they might help.

    Neill

  • Nicole

    My boyfriend and I have been together for six months. He is the epitome of Jekyll & Hyde. He is a functioning alcoholic and is a great provider for my daughter and I. Things will be good for a week or so, he won’t drink and then he goes out of town (he travels considerably) and pours himself a vodka drink while in the car driving. I have told him several times that this is completely unacceptable and if he doesn’t care about himself enough to not drink and drive, atleast have consideration for others on the road- they have no choice in the matter if they are hurt or worse yet killed by a drunk driver. His response is always that I am nagging at him and that he was “only an hour from home”. Around Christmas time he admitted that he had a problem and we sought counseling. The counselor suggested AA meetings of which my BF has snubbed his nose at. His motto is that he can do it on his own. I am not holier than thou and I have a drink from time to time myself, HOWEVER, never do I drive or get verbally abusive. My BF does all of the above. When he drinks he gets verbally abusive, is so quick to pack his things and move-out (I’d wager that he has moved out of the house at least 20-30 times in the past 6-months) and the next day he always seems to reel me back in by apologizing and has even broken into tears. I see so much good in him, but enough is enough. Last Friday he started drinking on his way home from being out of town, came into my house and packed his things and later that night after my womanly intuition kicked in and him not answering my telephone calls something told me to check to see if he was still in town and guess what??? I found him at a hotel….right around the corner from my house. His home is an hour and half away from mine- he said that he was there b/c he was too tired to go home….My guess, he was too drunk to drive home. He has mind *&^%$# me so much that I don’t know what to think anymore. He has called me probably 6-times since this Friday incident. I just received an email from him that stated “the least I could do was pick up the phone and if I don’t he will assume that we are over and adjust accordingly”. Mind you- on Friday he told me he was done with me and my nagging, received an apology email from him at 5:56 AM on Saturday, spoke to him at 1:30PM Saturday and got cussed out and was told that the most sensible thing was for me to leave him alone (he was drunk already. Since that last conversation at 1:30PM on Saturday, I have not picked up the phone and I just received that email that I discussed above. This has been the roller coaster ride that I have endured for six months. Right now, I am repulsed by him, angry with him and am not sure if I want to continue. On the same token, I love him dearly when he is normal. I know that he has it in him to quit, but, I am beginning to come to the realization that I need to leave him for my own sanity. I am trying to rebuild my own life and trying to raise my 9-year old daughter. His behavior is interfering in every aspect of my life. My question, do I stay or do I go???? How do I get him to see the light that just b/c he apologizes that is no longer good enough and love is not enough to bind us together. HELP!

  • Dr. Neill

    Hi Nicole,

    Please read the two comments I left for Christine above. They apply to your situation almost perfectly. In your case, whether you dig a deeper hole for the next few years and then leave, or whether you permanently cut off the relationship with your alcoholic boyfriend now, that is what you are modeling for your daughter. Do you want her to learn to nip a bad situation in the bud regardless of love feelings? Then end it. He won’t change as long as you are in the picture.

    Best wishes for you and your daughter.

    Neill

  • Kevin

    I am wondering if I am a functioning alcoholic. I have a good job, a beautiful wife who has been diagnosed with clinical depression, and an awesome daughter that just turned one. I generally drink 6-8 beers 5-6 nights a week. I only drink beer. I do not like to be an out-of-control drunk person. I just like to get a buzz and then go to sleep. Most nights I do not start drinking until 8:00 or 9:00 and then I have my beer and go to bed. My biggest concern is that I take 2 big glasses of water and 4 Ibuprofen to make sure I get no headache the next day. I am concerned I may be damaging my liver, but believe that alcohol helps with your circulatory system . My family has a history of heart disease and I do not want to die because of that. Am I considered a functioning alcoholic?

  • Nicole

    Dr Neill,

    I just downloaded a copy of your e-book and I highly recommend everyone that has posted here to read it, if they haven’t already.

    The anxiety of the “unknown” I can say has not completely diminished BUT, reading your book did ease it. I now know what I am faced with and that I have been “doing the dance” for far too long. I am going to wait and see if my boyfriend is responsive to alas getting help and REALLY putting forth the effort. I am not going to contact him. If he contacts me and exhibits a strong-will, then I will help him. But, I have learned from your book that I TRULY am NOT his savior and this is a habit that he has to want to break for himself. I am not the root of the habit.

    In the meantime, I am going to utilize your information about rebuilding myself and living my life- as he may not have the willingness to do what I want him to do right now and I must move on and not get stuck as you said. After all of the counseling that we have shelled out for, I wish that I would have stumbled across your site prior to doing so…Would’ve saved us money, grief and perhaps maybe we’d still be together. As you said, there is hope and miracles do happen. I hope this is true in my case, if not, I now have some useful tools for rebuilding my life along with my daughter’s.

    Thank you very much!

  • Chelle

    I believe I have a family member who is a functioning alcoholic. Not that she does not have reason. I believe she was sexually abused as a child – significantly. She denies it of course.

    She runs a bar and has a home she has nearly paid off herself. Employment at the bar has been a double-edged sword. Although it has helped her to pay her bills and gives her a feeling of importance, she is belittling and demeaning to those who love her. Especially me for some reason.

    I must say we both have very strong personalities and we are very close in age. There are times I don’t give in so it is not all her but. I’d like to mend my relationship with her but when I try she twists my words and the attempt at reconsiliation escalates into an ugly fight.

    She is an incredible person but there has been neglect of her child, she has discarded many many; most she met at the bar. She has thrown away opportunities to learn and grow out of the bar scene and she refuses. She once said the bar was her life. It is all she wants and all she needs. Sadly, I think some day it will be all she has.

    How can I proceed with a health relationship with her? I can’t put myself in an abusive relationship any longer. Unfortunately, my need to step back and protect myself is harming our parents. I believe that our entire family is enabling her because they tolerate her outbreak and abusive behavior rather than setting limits to her abusive behavior.

    I just need direction on how I can prevent or lessen the famiy astrangement without putting myself in a bad situation.

    What do you suggest?

  • Anne

    I have been with my husband for nine years. Married for seven. We have three kids. My step-son 15, our five year old son and our daughter two. My husband drinks five to six beers a night possible more. I don’t count them anymore. He is a good man and I love him dearly. I have told him for years that he really needed to stop drinking not just for himself but for our kids. He is very uninvolved with our kids. He will sit with them on the couch and watch a show with them but not much beyond that. Our 15 year old has tried to reach out to him more often than I can recall. He wishes his dad would do some of the things that other dads do. Like maybe camping, or a touch football game with the guys. I don’t know if this is just the man I married or if it has to do with alcohol. How do I make him understand what this is doing to our family (myself included). Not to mention his own body!!

  • Cindy

    Cindy here.
    My god! When I read your comment, I saw myself. I would love to chat if we could. Maybe we could help each other.
    Cindy

  • Mel

    My husband and I have been married for almost 7 years. We are still young at 26 years old so I don’t know if age is a factor to my husbands love of drinking. I am at the point where I don’t know what to consider him as far as alcoholism is concerned but I know I don’t like what I see. He’ll drink anywhere from 1-8 drinks (beer or spirits) 4-7 nights a week, sometimes even starting at lunch time. We both grew up in alcoholic families and while my experience from growing up in it detered me from wanting to drink, my husband seems to be following in his fathers footsteps. Only….. he’s not always mean (only when I get mad that he’s drinking so much), he spends time with the kids and plays with them, he cooks and cleans, he does great at work and most of the time he doesn’t get drunk. (Not that he would even admit to me if he does, but I can tell most of the time.) We been getting into weekly arguments about his drinking and i’m just the “controlling” wife that like to control everything. In an attempt to find some sort of solution, about 2 weeks ago in the middle of one of our discussions he agreed to cut down his drinking to twice weekly. Of course, he hasn’t. We argued about it again last night and now he’s giving excuses as to why he shouldn’t have to “listen to me” and cut down. (I’d love him to stop all together but we all know how that goes…..) I just don’t know what to do, what to think or how to help. I grew up with alcoholism and i’ll be damned if I have to deal with it again and I will NOT put my children through it. I just don’t know what to say when he argues in his defense that he’s not mean, abusive and doesn’t get drunk. I guess he IS a functioning alcoholic but I need a little confirmation that i’m not just overreacting and being “controlling”. (I do tend to have that trait that i’m trying to get rid of but I don’t think that is my reasoning to be bothered by his drinking.)

  • Crystal

    I have been with my husband for almost five years. We are going to be celebrating our one year marriage anniversary this month.(June 30th) He is a functioning alcoholic. I know he, he knows he is, he knows I know he is… But it is ignored. He actually hides his vodka bottles. He waits to drink when he is in the office on his computer, out of my site. And we both act as if he isn’t drunk when he comes out to say good night.
    He has anxiety attacks, social issues,irrational fears and insomnia. The last is HIS reason for drinking. To turn his mind off… shut out his fears…settle things so he can go to sleep. Only sometimes he gets do drunk he stumbles, falls, urinates in containers that are not the toilet. He doesn’t get violent, angry, or physical when he drinks. Nothing like that. He is a Supervisor at his job at works an average of 50 hours a week. One of the first things he does when he comes home after ‘settling down’ is open up his vodka bottle. And then he comes and gets a beer. He has been to Psychologists and Psychiatrists. They mainly concentrate on his anxiety attacks and not his drinking and insomnia.
    I am a medical technician currently in RN school. I know the harm he is doing to his body. He is even starting to have signs of alcoholic impotence. He has not been able to stay erect during sex for the past few months. He always blames it on it being too cold, or the fan is blowing on him, or he is tired, or he was too excited.. :/ But I know it is the alcohol. This is just something that is between him and I. His family only consist of a mother, brother and sister-in-law. Neither of us have friends that we go and do things with. So its our little secrete. I feel somewhat guilty at times for judging him…as I have my own addiction to food. I am a Compulsive Eater. I have never sought help for my addiction. I am not apposed to help..Even tho I understand any addiction is not healthy I feel his is more harmful. How can I want him to get help and not feel like a hypocrite? Im sorry this is so long. I also work part time at a large chain book store. So I am going to look up your book! Thank you for having this message board. I don’t even know if you still answer it. :) Crystal

  • Crystal

    Thank you so much for your advice. I will download your book!
    Hopefully it will bring me the courage to ‘re-visit’ his alcohol problem with him. What I am most afraid of is what will become of him in the future if he doesn’t get help now. How long does it take for a functioning alcoholic to become a non functioning alcoholic? I very slowly see things progressing… but how far will it go and how long will it take? These are the questions that run through my mind.
    Again, thank-you.

    Crystal

  • sarah

    I think my parents may be what they call “functioning alcoholics” i am not sure though. They do drink a lot, never come to any of my dance performances, recitals, or anything. My grandmother takes me to dance practice. I have been depending on her for a while now. I can’t even get my parents to go to church on Sunday mornings. I had been going with my neighbor to her church, but she also is an alcoholic, so I can’t depend on her much. I really dont understand this at all. I mean I have gotten to the point now where I hate coming to my own house. My dad has a liver disease, and my mom has had surgery. I really do not think it is a good idea for them to drink. I do not know how to deal with this. I now fight with my mother all the time, because I hate seeing her drink, and when I tell her to stop, she gets all emotional on me and says how i break her heart, and she doesn’t want to put up with me or anything. I hate how neither of my parents are involved in my life, they wont let me have friends over, they wont meet my friends parents, which says to them that were rude and the families dont want anything to do with us. I cant even hang out with some of my friends, because my parents wont even take the time to even introduce themselves.

  • Patricia

    I am is the same situation My husband goes to work everyday for the most part. Then when he gets home he starts drinking in the car and drinks till he pass out.He says he doesn’t have a problem but he isn’t being a good father he might spend 15 min to hour with his kids a day after he gets home from work and the rest he either sits on the couch watching tv and drinking or goes to the bar when I am not working. He definitely have been hear emotionally and treated me the way a wife should be treated. He keeps telling me he is not happy and that I am a great mother a great wife and a good provider. But he wants a divorce. I had a issue with him 5 years ago with drugs he started becoing dependant on crack for about 4 months. But before that was cocaine occasionally which became an every weekend thing. I fought with him for years to come to bed with me. But he always fell asleep down our basement in his hole.
    So Now I am giving him what he wants he wants a divorce and he will get one. But he expects me to be this person that will kiss him and hold him after he says he wants a divorce. I can’t be that way.So I feel for anyone going through this life it is not easy and it’s hard when you love them to just walk away.

  • thom

    I knew a functioning alkie named mr. green. The whole family were drunks, and he had a glass of gin in his hand at 10 am, he drove,and did janitorial work. One I saw him and his friend lift a joist up to the ceiling. Their combined weight must’ve been 120 lbs, they were so emaciated from boozing. He held down a job at the bd. of ed, retired and became the mayor of the block. He developed o.c.d., applied to junk … one year he filled the schoolyard of an abandoned school with garbage, couches, electronics, refrigerators, upholstered chairs, and other refuse; it was 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep, 2 city lots in area. Finally the sanitation dept caught up with him. Then he filled up the back yard of the apt. bldg, with the same junk and bicycles
    until the fire dept saw it. They forced him to remove it; he had a breakdown from this and took to his bed for a year. He was a con artist and played dominoes till one in the morning on the sidewalk, smacking the dominoes on the table so that the sounf could be heard everywhere: this was caused by the echo of the empty schoolyard across the way, the one he’d filled up with junk. His ubiquitous presence and influence haunted and hounded me. He was soused morning to night. He died of esophageal cancer.

  • Liz

    I read your post and felt compelled to comment. I believe the functioning alcoholism has progressed in your husbands case. His “talking down” to you is an attempt to justify more drinking. He needs you to continue his drinking. My husband does it too but I have learned to detach. Alcoholism is such an awful disease. Best wishes to you.

  • Jennifer

    Wow! Lulu sounds so much like me. There for a second I was wondering if we were dating the same guy, just kidding. But I can very much relate to her. My boyfriend is great! We live together, he has a great job, great friends, great mom, a son, and a great personality. But everyday after work its beer and sometimes small bottles of liquor. I told him just yesturday how I really felt and that our sex life wasn’t good. I’ve been with him for over a year and he never goes a day with out drinking. He swore to me last night that he would’t drink liquor anymore, but because he doesn’t beat me, verbally abuse me, and holds down a job he thinks its ok. I visited this page and others to help prepare myself for the times when he makes me feel bad about it. Whenever I say something or voice how I feel he tells me I’m overreacting. I’m in the same boat lulu I hope it gets better because at some point you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

  • Linda

    I have been married for about 15 years and I believe my husband has a drinking problem. He drinks at least 4 – 5 beers a night. I’m not really sure how many, I don’t count anymore. He’s slightly involved with the kids when his job allows but after they are in bed for the night he just disappears for hours. He may come to talk to me for maybe 10 – 15 minutes when he needs something but then he’s just gone. When it comes to our sex life, I just can’t do it. I feel like a performing monkey. There’s no intimacy in our relationship and I feel bad that I can’t but I can’t. He’s a decent guy. Kind hearted and generally cares about others but when it comes to me, I feel like I’m just there if he needs sex or maybe to talk to if there is a real issue. I do all the finances, take care of the kids, (I make him say prayers with the kids each night so they have some childhood memories of him) and generally am the major source of income. I’m not willing to give up on my marriage but I’m tired. Very tired. I’ve talked to him about his problem but he doesn’t think he has one and his dad doesn’t help the situation. A “former” alcolholic himself who believes in the “benefits” of a couple of beers a day. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago and has recovered mostly from it. He has some short term memory issues and I’m concerned on the effects of alcohol on his brain. Personally, I don’t know how to help him anymore or myself.

  • Allan

    I have been with my wife for 22 years, married 20 years. She now drinks 6 to 8 beers a day. She used to drink the hard stuff….quite frankly, I think she still does. She hasn’t worked for 22 years..no matter how many times I have asked her to help,or how bad the financial situation got, she would not go to work,and still hasn’t..no longer do I ask. We are both a young 60, have not slept in the same room for 20 years,have not had sex for more than 6 years.Her health has dwindled somewhat due to a form of collitis.I’m sure the smoking and drinking counters all the medication she is on. I don’t hate my wife,but it does make life difficult,and I could not afford to start over.I’m done venting…thanks for listening.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Linda,

    Please don’t give up on yourself. It’s not just your family that needs you, it’s you that needs you. You would probably get some help from my book, “Living with a Functioning Alcoholic, A Woman’s Survival Guide.” If nothing else, you would gain some perspective and regain some lost hope.

    He doesn’t think he has a problem. One of the brain-altering things that alcohol does is to create delusions. The first delusion created by the alcohol damaged brain is that there is no problem. And that delusion may last through months or even years of sobriety. The brain can heal, but it takes time, and intention to change.

    Think about what kind of model you are to your children. Don’t give up on yourself or them.

    Love and blessings,
    Neill

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Allan,

    I have been getting increasing numbers of comments from men who live with alcoholic wives. You know, I’m sure, that I wrote a book for women on living with alcoholic men. Do you think there would be value in a book for men who live with alcoholic wives.

    Although many of the problems are the same, there are differences. I and other men I’m sure would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

    Neill

  • Why

    I have been with my husband for a total of 13 years, we have been married for seven of those years. When I met him he was going through a divorce and our relationship grew strong very fast. He has always drank, as a matter of fact we met at a bar. But before getting married when he drank he was the life of the party. As a matter of fact, everyone that meets him thinks he is a wonderful man. Little do they know, I am married to a monster in disgise. Sober, he is very quiet and doesn’t have too much to say. He is very good at his job and they would never guess he has a problem. He doesn’t call in sick. He never misses an appointment.

    The weird part is, he doesn’t drink all the time but when he does he can’t stop, he just sits down and passes out. I grew up with an alcholic father and have told my husband that if he ever touched me, it would not be pretty because as a child I had no choice but to put up with not knowing when I would get hit when my father was drinking. So what I live with is a man who drinks and becomes very degrading to me, saying very nasty things to me. I don’t have many friends because he embarrases me when he gets like this. I will not take him to parties friends are having because he is so bad. So I just stay at home and put up with this crap.

    At the beginning we said "Married for life, divorce is not an option" but now I am thinking what in the world have I gotten myself into. I am a 47 year old woman who doesn’t know where to go – too embarrased to ask for help because I will look like the one who is causing trouble – I do not make enough money to go out on my own.

    If people really looked at me now and what I looked like 7 years ago, I have let myself go a little and seems like I don’t care. I have put on 20 pounds so he doesn’t accuse me of cheating on him anymore. I just sit at home and do nothing.

    Recently I have been doing a lot of volunteering work, just to get away. I love people and love doing things for others. This is what makes me happy. What do I get, verbal abuse and being accused of all kinds of things. Recently he has accused me of cheating on him, I am never home anymore. When I have asked him to join me, he says no.

    When he accuses me, I just walk away and wait for him to fall asleep. I am trapped and have no where to go – I feel like I am falling apart. When I am not happy, I end up taking it out on others. I need to get away but I dont’ know where to go. I don’t have the money to just pick up and move on.

    I can’t live like this. I just don’t know what to do.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hello Why,

    Thank you for writing what you wrote, in spite of your hurt. That took courage.

    First off, no one except possibly another alcoholic would think you are the one who is causing trouble if you started to seek help, which you should.

    It takes two to honor a long-term commitment, and by his abusing you and not loving, trusting and respecting you, he has broken his commitment to you long ago.

    Perhaps, he is trying to make your life so miserable you will walk away. Alcoholics seldom have the courage to do it themselves, no matter how bad they want to.

    You didn’t bargain for the loneliness and heartache. You didn’t ask to become angry and resentful, although he has given you lots of grounds for both. You need to consider yourself now, before terminal bitterness sets in.

    Verbal violence usually leads to physical violence, eventually. Going just on what you have said, I don’t think you are safe.

    Go to see a lawyer to find out where you stand. Most lawyers offer one free consult. In most jurisdictions it’s not hard to get an order for interim support. But you have to let others help you.

    You can’t know the future, but don’t make the mistake of not taking the first step. The second and the third steps will come to you when you start moving.

    You deserve a life and have much to give.

    Neill

  • Tracy

    Dear Dr. Neill

    I will be married 24 yrs. this month September. I have decided to leave my marriage. I should have done it 12 yrs. ago but I stayed for my boys which are now 15 & 20. My husband is a Functioning Alcoholic.

    I am so glad I found your website. All the letters I have read could have been me writing them.

    My husband goes out drinking with the boys at work 3 times a week, comes home and drinks anywhere from 5 to six beers a night. I have found hidden beer cans in bags in our basement, I found mini vodka bottles in the van from time to time. He sneaks the beer home in his briefcase. On weekends he just buys a case. We can never have a beer sitting in our fridge. He loves when I go out because then he can drink all he wants. He will go in the basement drink 2 beers then come up with a another in his hand. I’m so tired of being a detective.

    For the first time 3 weeks ago he blamed his drinking on me. I told him I will not take the blame for his drinking and that it is his life pile not mine. I asked him if he would go and get help but he said he does not need any. He has caused us so much financial grief. We are selling the house and separating.

    I did not give up life all these years. I stayed positive for my kids and have wonderful friends who support me and from time to time would ask me how much longer I was going to live like this. I will be 50 next year and I want to move on with my life.

    I’m buying your book and will read it, but chapter 24-when to leave being married to a Functional Alcoholic has caught my eye.

    He is a good person, has been at his job 26 yrs. but we have no marriage. He does get verbally abusive with me, slurs his words sometimes. I know the kids know he has a drinking problem. But the icing on the cake is he is a Diabetic. He has been one for 5 or 6 yrs. It hurts me to watch what he is doing to himself over the long term. I have tried and now I’am worn out. I have had issues with my oldest son and he has never helped me work it out with him. He comes home and by 8:00 pm he is sleeping on the couch. This is his life, work/drink/sleep. He will take my younger son to soccer practices but I worry how much he has had to drink before he goes.

    Thank you so much for this website and your book. I know I’m not crazy and that I’am not alone. God Bless all of us who are living with a Functioning Alcoholic and coping the best we know how.

  • shaz

    Glad I found this page, where other women have come to vent. I live with a man aged 27. I think he may be an alcoholic. Cant hold down a job for more than 3wks..Splashes his pay on booze, Disappears for a couple of days, Has hit me in the past.

    I’ve had a baby to him. She is 5 months. His behavior has changed somewhat, but he is starting to get nasty again when he comes home arguing over pathetic issues.

    I’m just wondering if he really is an alcoholic or not..reading all the posts, I think he is..but he is only 27. Pathetic, really.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Shaz,

    Is there any doubt? You need to read "Chapter 24: When to Pull the Plug on an alcoholic marriage." It could save your life.

  • Andrea

    Hi all,

    I am at my wits end. I am a recovering alcoholic (11 1/2 years clean and sober, thank God.) My boyfriend is an alcoholic, as are his Dad and brother. Everywhere we go, there is alcohol involved. And no matter how much I try to explain to him how hard it is for me to watch everybody get drunk, he insists that there is no problem. His reasoning is this: when I met him, he was drunk every single night. Two months later, his very best friend died from an alcohol overdose. My boyfriend started classes to become a firefighter and actually didn’t drink at all during the week or most weekends, but everytime we went somewhere together, plus his family would join in. His father is a manipulative drunk, who calls every weekend and threatens suicide. My boyfriend will drop everything and tend to poor Dad. Well poor Dad came up to visit this weekend and proceeded to get plastered. He became rude with me and I told him off. My boyfriend took Dad’s side, pretty much telling me to leave the house, because Dad couldn’t drive since he had been drinking (didn’t matter that Dad was drunk already when he was driving up here for the visit). All the rest of the family (Dad’s ex-wife, his other son and his wife, his daughter) want nothing to do with Dad at all..but my boyfriend can’t stand up to him. I feel totally betrayed and hurt….What do I do? Leave? I guess I do know the answer to that, being that I am recovering and know that it’s just not going to get better. HELP!

  • Joyce

    Hi Everyone,

    Glad and not glad to know that I am not alone. My boyfriend of 13 years, now fiance, is an alocholic. There is never a time anymore that he doesn’t have a drink in his hand. Last year it was so bad that he got alcoholic hepatitis. His skin turned yellow, he was vomiting, it was so scary. He stopped drinking for 3 months and is now at it again. I keep telling him he is killing himself but he can’t stop. He knows he needs help but is too proud to get it. He is really a great man. He has a good job and treats me really well. I hate not knowing what condition he will be in when I get home if he happens to get out of work early. I don’t accept invitations from friends anymore because I am so afraid he will show up drunk and embarrass me. We have been engaged for over a year but I can’t bring myself to set a date because of his drinking. I keep having this vision that I will walk down the aisle and find him drunk at the altar. I don’t know what to do anymore. I am becoming depressed and stress out every day. What stinks is that he is good. This is so hard.

  • Suzanne

    Hi all, my exhusband is a functioning alcoholic. He has our 6 year old daughter every other weekend. When I call to talk with her, I can often tell he has been drinking. She said he had wine with lunch, and talks about beer as if it was soda. He drinks scotch in the evening. He is single still, although is family visits every saturday (and drinks heavily, too). He has the beginnings of cirrosis and God knows what else.

    Although I am terrified he will drive with our daughter when he has been drinking (if they go out for dinner, it’s a given he does and will drive impaired), there is NOTHING I can do to protect her until something happens that can be proven in court. It’s very upsetting.

    In the meantime, what can I do to protect my daughter mentally and emotionally without saying negative things against him?
    thank you,
    Suzanne

  • KIM





    Hi

    I live with a functioning alcoholic. He was lovely when I met him 4 yrs ago. I’m now seeing a different side of him, and I still love him but I don’t like him. He puts me down when drunk, he has attacked me, when drunk, and goes into rages. Then it’s tears and sorry, then he forgets what he has done.

    So a few weeks ago, I contacted Alanon, and went to my fist meeting last Saturday, and loved it. It was a relief to know there were others to talk to, and I now know I can’t help my partner, as he doesn’t want to stop drinking, but I can help myself to heal the suffering he has caused me.

    I still love him, but I know in the end I want him to leave. He lives in my house, so when I feel ready I will tell him to leave, we have no sex life, as he says, "we are together, aren’t we"!!!! And no social life.

    I don’t drink, and it has put me off a drink watching him destroy himself. He’s a lovely chap, but that extra drink, if I say the wrong thing in his eyes, tips him over the edge. He’s pathetic and quite childlike when he is in a drunken stupor.

    All of you out there ladies, there is help for you just reach out and have the courage to take it. I have and, just after one meeting with Alanon, I feel lots better. I know deep down I will heal from this, and feel better about myself.

    And as to my partner, he has had enough emotional support from me. I’m drained, so I now wish to feel better in myself, and he must deal with his addiction. It’s not my fault, it’s his.

    Best wishes to you all, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Kim xx

     

  • Lena

    I was in a relationship with an alcoholic for 4 years. In that time he did not work, pay bills just drank and drank. I was his enabler. He went to rehab and was sober for 15 months. While in rehab he broke off our relationship and had no communication with me. A few months ago he began to drink again. He is a functioning alcoholic and i’m still hurting because he life is together and he only contacts me while he’s drinking and his other females are not around. Let’s face it, alcoholics sober, dry or functioning are selfish. We need to focus on ourselves in order to be in a healthy relationship.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Suzanne

    You are facing the tough question that many parents must face, following a separation from a partner who abuses drugs of alcohol. Be open with your daughter about her dad having a problem/struggle with drinking, being sure to keep the language at an age-appropriate level for her. Don’t make him bad, but be honest.

    One husband I knew just waited until his wife had an accident with their daughter in the car. She face impaired charges. He sought and got full custody. The daughter was not injured.

    One mother I knew was aware that when her ex took their child to games, he was impaired. She had another mother watch for him at games; she called the police to report a drinking driver as he was leaving the parking lot. He was stopped and charged. After that he could visit when sober, but was not allowed to take her out.

    Most everyone who comes to this page would be interested to know how you dealt with the problem.

    Best wishes,
    Neill

  • Function Unknown

    Hi. I am a 40 year old female. I lost my Mother to pneumonia and my brother to suicide. I did not drink much after that. A beer or two on the weekend here and there. Then I lost my BF of six years thinking I was not good enough for him in marriage. I began drinking beer and would become deeply depressed. I am up to 4-6 beers a night after work and I start drinking around 9:00 in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays, take a nap and get back up and do it all over again. I know I have a problem there is no doubt in my mind after reading all of these comments. The thing is I do not get violent. I get happy. That is the hard part. Without the alcohol I feel sad. The alcohol helps to put me at ease. I work an EXTEMELY stressful job and I honestly can’t cope without the chill factor. I am also a sufferer of Fibromyalgia. I do not take any Narcotics for my disease so there is no problem there. I have noticed my priorities have changed and my financial situation is now changing which scares me. I can’t come home without opening that bottle. I don’t know what to do. I do not drink and drive nor do I crave alcohol at work. I feel I am hurting my body and wasting precious time that could be spent with family and friends. Please if you could get me to a starting point I would be so thankful. I don’t want to talk on the phone to anyone as I do it everyday for a living and I am kind of muted when it comes to that. I need a place to start and a way to mend. I need other ways to relieve my stress. Thank you for your time.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Function Unknown,

    I think you already know that nothing can be said in 100 word or 10,000 words that will cure you alcoholism.

    However, let me offer two easy-to-use practices that will take little time and yet can bring huge benefits in relieving stress. I have written a short article about each.

    The Appreciation Break: http://www.neillneill.com/71/stress-management-appreciation-break/

    The Presence Walk: http://www.neillneill.com/67/practical-tips-for-stress-management-3-go-on-a-presence-walk/

    Remember, there is always hope. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself out of that hole.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Bravo, Kim!

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Lena,

    You ended your comment with,
    “We need to focus on ourselves in order to be in a healthy relationship.”
    In your simple, but profound statement, you have captured the essence of living with an alcoholic, or, for that matter, with anyone else.
    Thank you.
    Neill

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Joyce,
    Like so many others, your alcoholic fiance is suiciding, whether he realizes or not.
    Drinking yourself into an early grave is slow suicide, but it is suicidal never-the-less.
    You absolutely cannot help him by marrying him. Your independence, self-care and ultimately your willingness to walk away may be saving his life.
    Addiction can and does overtake good people as well as bad. That only makes it harder and more confusing.
    Neill

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Andrea,

    Please read what I replied to Joyce.

    It is also possible that your partner is caught in the trap of believing, perhaps unconsciously, that he would be failing/disappointing/criticizing his dad he he cleaned up. He might even believe he would be responsible for dad’s death, if dad suicided as threatened.

    When he denies there is a problem, just remember from your history that one of the effects of alcohol on the brain is delusional thinking. Believing there is no problem is one of the early delusions.

    Trust your instincts.

    Neill

  • D

    I’m 23, and for as long as I can remember my dad has been a big drinker.

    When I was a kid, I never noticed he was drunk. He never stumbled or had hang overs. He was never abusive, physically or verbally. It never really occurred to me that he had a problem until about 5 years ago when after work I saw him down a 12 pack in 2 hours. He works, pays the bills and drinks, no problems right? Now that I think about it I was raised by my mother and the brilliant fatherly advice he gave me as a kid. I now realize his advice was just drunk talk.

    I was big into sports and he rarely attended. it wasn’t until i found this page that I realized a lot of people had similar stories. He truly is a great man but feels that if he wants to get home at 3pm and drink until bedtime, its his choice. To me, drinking is not a hobby. I want to get him to try hobbies and activities that don’t involve beer, but its hard. We have few family friends that he can join in activities, probably due to his drinking.

    I would like to spend just 1 weekend with my father that wasn’t spent drinking listening to his music too loud.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear D,
    I have taken a while to reply to your post, because every time I read it, the tears come. When my adopted kids were teens, I was like your dad. I drank every evening. I never went to any of their games, because by the time I found out, I was already drinking. I would never drive once I had started to drink.

    I loved them dearly, but I missed out…and they missed out. If I have any regrets in life, that is one of them. I’m so sorry.

    I cleaned up when my oldest daughter was about your age and my youngest was 16.

    The main thing you can do is make sure you don’t hook up with a man who is heading in the same direction as your dad. And of course, don’t go there yourself.

    And don’t lose hope for your dad.

    Love and blessings,
    Neill

  • Jay

    I am a functioning alcoholic. I am compelled to drink at night. I do not have any kids or a wife. I usually have 8-10 drinks a night (Beer and Whiskey). I do not get violent, abusive, or uncontrollable. I plan my night around drinking. I try to have a meal around seven at night. That way I can start drinking around eight. I drink until I am intoxicated. Then I go to bed. I am incapable of drinking during the day. If I start drinking too early or too late, I feel sick the next day. Alcoholism runs in my family. My Mother’s side of the family is stricken with alcoholism. In college I didn’t drink much at all. I smoked a lot of Marijuana. After college was over I had to get a job so I quit smoking Marijuana and immediately switched to alcohol. I don’t want to enter a treatment program because I am afraid that if I quit drinking I will start doing illegal drugs.
    -Jay

  • my husband of 22 yrs has had a bad year, drinking got worse when i tried to detach like alanon says too, then when i stopped doing things because of his drinking, then im having an affair, listen to that nonsense for 4 yrs., a girlfriend and lies to his family and friends, well then came domestic violence, him leaving the home, filed for divorce, we promised each other we didnt believe in divorce, yet here we are, my question is how do i ask him to take respondsibility, ive tried setting an example, by telling him what i need to take respondsibility for, he still thinks he did nothing wrong, its all me, he is going to aa, but i think they teach selfishness, nothing else, i have resolved to, its between me and him, and that we lost sight of whats important, we should both take rsepondsibility, why are alcoholics so ignorant to there problem, why does aa, tell take care of number 1, i really dont understand, what happen to family first and foremost?

  • that doesnt even cover half of the crap he has done, we have a 16 yr old daughter, 21 yr old son,hes treated our daughter like crap for a long time, dont know why, cruel, verbally abusive to all of us.

  • hi, i just had to let you know how brave i think you are for telling all of us about yourself, i am not a drinker, but i married one, 18 yrs in he got hurt at work, i had a great job at chrysler, got sick, while taking care of him, 8 months later, i was diagnosed w/fibromyalgia, was taking lyrica for two years, but i dont trust pills so i would constantly ween myself off, but i couldn’t toally quit because of the side effects of the meds, it was like some hit you in the forhead w/an axe, then my husband left us, and guess what, i have not needed a pill since he left, nor do i have any symptoms anymore? i guess what im telling you is to find a meditation technigue that might work for you to deal w/stress, i never thought stress affected me at all, wrong. stress can kill you from the inside out, alls you can do is treat people the way you want to be treated, i know it sounds stupid, but how would jesus handle this situation, i believe in god, so i find alot of solice there, i hope you find your peace, just be happy with yourself. you are worthwhile, we all are, you are not alone.

  • Jonelle

    Hi Dr. Neill

    My father is 56. My sister, mother and I believe he is a functioning alcoholic. There is history of alcoholism with his mother and brother, although he denies it. He also denies he has a problem. My sister and I are at a loss on how to deal with the situation. Over the years we have all tried to get him to recognise his problem, and have suggested he try cutting back. I have just moved back in with my parents, and at the suggestion of my sister, I have been monitoring his alcohol intake, which he keeps in his beer fridge in his shed. On average he will consume 6 full strength beers, half a bottle of scotch and half a bottle of red wine in one evening, mostly within a four hour period. When he comes inside at night, he can barely walk, and at dinner he slurs his words. This has been the situation for as long as we can remember. We want to try a family intervention, with my sister taking insisting if he wants to be alive to see his grand children grow, he should stop drinking.

    My father is about to go back to work, which will mean he will be living away from all of us and he will have to look after himself. He will be alone, and work will stress him out, and therefore he will drink more.

    Can you help us?

  • Tom

    Hello,

    I’m just trying to get a grip of this site. All these comments have a time attached, but what is the date?

    Is this Blog still current?

    Thank you,

    Tom…

  • Tom

    I suppose I should have added that todays date is the 6th of May 2009.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Tom,

    There are no dates, because the material is evergreen. Nevertheless, there are new comments posted every week. Just dive in and add to the discussion.

    Neill

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Jonelle,

    Your father clearly has a serious alcohol problem and is drinking himself to death. (I am not just saying that metaphorically. My daughter was a heavy drinker and died at 51.)

    Sometimes interventions work to catch the attention of the alcoholic, but how much is your mother willing to change? Assuming they are together, she is part of his support system for continuing to drink. Has she read my book? There’s a lot of help in it for the spouse of the alcoholic.

    If he does get the message and does stop drinking, as hundreds of thousands of men before him have done, that is just the first step. It will probably take a couple of years at least to face his demons and reinvent his life. He will have to face a lifetime of issues that he has avoided or denied through alcohol abuse. Maybe he knows that, and that is what he is afraid of.

    Tough call!

  • Tom

    Hello all,

    I am so glad to have stumbled onto this site. Now I have a name to put to my girlfriend Amy’s situation and that at least helps a little. She is the kindest, most Gentle and Intuitive person I’ve ever met and I love her dearly, but the term Functioning Alcoholic fits her to a tee.

    There’s no history of Alcoholism in her family. She was married for over 20 years to a “great guy” and had three wonderful children. As a family they became Christians and attended the same church for 13 years. The church community was a HUGE part of their life. From the outside all was well.

    Two weeks after their marriage she found that he’d brought an ex girlfriend home to their house and had sex with her in their bed. She never told a soul about this and tried to forget it. After all her husband was perfect.

    Over the years he became self employed but he ran the company into $100,000 of debt. Amy took some control of the business finances. I’m proud of her because with everyone thinking there was no way out besides bankruptcy she dug them out of dept. It took several years of hard work. Ramen noodles and second hand cloths were the name of the day…

    He took control again but within a short time they were back where they started. He’d been lying to her about his stupid spending on boy’s toys.

    She’d had enough and they divorced. He went bankrupt.

    Amy started drinking and got a DUI. The Harper Valley PTA mentality of her church loved it. Soon fingers were pointed at her so she drunk more. Ted, her ex husband became a preacher. There he was, the upstanding Christian and Amy the drunken looser.

    Part of her DUI conviction was not to drink but to me that seems like a judge telling an epileptic not to have a seizure. Amy sought help from a church councilor. After being assured that their conversations were completely confidential she confided that she was still drinking. The councilor immediately reported this to the police and Amy was in trouble yet again. More finger pointing from these wonderful church folk.

    Over the years she has fallen foul of the law several times always due to drinking and waster boyfriends. She’s broken bones by falling and put holes in the sheetrock all around the house. She checked herself into a so-called Christian rehab and lived there for three months but they seemed to have their own warped agenda so she left.

    She once called a suicide hot line and stupidly gave her address. The police arrived, sirens screaming. They cuffed her and took her to jail for assessment. They decided she was not serious and tossed her out. The neighbors loved it.

    These days she holds down a very responsible job and works hard. None of her colleges have any idea about her drinking. She kept the house, paid off the mortgage and pays all the bills. Amy can go all week without a drop, but within hours of her days off she’s drunk and will continue drinking until she passes put. She’ll basically stays that way until it’s time to go back to work.

    I suppose its no surprise that with all this blackness inside that she’s not a happy drunk. She becomes violent and turns on me. I’ve been beaten up more times than I can remember.

    I stay with her because I can see the old Amy inside of her. She’s a truly wonderful person, but she has this sickness. I compare it to if she was ill in some other way. Would I leave if she lost her legs? No. Would I leave if she some other horrible illness? No.

    She has lost all faith in councilors and the like and believes no one can help her. She still believes her married life was close to perfection.

    I Truly Love this girl, but what do I do???

    Lastly I do object to all the publicity about women being the target of drunken men. It happens both ways.

  • Tom

    I’m sorry for your situation Lena. I’ve got to agree about your “selfish” comment.

  • Sara

    These comments are freaking me out. So many of the conclusions or feelings are dead on for how I feel. I’ve been with an ABF for 5/6 yrs now and for the past year now have only truly begun to understand whats been going on. We met around 21, so while outings and dates always had drinking involved, I figured yeah, we are young and fun. As the years passed, I grew out of it but he has gotten worse. I love him to death, hes perfect. All the things you look for in a man, great sense of humor, amazing at his job, sweet, caring…. the problem I only get to see that man I fell I love with for about 10 hrs a week. He’s basically an inconsiderate ass and proud of it. I detached not to feel the pain. I didn’t realize that was common practice in this situation. Im sad and angry beyond belief that the man I love doesn’t exist. I look at a shell each night and it disgusts me. When does the anger go away?? I’m good at holding it in when hes drunk, but I dont think I should censor my self because I am scared of making him angy when hes drunk. That enabling, huh?? I calmly talk to him when hes sober, but he kinda laughs it off, says sorry and moves on. He’s turning all the problems on me, and for a second I wondered if he was right, but glad to hear im not the first SO to have this happen to, and saddened that I won’t be the last. I think most my anger is towards the alcohol, and im annoyed he doesn’t see it yet. I cannot wait to read your book, and understand how to get past the angry and feeling of betrayal. Ok, thank you so much for letting me get this long post out, if I have to feel alone in this relationship, Im so happy to know I am not alone in this situation. (i am in the process of getting out)

  • Cathy

    I recently ended a long term relationship with a "functioning alcoholic". Sad but true, most of them use the alcohol as self medicating means to escape the pressures of reality. The individual that I am aware of continues to thrive and survive in a world oblivious to the impact their incoherent behavior has on others around them. I surrendered my efforts to address the issue since my projections were met with hostility, denial and defense mechanisms. My perception of this highly educated man was that he refused to admit to unresolved emotional issues and consistently portrayed sociopathic personality traits. In a world with technology at our fingertips for resources and direction, chosen behavior, a result of thought process, is elected free will to endure or enjoy the consequences of choice. Control lies at the heart of individual choice and their ability to change their thinking and change their lives.

  • L

    I found your website tonight after another argument with my husband. We have been together for over nine years and I am pregnant with our first child. Tonight, like many nights, he continued to drink beer after beer, even when I asked him to slow down and at least drink some water in between. After the baseball game that we were watching ended, he tried to turn on his music (blasting his music is his MO when drinking). I asked him to stop and he turned on me.

    He has been verbally abusive to me in the past and is occasionally physically abusive (grabs my arm, etc). Today, he got in my face and I told him to back away. He beared down on me and would not stop even when I reminded him that I am pregnant. He then put his hand directly on top of mine and squeezed my nails into my knuckles, dragging me and my laptop off of the couch and onto the floor. I managed to get the laptop onto the floor without it getting broken and got myself into a standing position. When he threatened me again, I hit him in the head with my own head to get free. I told him that I am done tolerating his drinking.

    Usually it does not get to this point, but today it did and it scared me. This type of thing only happens maybe once/twice a year, which I understand is too much but still.. I told him that I care more about the baby that I am carrying than I care about him and that he better not touch me again. He began to mock me. I warned him again and left the room.

    He is now upstairs sleeping and will remember little/none of what actually happened. When he wakes up, it will all be my fault. He will find a way to twist all of this and blame me. It’s getting to the point that I wish I could videotape what really happens so that he can see the truth. My husband works every day, is well-respected in his job, makes more money than me, and thinks it’s OK to drink like this because he goes to work everyday and he is not an everyday drinker (although he does drink at least 4-5 nights a week). His brother is also a heavy drinker, but acts differently when drunk. I resent their mother for not nipping this in the bud long ago. I think it is unfair that she didn’t do her job as a mother to make her son be responsible as a husband.

    I love my husband and much of the time he is a wonderful man. His drinking embarrasses and isolates me, though.

    I have no one to talk to about it because the nature of his behavior would lead my friends and family to vilify him. I also have nowhere to go when these things happen because I try to keep a lid on this part of my life as much as possible. I can deal with my choices when they only affect me, but I now worry about how he will be when our baby comes. He was much better over the past six months, but has started getting worse again, culminating in tonight.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear L,

    Keeping a lid on this part of your life, and not sharing what you are going through with your closest fiends and family are only enabling him to drink more and escalate the violence. The stories behind the statistics about women who are murdered by their husbands usually include keeping the problem secret. The majority also involve alcohol.

    In the aftermath, the friends say “We had no idea…”

    Being open about the spousal abuse is your second-best defense against being a statistic.

    Take care.

  • Bob

    You imply that alcoholism is linked with being a pedophile and a child molester, and that somehow getting drunk burns down houses. Wow….just…wow. Where did you get your degree, Hollywood Upstairs Medical School?

  • francois

    you are just a boring fart who finds fault with other peoples’ lives. you are great. or not. so now go and delete this comment. because you think whatever you do in this life is more important than what many drunks have done.

    ps. i did not beat the shit out of you. that was your father. i don’t have a problem with him. i never met him. pain is pain. stop projecting, you weak little person.

    take responsibility for your alcoholism. and only then you’ll be happy.

    i need a drink.

    bye

  • alison

    my husband has always liked to drink but i have watched it continually increase over the last 20 years. he holds down a full time job and only drinks after work and can carry out most things in family life. he was drinking approx 8 cans of stella (21 units)four of five nights a week but this has now increased to every night and more if we ever go out.Despite this amount he doesnt seem drunk and often he drinks till he falls asleep. I am very worried about him as his dad was an alcoholic and his brother is addicted to other substances. we dont sleep together any more and he blames me for his drinking, i do get angry but because i feel so neglected. Can u give me advise

  • Carrie

    Finding this site has been such a relief to me. I have been married for nearly 20 years to a man who has always ‘liked a drink’. His father is a big drinker also. My husband drinks several nights a week, and also for hours on Saturday and Sunday. At least twice a week he drinks enough to have ‘blackouts’ and not remember most of it the next day. I can not recall a Sunday lunch for the past 10 years or so when he was not slurring, and I don’t suppose he can recall the Sunday lunches at all. He seems to be incapable of passing the pub without going in, often for several hours. He frequently drinks and drives, sometimes with our children in the car (though not often because I go ballistic and also they are now old enough to be aware that he’s been drinking and won’t get in the car). Each of my children has asked me if their Dad’s an alcoholic (they are teenagers now). One son said that ‘I’m not going to drink, I don’t want to be like Dad, that’s just stupid’.

    We never have any wine or beer in the house because he just drinks whatever is here. I have several bottles of wine hidden in case we have unexpected guests. I rarely drink at all myself now because I just can’t stand the smell of it anymore.

    My husband has always had a fairly good job and seems to be doing well with it, he never misses work because of drinking and never seems to suffer from a hangover. He gets aggressive when he’s been drinking and can be very unpleasant verbally to me and to the children. At one point our kids’ friends wouldn’t come around on a Sunday afternoon because they were afraid of my husband. Mostly, though, we all just avoid him when he’s been drinking, he eventually passes out on the sofa. To everyone else that knows him, he’s the life and soul, good fun, a great laugh, such a nice guy. However, many people have commented on the amount of time he spends in the pub.

    Our marriage seems to be pretty much over to me. We sleep in separate rooms which suits me because I don’t have to be woken up by a smelly drunken man, have sleepness nights because of the snoring, and wake up in a room stinking of alcohol. But I am so so lonely and I feel so guilty because I feel we have let down our children who deserve so much more than this. I don’t want them to suffer from a broken home. I just don’t know what to do (crying now).

    I have mentioned his drinking to him in the past and he reacts angrily, denying he has a drink problem. I don’t even want to think about how much money he spends on drink (we struggle financially). I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets done for drinking and driving, and then we will lose our main source of income. I struggle to understand how he can risk so much for a drink and occasionally panic about him causing injury or death to an innocent person because of drinking and driving.

    He blames me for his drinking, I don’t love him enough and I’m not good enough to him, I don’t respect him, have enough sex with him etc. I have to admit that lately I don’t feel I love him at all and would be happier if we separated but always I go back to thinking of the children, and can not bear to hurt them. Of course they love their Dad, who can be great fun when he’s sober. Lazy as sin though, always has been. A man to always do the bare minimum.

    Well, it’s been good to get that off my chest. I feel so stressed out at the moment and I really don’t know where to turn.

  • robert

    This is for Lulu and Jennifer and anyone else who feels that they’re in that same situation. I was in a very similar situation, but on the other side of it- that is, I was the functioning alcoholic. I had a good job, I was never mean to anyone, lots of good friends, very social and well liked by everyone I met. I also drank at least 3 beers a night, usually more, and would be drinking fairly constantly on my days off.

    I never felt like it was a problem, since I never missed work, was never hungover, never blacked out, and never said or did anything mean to my girlfriend when I had been drinking. We could talk about anything openly and work through any of the usual relationship issues with no problem- with one exception. If she ever mentioned that she was concerned about my drinking i would get defensive.

    After all, I never neglected any of my responsibilities because of my drinking. Also, her dad was a recovering alcoholic so any amount of drinking on my part was going to be scrutinized, right? I’d rationalize that she was just overcompensating because of her alcoholic father.

    Most of the times she’d try to talk to me about my drinking, I’d respond by just walking away and drinking even more. Over time, the fact that I wouldn’t even listen to her concerns about my drinking caused her to begin to withdraw. I responded by drinking even more. Eventually the relationship ended when I broke up with her.

    In the end, I chose alcohol over the amazing beautiful woman that I loved dearly.

    This is where it ends up. That is the choice I made, and that is the choice most alcoholics will make.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Thank you, Robert, for sharing your story and spelling it out so clearly.

  • Annie

    I am engaged to a man who has problems with alcohol. I would say he is a high functioning alcoholic. In the past he had a really hard time controlling it and has lost jobs due to his drinking and he’s caused emotional pain to his loved ones. He has since gotten his life together through a lot of self reflection and admitting that he has a problem. He now holds down a successful job that he continues to excel at and takes good care of me and our home. We live a happy day to day life. He cooks every night after work and we spend time together and he loves going out and doing active things, playing music, and is a generally happy person with lots of hobbies. But it seems like when there’s nothing else going on he drinks more than a normal amount. On these days I feel unhappy even when it’s not directly affecting my life. I hate when his breath smells like alcohol because I feel like he’s not trying to work on his problem. We talk openly about his problems with alcohol and he says he is always trying to figure out ways of dealing with it. He says he doesn’t order drinks when we go out anymore because he’s trying not to make it part of his lifestyle when we socialize. And he will try quitting completely for periods of time but gets back into drinking because he feels so irritable and anxious. He’s tried to quit in the past by trying out anti-depressants to manage those feelings, but he’s only tried once and not for an extended period of time. I think he still believes that he can figure out a way to manage his condition, but I hear that this is typically not true. And he still brings home little bottles of alcohol that he hides, even though we both know it’s there. I always tell him that I think keeping it in the house is not helping him and why would he do that if he really thinks this is problem that he wants to work through. Both of his parents have issues with addiction that they have come to manage so I think he believes the same will happen for him. I do believe that he wants to work through his problem but I think he needs to commit to it more. As I’ve said, we live a happy and normal day to day life. I always feel like I can’t wait to come home to him (we’ve been together 6 years). But as the wedding gets closer I am concerned about marrying someone with alcohol issues. And then reading these posts makes me worried that I am in for a lifetime of pain. I wonder if there is more I could be doing to help him get the help he needs. He is a person who is into healthy living in most other ways and even quit smoking after many years. Sometimes, based on things he says, I wonder if he is reaching out and I should be more pushy in trying to get him to get help. I just always thought it was one of those things a person needed to do on their own.

  • Donna

    You sound just like me, have not slept in the room with my husband in 2 years because of his drinking 

  • Kate

    I am engaged to my boyfriend of 4 years, and he is a wonderful person. We communicate on a very deep level, and though he has a lot of relationship fears based on his difficult first marriage, we always face those things together and talk them through. He’s extremely intelligent and funny–and also full of anxiety and easily ground down by the world. I know he loves what he sees as the release and escape of booze.

    He can go out with me and have 2 drinks and call it a night, or have a few cocktails at a family gathering and not continue to drink, but on the weekends he inevitably gets completely wasted one night and stays up until 4 AM. And there will be random weeknights (or Sunday afternoons) when this happens as well, though he always gets himself out of bed to go to work in the morning. I can’t stand the person he becomes when he’s drinking, and we’ve had some of our most miserable fights when he’s been drunk. I suppose this is quite common. We have gone back and forth about his alcohol abuse–he’ll say he needs to quit, he’ll abstain for awhile, then try "moderation," then inevitably end up partying as usual. I gather that it’s much better than it used to be years ago, but it’s still unacceptable to me.

    The worst part is that I’ve learned not to trust him when he says he’s just going out for a few with a friend, or when he tells me that "nothing crazy is going to happen." If he’s out with certain people, he’ll always end up completely drunk. And even if I don’t have to deal with him when he’s drunk (I’ll make him sleep in the guest room if he comes home late), I still have to deal with his hangover and uselessness the next day, and the inevitable depression he feels on Monday and Tuesday because his body chemistry has been so compromised by drinking.

    I feel like we got engaged under false pretenses, because he was in a (short) period of abstinence when we decided to marry. I know I don’t have it as bad as many of you do, but the feelings you all describe of detaching yourself, or of thinking you’re crazy, or feeling stalled in your life while you hope for things to get better–these feelings are familiar to me, and it’s really worn away at my sense of self. I feel like I used to be a stronger person.

    I am trying to come to a decision to call off the wedding, which is next month. This is going to be hugely painful, but I know on some level that things can’t get better as long as he keeps drinking–and I think he feels that his drinking is manageable enough that he doesn’t actually have a problem.

  • cindy

    My husband and I have been married for a year now. He is a very loving husband and takes very good care of me. But his drinking habits has started to annoy me. It took me a while to realise that its actually a habit for him.
    There has not been a single weekend that he goes without drinking. He makes sure we have a weekend plan accordingly. I dont know if I am over-reacting but it has started to bother me a lot.
    When I try to talk about it, he gets irritated that I am branding him as an alcoholic, when he is not one. He dismisses it by saying that all his friends do the same every weekend. He also has a family background of drinking. So he thinks its not a big deal for him to drink every weekend. He doesnt need any company to drink. He enjoys staying up late till 3or 4 in the night and drink alone.
    On an average he would finish a more than half of a 750ml bottle of scotch over the weekend (all three days!). He doesn’t get abusive when he drinks though nor does he pass out. Am I overreacting or is it ok for someone to drink every weekend?

  • Syd

    I have no idea if this thread is still active, but I’ll post my dilemma in the event that it is. It’s a long one, as there’s a lot of background info.

    I was in a 1 year relationship with a wonderful man. He is creative, enjoys cooking and dancing and laughing. We see eye to eye on politics, religion and child-rearing.

    He also drinks a lot. He calls himself a functional alcoholic. He does not miss work, and pays his bills, but has a lot of credit card debt (~10k; 7+ of that accumulated over the past year). He does not yell or become violent when he drinks, but becomes overly sensitive to things that I say or do, becomes defensive during typically enlightening philosophical discussions, which results in a dissolving of discussion into finger-pointing (at me) and statements that this relationship may not be working. Somehow, I always walk away from these arguments convinced that I was the one who did something wrong.

    In addition to the drinking he has severe anxiety that he refuses to medicate or seek therapy for, which is probably a large part of why he’s drinking. Although he functions at work he is dysfunctional at home; cannot do things in an efficient manner, seems to be running in circles, takes hours to do things that should take minutes because he gets distracted by other things on the path to completion of the previous task. As a result, he is constantly chasing his own tail, and just barely keeping his head above water. We have a lot of business ideas and plans for future success, but they never get off the ground because he is so overwhelmed just keeping up with daily life. I think this is due, in large part, to his drinking. Because he drinks so much, I began drinking more, so that I could relate to him on the same mental level. My increase in drinking has also made me less productive in daily life as well as in work on my/our future.

    Last week, after one of these conversations he was more agitated than usual and he kicked me out of his apartment, nastily. He did not raise his voice, but was very demeaning and just kept repeating to get out, go home, get out, kitchen’s closed, call me when you’re not drunk, etc… This was 2 hours after he said he was going to give me a key. (finally after a year of dating …)

    This was the last straw for me, at the time, because I felt disrespected and humiliated being kicked out over a philosophical disagreement, and after a long discussion with him, we decided that the relationship could not work in its current state, and he stated that he was not sure it would work in a sober state either, because maybe we wouldn’t like each other sober. We broke it off, but it makes me sick. I know that we both played a role in this because we both drink. I decided I do not want to be the person I am when I’m drinking, so I just stopped. Although I was afraid that I had become alcohol dependent, because I drank so frequently with him, I have no withdrawal symptoms and no cravings when I’m not with him – so I believe I was just abusing the alcohol.

    My question is, finally, is there strong hope for recovery in a situation like this? He drinks a bottle of wine or equivalent+ in vodka every night. On weekends, he starts drinking at breakfast – champagne – and continues through the day with wine or vodka. He knows he has a problem, discussed this with me openly, recognizes that he cannot be successful in a relationship with someone else who is drunk or sober as long as he is drinking, and he has previously been in rehab, many years ago. 1 wk of inpatient rehab was successful and he was clean for 8 years – but relapsed after graduation from our doctorate program.

    I hate to think that this relationship is done and fried forever, because there are some truly wonderful things about it, but also fear the long-term impact of a relationship with an alcoholic. His dad is a violent and verbally abusive alcoholic, so that type of situation is ‘normal’ for him. He recognizes the problems, but continues to stay in the holding pattern of daily drinking.

    In your experience, is this something that I can influence by recommending rehab/therapy for hope at a successful return to a productive relationship? Or since he recognized the problem, is it something that he just has to want badly enough to do? I wonder if by not saying anything he will justify my leaving by thinking that i drink too much and get “snippy” (his word for when I don’t let him walk over me in a debate) – so his issues are really not the problem, because he doesn’t get angry or hit or yell.

    That was really long, but I wanted to get in as much info as I could provide for the most accurate assessment. I’d be happy for any input. Thanks.

  • Jim

    I am a functioning alcoholic. I live in Japan where drinking with the coworkers and boss is expected behavior. My wife drinks too and I think she would be considered a functioning alcoholic. I have always liked to drink, the taste of beer and the feeling it gives me but now more than ever I am worried. It is in every part of my life! On the weekends, I drink a beer instead of tea or water up to 6 or sometimes 8 500ml cans a day. I reckon that if I am going to pay 150 yen for a cola or tea, I might as well pay 200 yen for a beer. The only time I don’t drink is at work and in the hours before work. Is there anything I can do? I don’t want to have a life like this anymore but I can’t stop and I can’t stop my wife either. It really sucks.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Cindy,

    You are not over-reacting. I hope you can see what he is doing/needing and how it is annoying you as huge red flags.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Syd,

    He may or may not choose to leave alcohol behind and there is little you can do about it. Given his level of drinking, he probably does not have the moderation option. So far, he chooses alcohol over you. Take that as serious.

    Yes, he will probably blame you and say horrible things about you to his next girlfriend, but that is what alcoholics do–alcoholics blame others and seldom take responsibility. Apologies are hauled out if needed to keep things the way they are.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Jim, Stop saying you can’t quit. Million of addicts have quit successfully. I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, but it is a choice. Then get whatever support you need to guide you through the massive, unpredictable changes that may occur in your life in the aftermath of quitting.

    Your wife will have to make her own choices. You cannot do a lot more than be a good model of possibility.

  • Jim

    Dr. Neill,
    Thank you for your words of advice and support. I understand what you are saying and you are absolutely right. It is a choice and I must decide to do it for myself. I am actively trying this week to cut back but things are not going so well yet (I have already had 3 beers tonight). I still feel that I must consider my wife too and I am trying to talk to her about what we can do together. She is not an unreasonable person but we both just find it easier to drink than go to the gym or get out and have a good time together. I will change this and I think I can do it now, I have just kept this to myself for so long and getting it out there makes me feel a lot less afraid to move forward.

  • KP

    Dear Dr. Neill,

    I should read your book soon, as I also relate to these stories here. I have been with my husband for nearly 20 years, married young. He is also a good man, but I see him as a real split person–a werewolf of sorts. The morning person is the man I love, up until about 3 or so (on a work day)…Then the closer it comes to drinking time, the more distracted and preoccupied he becomes. The obsession for the drink is constantly in conflict with other practical issues like who will drive, money (what is the best deal wine or beer), how to conceal drinking in public, breath mints, etc. He never takes a day off unless he is in AA, which has not lasted long because he convinces himself that it isn’t for him, he isn’t that bad.

    However, enough is enough. I am leaving him, or rather asking him kindly to leave us. It is unfair for the kids, to me, to have to settle and set up our lives around a drink daily. He doesn’t know how to spend time with our kids doing anything that they like to do…It is always about his drink when it is not work time so the kids have had to settle for a soda while Dad drinks a few at the bar. THIS is his idea of quality time. At the movies, he sneaks a drink in or sneaks out for a strong shot, making up an excuse for leaving the theatre. It is sad, and for me it is over. It’s the hardest thing I have had to do (I’ve left before), but my life is more stable without this energy killing pattern (sometimes I drink too, though I can and do leave it any day.)

    If we have a future, he will have to be sober for 6 months at least. The most he has gotten to was 2 or 3 weeks. But he will have to do it for himself. He has promised countless times to control his drinking. I hope that word to be true, but I cannot worry about him anymore. I have my own dreams.

    Thanks for listening,
    KP

  • Cheryl

    I’m so relieved to have found other people like me. My husband is what I now know to be a functioning alcoholic. He holds down a great job, he’s a supportive and loving husband, a good dad, does lots of good work in the community and is respected by those he comes into contact with. He doesnt drink in the mornings, and I dont think he drinks spirits But….he goes for a beer on the way home from work every day, and then will drink steadily until bed time. He’s not very often really drunk, the worst it usually gets is slurred speech and dozing off, but I hate hate hate it. The sound of the ring pull coming off the can makes me feel sick with fear. I think the fear is that he is controlled by his drinking rather than the other way round.

    He tried stopping once, but failed. He tried moderating, and I suppose has done so to an extent, but I dont think he will cut down any more. I dread to think how many units he drinks a week :-( He’s 46 and I worry that he will die far too young. Its the saddest thing……..

  • Sharon

    My husband of 31 years is a “functioning”, non-violent alcoholic, meaning he pretends to work fulltime, but actually works for 4 hours, then goes and sits in a park and drinks 8 large cans of beer, sometimes more, watches videos on a small dvd player, snoozes and snacks until it’s time to arrive home from ‘work’ right on time. He may go straight to read in bed, or on rare occasions manages to do a small household task, a little yardwork, supper and is asleep by 8:30pm. He never drinks publicly. I never have reason to go to his place of work or phone him there, so he believes I am unaware this is daily. He has completely isolated himself from workmates, friends and family such that an intervention would only include me and our two adult sons. Would such a small intervention have any hope of an impact? I’ve been told by about five counsellors not to confront him, that I can’t change him. Should I be in contact with his employer and finding out if he’s actually arranges to work part time? Should I be phoning police to intercept his daily drive home from the park? Is doing nothing ‘enabling’? I’m losing sight of reasonability.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Sharon,

    One of the famous Parkinson’s Laws is "Delay is the deadliest form of denial." The counselors are partly right; you can’t change him. Only he can do that.

    But by telling you not to confront him, they are in essence telling you to put your life on hold and wait for him to die. He does have a death wish, but the problem is, he could die tomorrow in a car crash or he could live another 30 years, the last ten of which, you could be taking care of an invalid. Or you could die first.

    If you don’t have a personal death wish, then by all means confront. Arrange the family intervention. If he’s driving under the influence, do what you have to do to get him off the road before he kills somebody’s child…or mother. (I’m sensitive to that because a drinking driver killed my mother.) Do your research re his job so you have the facts for the intervention.

    Think long and hard about what you want for your life. I know it’s not the present. Bringing things out in the open is the only way you could possibly have the life you want with him. So get selfish. It might just kick-start him on a path back to life.

    Sharon, this won’t be easy. And yes, "The ultimate enabler is the one who does nothing."

    Best wishes for your journey.

  • Steve

    One should be aware that this rather sanctimonious method of classifying people does not exist outside of the United States of America. It is an insidious catchall used to pigeon-hole people who may validly choose to self-medicate with alcohol as opposed to religion, prozac, psycho-babble or yoga. All I can say is that it deflects attention from the causes of drinking too much and true alcoholism, which is a shame as those people really do need help. The hysteria over drinking alcohol in this country is misplaced, misinterpreted piety and quite frankly people who function in every aspect of their lives whilst keeping up a reasonable level of alcohol intake should not be made to carry a burden of guilt. Alcohol is a viable way to deal with the fact that life just isn’t quite as perfect as we thought it would be when we were children. Please grow up and stop being quite so self-indulgent and judgmental. My heart goes out to all the true victims of alcohol abuse, and there are many.

  • Suzie

    I am about to leave my partner and father of our two sons. We’ve lived in France for 4 years in poverty. He neglects everything at home, smothers the boys with cuddles and affection, sweets and indulgence and cold shoulders me. He is pleasant every night once his eyes start to shine after 2 glasses of wine. He drinks about a bottle of red or two a night. After the third or fourth anything can come out of his mouth, usually it’s centered around his work but if I complain about the neglect it’s verbally abusive toward me. He drinks every night and is very unreliable. The boys adore him but never know when he’s coming or going, there’s no structure or routine when he’s around; he dismisses most things I say, lives in a state of fear and insomnia surrounding his work, and in a state of dreaming about his riches and wealth to come; to be as successful as his brother is his main objective, although he pretends to himself and others he is doing it for the family.

    I know he cannot remember half what he says to me, he is utterly self righteous about not doing things in the home (insulating an outside door – we live in the alps, buying firewood, emptying our porta potty – we had no toilet for over a year and I would have to do it, he refused, even when I had gastro in 5 feet of snow), fixing a broken window on our front door…Dear God finally after years of worrying about the harm it would do to the children by removing them from this situation, I am finally realising the grim reality is that if I don’t leave with them now, they will be permanently affected by his lack of respect, and continued neglect towards me.

    This man came from wealthy parents and was farmed off to boarding school at the age of 6. Apparently his unpleasant mother who is an alcoholic herself and very similar to her son, was abusive when they were little. This man tells me he loves me but it is all lies. He tells me it is all my fault, that everyone thinks so, that I am the problem; not him. His family back him. After all he works right? Functional alcoholic, unfunctioning human being, it’s a crying shame that he sucks people in and makes them feel sorry for him, while telling his partner that he will fucking kill her in front of the children.

    Can you believe I nearly went back to him. I kicked him out 5 months ago, but lack of funds and the approaching winter made me question myself. Back with him for two weeks and over the weekend I have a terrible rising panic, then a stinking migraine with vomiting. The last time I had one of those was early in the year when he said I was ‘fucking him over’ by making him miss work for a day. I leave with the boys on the 30th November, just two more weeks, back to England to stay with my mother. I wish I could go before but legal reasons prevent me. The boys will miss him terribly but I cannot literally stomach going back to him. Excuse the language :-)

  • lala

    Late last night, my boyfriend of nearly three years kicked me out of the apartment. He’s in his early 40s. Though he swore he wouldn’t drink the month of January (new year’s resolution), a stressful job and a girlfriend who’s in between jobs (me) have resulted in a classic Jeckyll and Hyde. He’s kind, loving, generous good man, says he appreciates me, however he can fly off the handle over the littlest things nowadays. Case in point: last night, after spending an hour in the jacuzzi and apparently drinking his Casadores, he walked into the bedroom where I was asleep. He asked me to turn around (he wanted to surprise me with a massage). He asked me three times to turn around, and I sleepily told him no. He threw a fit, tore off the comforter from the bed, started yelling, when I held up my hand and said stop, he grabbed both my hands and told me never to hit him. He manhandled me, and he says he’s going to file a restraining order. Huh?

    Neither of us has ever been married, but he’s lived with girlfriends.
    I waited until my late 30s to live with anyone. When I met him, I was drawn to his big heart, his ability to “get me,” his can-do attitude.

    I’ve always felt safe with him. Until the past year. He has a stressful job, drinks tequila to cope. I wish I had a fast-track Al-Anon program. More than anything, I’m sad. We love(d) each other, but the pain and ugliness have overshadowed the kindness we had for one another. Any thoughts?

  • lisa b

    I find reading these very interesting.

    I am the one in my family who would (I think) be considered a functioning alcoholic. My husband has been sober for over 15 years (before I even met him) and I know he fears for me and the amount I drink.

    My drink of choice is beer – cheap beer. I don’t like any other kinds of alcohol except wine/champagne periodically. If I am honest about my consumption, I would say that I drink 3-5 nights out of the week, anywhere from 3-6 beers at a time. An 18-pack is good for me for the week. I drink at home, most of the time after my children have gone to bed (ages 2 and 7) … I’ve called this my ‘time to unwind’ and veg out on the computer while drinking. It’s been an escape for me in that I am a military wife and don’t have many friends on base … so this is my social outlet (beer and Facebook).

    Yet, I am functioning. I get up and take my son and the neighbor’s kids to school; I make dinners and have them ready for when hubby gets home … but my quality of life is not where it should be. And that makes me extremely sad. I don’t take part in extra-curricular things for my kids and spend much of my days just tired and struggling with depression.

    I think that I’ve not really considered it a problem because I managed to get things done – granted, I didn’t do them ‘great’, but they still got done. I also have reassured myself that because I really only drink beer, that I don’t have a problem … doesn’t an alcoholic have zero-control over what they drink? If the beer is gone, then I am done (even if there is something else available). In my mind, I saw this as a key to getting out of being called an alcoholic.

    I’ve been re-thinking my drinking this past week or so. I rarely go out, but happened to with a friend last Thursday … I drank a few beers and then let a guy (a super famous actor) buy me a few drinks. I had NO interest in him at all (I genuinely love my husband and kids), so I think he decided to spike my beer with a drug because of that. He wanted what he couldn’t have. Thank God, I had a friend with me who noticed an abrupt change in me and decided to not let me out of her sight … so NOTHING happened in the way of an assault. However, I am now dealing with the aftermath of this. My freedom was violated and I feel extremely vulnerable. My husband is understandably upset with me for even accepting a drink from another guy (totally out of character for me) … and he also doubts that I was drugged. He thinks I just got really drunk and made poor decisions. I know that there was something put in my drink though – I’ve been wasted before and this was nothing like that.

    So, where do I go from here? I have NO desire to make myself vulnerable through alcohol again, but is that only for the time being? Will I come up with some excuse to have a few beers in a couple months and then start the cycle again? I’m afraid to admit that I may have a problem … I don’t like that I lost control the other night.

    I’m probably one of the tougher ones to get to admit to alcoholism … the functioning alcoholic.

  • Jo-Anne

    I have a different situation. I go to friends of my husband and always think I will be able to connect. They drink heavily usually, but this time they kept to lighter drinking. I always drink more than I can handle which is not much when I go there I guess trying to fit in, but this time I noticed very abusive behavior towards me. I have a huge hearing loss in my right ear and they know that and act malicious and insulting to me when I miss stuff. Do functioning alcoholics engage in abusive behaviors or are these people just extremely disfunctional? My husband says they are not being malicious towards me. He drinks with them regularly and they are his best friends!

  • Kathy

    My husband of over 26 years left me last nite, claiming I had thrown him out of the house when actually, he incited me to ask him to leave after suggesting I shove a flashlight (I’d offered to help hold for him) up my you-know-what.
    This has followed a series of events occurring since last October when I discovered he’d lied to me about a certain woman with whom his boss had accused him of having an affair (naturally he denied this but my trust was destroyed in my long marriage).
    Douglas is my life partner and the father of our two gorgeous daughters headed to graduate soon from college. He has always had this problem but lately has become very abusive and my own mental state is not strong enough to withstand his attacks. For instance, he once asked “If I speak English?” and when I objected to that humiliating question, corrected it to, “Oh, I’m sorry, what I meant was, do you understand English?” (we are both Caucasians, I am 57 years old)
    He’s incapable of saying anything to me without concluding it with, “What part of that don’t you get?”
    After telling him he could not return home this evening (after he called to ask “What’s up?” instead of even attempting an apology for his bizarre and demeaning behavior of last nite) I called him back to ask whether he’d like to return home to get his things and I could be gone during that visit? — and in the background, I could hear the grandchildren of the “other woman” so he must have gone over to her place not 10 minutes after talking to me.
    I am trying to remember myself and not freak out but after 26 years do not quite know how to begin again.
    Doug drinks all the time, ALL the time, and it never bothered me before, for some reason. I can’t say why, must have been in denial, and so grateful that somebody was willing to marry little old unloveable me.

  • Laura

    I would consider myself to be a functioning alcoholic. I am 22 yrs old. I
    have approx. 7-12 drinks a night every night. However, I wake up every
    morning at 7 am and go to school until 1pm. And then on the weekends I go to
    work..every Saturday and every Sunday. I make more than enough money to
    support myself and my habit. My boyfriend is the only one who even knows I’m
    an alcohlic. I know this is unhealthy and I don’t plan to drink like this
    forever, but I consider myself to be young and just having fun. Besides I
    would rather be a functioning alcoholic than one who cant function.

  • Sally

    I have been married to a functioning alcoholic for 21 years. The drinking has bothered me since the first of our 4 children was born almost 17 years ago. I was bullied and belittled into acting as if it was not a big deal, that it was my problem, not his, that I was over-reacting and trying to control him. He skipped family vacations, recitals, performances, sports games and banquets, claiming to be too busy or too tired or simply not in the mood. He stopped all physical intimacy 5 years ago saying he simply was no longer interested (but always happily flirty and touchy with intoxicated women at parties). He insists he is fine to drive after drinking because he “knows” how to do it. Enough! I told him last month to go into treatment or leave. He left. Each day is better than the one before and I am looking forward to a peaceful, healthy life ahead – thank God.

  • Mary

    I think I have been in denial for a few years. I met my husband while we were attending university together. It wasn’t until we moved in together that I realized there might be a real problem. That was a couple of years ago. We were married a few months ago. I’m not sure whether I notice it more now because we’re married, or if he has gotten more comfortable and become worse. The last year has been quite tough on us, which I think has contributed somewhat. Between him losing his job under stressful circumstance, and family problems while buying a house and planning a wedding, our lives have been very stressful. What make this situation unique though is that my husband works in social work, and was an addictions counselor for years. (He has never been in recovery or rehab himself).
    This makes it very difficult for me to confront him. I have confronted him many times throughout our relationship. He is a functioning alcoholic and marijuana addict. Lately things have been a lot worse; I caught him driving home extremely drunk after I had phoned him 30 mins before to see if he needed a ride. I’ve caught him stumbling around at night and puking. Last week he called in sick to work 4 days in a row when he was not sick, and I woke up to the smell of pot smoke. He has been smoking multiple joints a day, and drinks anywhere from 4-12 beers most days. I am a nurse, and while I am working shifts, he will consume any alcohol he finds. I received some drinks for Christmas gifts, and I didn’t even get to try them. He also gets extremely lazy, and will just sleep or lie on the couch all day. None of the house work will be done while he is off on the weekend and I am working my butt off at the hospital. He does all of this alone. He will also drink at the pub by our house after work.
    Any time I try to confront him he tells me that I am just being controlling, that ‘he can do whatever he wants’ and that I am negative with him all the time, and if it wasn’t about his drinking or drug use I would just find something else to bug him about. I know I can be controlling, and I find I am becoming obsessed with his addiction. I come home and look for signs- he’ll hide bottles in drawers or closets he doesn’t want me to find. I came home from a trip and I found our bedroom rug hidden and wrapped up covered in puke. But I feel like if I don’t tell him how I’m feeling, then it will be assumed that I don’t care, and condone the activity.
    I tried to have a another serious conversation a few weeks ago; I was crying telling him that almost all the time I spend with him he is not sober; only his coworkers get to spend real time with him. I am lonely, and I feel alone in my new marriage. Our sex life is being affected because I am constantly resentful and angry about things, and he is always drunk or high which doesn’t get me in the mood.
    I am really struggling here, I don’t know what to do. I love this man, but I feel like I don’t even get to see the person I fell in love with anymore- He refuses to get help, and tells me I am too controlling and anxious and it’s my problem, that he’s fine, and going to work, etc. I am only 24 years old, and these first 3 months of marriage have not been what I envisioned. I know I cannot spend the rest of my life like this, and I refuse to bring children into this relationship like this. I am so embarrassed about his problems that I haven’t really told any friends or family. I feel so alone, I cry myself to sleep some nights, and he is passed out snoring beside me.
    I don’t know where to begin, but I am getting to a point where I need help myself. I think I am getting more angry and depressed. I can’t live in denial any longer, but he makes me feel like I’M the crazy one.. please help, any advice?

  • Mary

    I think I have been in denial for a few years. I met my husband while we were attending university together. It wasn’t until we moved in together that I realized there might be a real problem. That was a couple of years ago. We were married a few months ago. I’m not sure whether I notice it more now because we’re married, or if he has gotten more comfortable and become worse. The last year has been quite tough on us, which I think has contributed somewhat. Between him losing his job under stressful circumstance, and family problems while buying a house and planning a wedding, our lives have been very stressful. What make this situation unique though is that my husband works in social work, and was an addictions counselor for years. (He has never been in recovery or rehab himself).
    This makes it very difficult for me to confront him. I have confronted him many times throughout our relationship. He is a functioning alcoholic and marijuana addict. Lately things have been a lot worse; I caught him driving home extremely drunk after I had phoned him 30 mins before to see if he needed a ride. I’ve caught him stumbling around at night and puking. Last week he called in sick to work 4 days in a row when he was not sick, and I woke up to the smell of pot smoke. He has been smoking multiple joints a day, and drinks anywhere from 4-12 beers most days. I am a nurse, and while I am working shifts, he will consume any alcohol he finds. I received some drinks for Christmas gifts, and I didn’t even get to try them. He also gets extremely lazy, and will just sleep or lie on the couch all day. None of the house work will be done while he is off on the weekend and I am working my butt off at the hospital. He does all of this alone. He will also drink at the pub by our house after work.
    Any time I try to confront him he tells me that I am just being controlling, that ‘he can do whatever he wants’ and that I am negative with him all the time, and if it wasn’t about his drinking or drug use I would just find something else to bug him about. I know I can be controlling, and I find I am becoming obsessed with his addiction. I come home and look for signs- he’ll hide bottles in drawers or closets he doesn’t want me to find. I came home from a trip and I found our bedroom rug hidden and wrapped up covered in puke. But I feel like if I don’t tell him how I’m feeling, then it will be assumed that I don’t care, and condone the activity.
    I tried to have a another serious conversation a few weeks ago; I was crying telling him that almost all the time I spend with him he is not sober; only his coworkers get to spend real time with him. I am lonely, and I feel alone in my new marriage. Our sex life is being affected because I am constantly resentful and angry about things, and he is always drunk or high which doesn’t get me in the mood.
    I am really struggling here, I don’t know what to do. I love this man, but I feel like I don’t even get to see the person I fell in love with anymore- He refuses to get help, and tells me I am too controlling and anxious and it’s my problem, that he’s fine, and going to work, etc. I am only 24 years old, and these first 3 months of marriage have not been what I envisioned. I know I cannot spend the rest of my life like this, and I refuse to bring children into this relationship like this. I am so embarrassed about his problems that I haven’t really told any friends or family. I feel so alone, I cry myself to sleep some nights, and he is passed out snoring beside me.
    I don’t know where to begin, but I am getting to a point where I need help myself. I think I am getting more angry and depressed. I can’t live in denial any longer, but he makes me feel like I’M the crazy one.. please help

  • Kieran

    @Neil Neil. The word functioning is misused here. I would consider myself a functioning alcoholic. I have a good job and drink daily to excess (societies perception of excess) and will continue to do so. I have never assaulted anyone or put anyone in danger because of my drinking. I find the stereotypes in your piece to be in very poor taste and very narrow minded for someone who feels qualified to dispense advice. For example it is an unfortunate fact that it’s not only the daughters & sons alcoholic farmers that are subject to physical or/and sexual abuse. High profile cases in Europe are all urban dwellers holding down white collar jobs with no mention of any substance abuse. @lulu you boyfriend loves you and treats you well? You are blessed, stop worrying not everyone in teetotal like your parents. Anyway for the not so nice, no matter what anyone does there will always be assh*les. The only way domestic violence will be eliminated is by friends and neighbours not tolerating a loved one being beaten because some dickhe*d thinks he/she can, while they sit back and think it’s none of their business if they do. I will always fight for the underdog and despise those who prey prey on the vulnerable. But misinformation is only beneficial to those with an agenda, so I would ask you if you are a genuine person to please revise this piece. Health and happiness to you all, Kieran

  • Hi Kieran,

    Of course domestic abuse cuts across all layers of society, with or without alcohol. My article is not about domestic abuse, but the fact that holding a job, being married or or being healthy for now does not make an alcoholic any less of an alcoholic with all the consequences that go with it.

  • Sean

    I’m sure my dad is an alcoholic every day he will drink 4, 8 or 12 cans of Stella, if he gets home from work early in the morning he drinks, if he gets home in the afternoon he drinks, once he left the fire door wide open and if I hadn’t gone downstairs he could have easily burnt the house down. My brother is too young to properly understand but he knows he drinks too much and whenever me and my mum bring it up he ignores us or tells me to shutup, him and my mum are drifting apart and it must be doing damage to him and everytime I hear a can open I hate him more and more and more what should I do because I’m not getting through to him!!!

  • sahara

    My mother has been an alcoholic since I was a young teen (25 years ago). I have never spoken to her about it except in a jokey way and things have improved since she switched from hard spirits to wine a few years ago. She still drinks everyday from early afternoon but she never gets mad or abusive. She remains good company. She does have the shakes occasionally though and she is very thin. She never drives drunk but doesn’t leave home past one o’clock as a consequence and we’ve all learnt to catch her in the mornings only.

    I recently became a mother myself and had arranged perfect part time hours with work and my mother looking after the baby. I was nervous about the drinking but everyone in the family said its fine she would never drink around the baby. I found myself organizing my work hours around her drinking times and then realized what I was doing and promptly quit to become a full time mother. I am now getting very depressed. I miss my work and I am too ashamed to tell anyone why I quit. I can’t even tell my mother the truth of why I quit. I also feel very mean to think she can’t handle it when she is great with babies and my son loves her. But I didn’t feel it was safe. I can’t find any information to tell me whether I was right or wrong to think it wasn’t safe though.

  • Sahara, there is no right or wrong. You went with your instincts, and that’s good. However, you are still keeping the “family secret” to yourself, and you feel shame about something that isn’t your doing.

    The evidence continues to pile up that any amount of alcohol produces impairment. The question is, how much? The safety of our children is a huge issue, and it’s not something you can experiment with. You have to make judgments about babysitters, teachers, preachers and friends when it comes to the safety of your children. As your children grow you’ll look back a past decisions and see times when you may have been overcautious and time when you weren’t cautious enough.

    There is no formula for right or wrong. As parents, we love them and do the best we can to let them grow and then let them go.

  • renee

    i am what i consider a high functioning alcoholic, but all that i have come across thru the internet, googling high functioning alcoholism, not too many seem like me. i am the first person to openly say yes i am an alcoholic. i can’t not have a drink in my hand. My boyfriend calls a drink in my hand my security blanket. and having given it much thought, i think that is exactly what it is. my security blanket. I’m a former meth addict. i had 2 two year longs stints with meth addiction, and both times quit completely. and it wasn’t occasional meth usage, it was daily. it was my security blanket. and the last time i quit the meth, i started to drink regularly. it became my reward. but i can make a drink at 9 a.m. and when i go to bed at 10 or 11 at night, still be sober. sure, now and then on weekends when i don’t have responsibilities like working in the morning and taking care of my teenagers because its dads weekend, i might overdo it and do get drunk. but in general, i will have a drink in my hand at all times, yet never really get drunk. in the morning after coffee, i make a drink. the first one might last 3-4 hours. but i have to have that drink. until i make it, it is the only thing on my mind until i finally make it. used to be i would not have one until 4 p.m. Then it was 2 p.m until gradually i just started making it after coffee, because i would be so consumed by the thought of it, when can i have it, when when when, that i just gave in. and if you see me at work, that coffee mug i have is not coffee. but I’m never drunk. never even buzzed. just have to have it. what would you say about me?…

  • Lot’s of alcoholics never, or seldom, get drunk. Getting drunk is a drinking style. It wasn’t my style either. Nor is it the style of the French, but they have the highest per capita incidence of cirrhosis of the liver in the world.

    I won’t say anything about you, but I would invite you to ask yourself and think about a few questions:

    Am I doing what I’m capable of and want to do in life? (travel, creative output, financial achievement, philanthropic work?)

    What am I afraid of? Security from what? Would I be better off to deal with what I’m afraid of instead of just reaching for my security blanket?

    What am I doing to my health? Alcohol can kill you in 60 different ways. My daughter usually had a drink in her hand and seldom got drunk, but her organs shut down suddenly at 51 and she died in a few hours. Do you enjoy playing Russian roulette?

  • Marcia

    My husband drinks two bottles of white wine during the course of an evening. I consider him a functioning alcoholic and this amount has built up over a 10 year period. During recent months shortly after he starts drinking he blinks his eyes excessively. I have searched the internet but can find no indication that this is related to his drinking. Yet, it only occurs during the drinking so must have some relationship? This would appear to be some nerve that is being affected by the alcohol? Thank you for any comments you can provide on this. Bought your book a few years ago and it has been valuable in helping me understand this type of alcoholism. Like many I am sure my marriage will end in divorce.

  • Emma

    I am so glad to have found such an informative website! My husband sounds like so many on this site! We have been marrried for 2 years and I have known him for nearly 5! If I admit it, he has drank like a fish since I’ve known him. He doesn’t have an off switch, in that once he starts he doesn’t stop until he passes out! We have twin baby girls who are 15months so it’s hard enough as it is but coping on my own when he is too drunk to help or trying to stop him handling the babies when he’s drunk is a real problem. We have next to no sex life, no intimacy or emotional connection and he can’t see what is wrong. He doesn’t think he has a problem, he keeps me awake at night snoring, worrying about our relationship or if he’ll wake the babies when he’s wandering around at night too drunk to find the bathroom! I’m at my wits end and really need some advice. I love him, and he is my baby girls dad, but I don’t want to live in this worried, tired, unhappy state for the next 20 years. I know alcoholics have to realise it themselves but I really need advice on how to deal with it myself before I throw him out or he gets done for drink driving again!!! Please help.

  • James

    Hello,
    I know a person that wakes up, and the first thing he does is grab a drink, whether a beer or a cocktail of some sort etc… and drinks til he goes to bed. Brings a flask to work drinks throughout the day functioning just fine throughout. One of the greatest fathers I have seen, and above all no one can ever tell he is drunk. Very rarely will he ever slur his words, he goes out in public and can carry out a very normal conversation, and the only reason a person can tell he has been drinking is if they smell it on his breath. He has gotten angry, of course, but just like a person that is sober, it was for reasons that I would say were legit reasons for getting angry.

    I live with the guy. He is big into his whiskey, and I can honestly say I have not ever seen a guy able to drink as much as he does and still act the way he does. I had sat down to talk with him about his drinking maybe a couple months ago when I had really started realizing how much he actually drinks, and he made a very good point. He had told me that he does not hide his drinking because there is no shame in liking to drink, which I have seen first hand that he is open about it all. He had also stated that there is nothing wrong with a person that drinks if they know their limits and are still a productive member to society. This whole conversation, where he made these points about drinking were also after he had killed off a liter of Windsor, and not to mention the beers he had drank as well. What is even more amazing about this guy is he is only 23 years of age. He told me that he had started drinking at a young age, but began drinking more and more after he got his license at 16. He had went to a lot of parties in high school and would steal his dad’s booze (who is also an alcoholic) during the week after school and his sporting events.

    My opinion on functioning alcoholics is much different then most peoples opinion. Since living with this guy for the year I have now, I don’t see a problem with him drinking at all. It seems to me that drinking is what keeps him going to be successful at work, parenting his 4 year old son, keeping good relationships with friends and family, and keeping the house we live in neat and orderly. I am glad to have a roommate that has shown me another side of someone that drinks as much as he does and as often. I use to be fully against people drinking and going to work or even parenting while under the influence of alcohol until I met him. Now I feel if there is anyone else that can drink and function like he does, well, drink away.

  • James, that sounds like me all those years ago, or my daughter. Inspite of all appearances, the alcohol was killing me. If I had continued, I wouldn’t have lived to see my kids grow up. My daughter didn’t make it. Good parenting for a while and adequate work performance for a while do no justify premature death. What kind of a parent would suicide by alcohol? No a good on in my books.

  • Melissa

    Hello, me and my boyfriend have been together for a year and a half. He’s an extermely hard worker. Owns a successful business, owns his own home, and makes really good money. The only thing is it seems the only hobby he has is drinking, which is drinking. On two occasions he has come to his Mom and I for help, but he will stop drinking for about a week and won’t seek out professional help.

    He also hides it from his mother who he thinks will be disappointed in him. He exhausted all the time because he drinks right after work and has no interests passions, or hobbies. He’s not a bad person, and has a lot of potential but I’m not sure what to do. I don’t know if his lack of interests is because of his drinking or age (27), and coming from a VERY small town. Any suggestions?? Thanks!!

  • jill

    My boyfriend and I have been together 7 years. We started dating in college. He always drank a lot but I thought it was just a college thing. It seems to be getting worse. He only drinks Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. He consumes 30 beers each day over the 3 day span. He gets black out drunk and passes out on these nights. He often pees in different spots in the house. We have not had sex in 4 months due to the fact that he has cuts and internal hemorrhoids. I feel so lonely and as though I can not tell anyone. When I tell him he has a problem he says he is not an alcoholic because he does not drink every day.

  • Val

    My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years. We have some incredible ups and downs, but we have always been able to talk to each other about everything. Except for his drinking. I ask him what’s going on with work or his family that might be causing this. He says, “No, I just like the buzz and the way it tastes.”

    Last year, he ended up really sick. He gained 100lbs of water weight within less than 3 weeks. I thought he was going to die. He had cardiac failure among other issues. After seeing tons of specialists, we ended up at the neurologist. The doctor, without looking at my husband’s chart, asked him if he was a heavy drinker. My husband said no, but I told the doctor the truth. We never did figure out what was wrong with him, but the neurologist told him flat our that whatever was causing his illness was due to drinking.

    We’ve already been through the whole song and dance; I’d break down from his drinking, he’d cut back…for about 2 weeks. If I talk to even my best friend about what’s going on, he looks at me like I betrayed him. My own mental health has suffered; I’m 112lbs at 5’6″. I love my husband all the time, but when he drinks he’s a stranger. He isn’t abusive, but he becomes defensive and combative. I really don’t know what to do. He is very adverse to going to Al Anon or anything like that. I’m in therapy, but I’ve thought about leaving him. It tears me apart to think about that, but it’s even worse that I’ve been considering it.

    I never know from one day to the next if he’s going to be utterly trashed. For example, if I take a nap, I have a 50-50 shot of him being remotely sober. Thank goodness that we don’t have children, otherwise it would be a bunch of little ones having to deal with this too.

  • Lynn

    I am so glad I found this website. I am an 47 y/o female and have known my fiance for 2 years. At first the drinking was part of the dating scene. Looking back, I should have recognized the problems it caused. My fiance is a very successful businessman who owns several companies in a small town. I didn’t know a thing about him when we met–through his 20 year old daughter. Since then, we have moved in together and I help with his 17 year old son.

    I am at my breaking point. When he is good, he’s great, but when he is drinking (everyday after 5 p.m.) he is bad. I NEVER know what to expect when he walks into the house. He stops at the town bar everyday after work and then comes home..sometimes one hour, two hours, then proceeds with dinner and “normal family life.” In the past 2 months, he has bruised me, kicked and dented my car and acted crazy in front of people he knows by not getting out of my car when I wanted to go home.

    This sounds so crazy, but I love him still. I know I need to leave, actually I have moved most of my things out of his house, but, there is still a cord that I cannot break. What is wrong with me???? What do I do???

  • Macey

    I apologise in advance for the length of my post!

    My boyfriend (31) and I (30) have been together for only 9/10 months. We were introduced through mutual friends and, as always, everything was wonderful when we first started dating. We moved in together (his suggestion) after about 5 months and since then the wheels have really fallen off the wagon – along with my boyfriend. In all honesty, I did notice that he drank a lot before we moved in together but it wasn’t every day and it was usually only late afternoon into the night. He was never abusive or aggressive but he would become a little intolerable with his whining about his dad and his terrible childhood or how much he missed his home country.

    I turned a blind eye to the drinking because I didn’t really know what to think of it or how to even approach him about it; given we’d only just met. It bothered me somewhat but then I don’t drink at all (just not interested) and thought I was over reacting or something – especially because it didn’t seem to affect any other part of our relationship.

    After we moved in together, we lasted a week before I moved out. He started drinking daily and became nasty – not necessarily only saying things mean to/about me but just being insufferable about a number of things. I packed a bag and left. After about 4-5 days I went home (he seemed very sorry) on the condition that he see a Dr about antidepressants (he was clearly depressed) and start seeing a psychologist about his emotional issues. There was no delay on his part in doing these things and so I felt comfortable to return home. This lasted about a month or so before he stopped seeing the psychologist. He’s still on the meds, which seem to have balanced him out somewhat.

    Around April sometime he finally decided to cut his father off completely. From that point on, his drinking went off the rails. It was practically all day, every day, to the point where he was calling in sick for work constantly as he was over the limit and couldn’t fly (he’s a pilot).

    He finally decided (after a lot of family intervention) to spend 2 weeks in a rehab center where they prescribed him medications to curb the cravings and to make him ill if he drank. When he returned home, he stopped taking the meds that made him ill after about a week or 2 but stayed on the anti-craving meds. I don’t understand this.

    Finally, the constant disappointments (feeling like we were getting somewhere but we really weren’t) started getting to me and I decided to end our relationship when he thought he could lie to me at 4am about his work canceling his shift when really he called in sick (and continued drinking!).

    It has been nearly 2 weeks since I ended things in which time he has half-heartedly asked for another chance. I stayed strong – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do because I care about him so much – and said that he had his chance already and nothing changed. It only got worse! We are still currently living together (separate bedrooms) until his transfer across country comes through (he’s decided to return to his family on the west coast) and it is killing me. He has really tried to convince me that we should stay living together – that he’d be a good housemate, that I can’t afford the rent on my own, that he needs me to help him get sober etc – but I’ve declined, explaining that it’s too painful to watch someone I love so much destroy his life right in front of me.

    I’m so thrown by my reaction to it all. I was hardly happy in the relationship (it definitely had it’s good times and moments and despite everything, my boyfriend is a good guy. He’s smart, attractive, helps out around the house a lot, cooks dinner each night, does the groceries etc). We didn’t do a lot together besides sit and watch TV with the odd dinner out somewhere. But in the end I started to feel more like his carer than his girlfriend and it really bothered me.

    So why do I feel so rotten about ending my relationship with him? I know in my head that I’ll be much happier in the future, but right now I’m absolutely miserable and miss him so much. It makes little sense to me. I was so resigned to the idea of leaving him – there was no fighting or crying when I ended things (when he lied). I just told him that I wasn’t going to play the game anymore and that he should move out. That’s it. I’ve started seeing a psychologist myself and have attended a couple of Al-Anon meetings but the positive effects seem to wear off the following day and I’m back to wanting to crawl into a hole and die.

    Given how unsatisfied I became with the relationship and how prepared I was to end things, why aren’t I more at peace with my decision and why do I feel as though I’ve lost so much??? :*(

  • Teresa

    We started out as friends. On the 5th date, we had sex. This has been going on for 3 months. He drinks a lot. We have a great time together, but he says he is very private and needs time alone. He doesn’t like to text or for me to call him. When he wants to see me he calls me, about once a month. He blocks me from his phone and Facebook. What should I do? We really have a good time and great sex. We are both in our 60’s. He gets very drunk and needs help, but I don’t think I should say anything to him. I need help in what to do.

  • Celsea

    Okay, so my husband of 13 years and father of my three kids gets drunk all the time. He is mean and calls me mean names. He has done some rude things in front of others.

    When he is sober, he says he doesn’t mean what he says or does. I want to make things work for the kids cause they mean everything to me. He just wants me to leave and really has zero interest. What do I do? I help him when he is drunk and he will not put up with anything I say or do, even it is nothing close to what his done.

  • Emma

    Hi,

    I have been with my partner for 10 years, and we have 3 young children together. I have never known him not to drink, he had a burst appendix in 2007 and since then has drank more. I believe he also has depression, even though he will not admit that or the drinking problem. He will easily drink 2 bottles of wine and a load of cans each day, and this last month he has been drinking vodka every day to the point where he is very drunk, but thinks he is OK and wants to drink more.

    I have talked to him about his problem, but he then quickly turns it on me, saying it is all my fault and I am just a nag. It really gets me down and I have had enough. I am embarrassed by his behavior and his mother is too. He says he can stop, but I know he can’t.

    Last year, he drank a large bottle of whiskey a day, tried to stop and I thought he was going to die, he got that poorly. He has threatened me if I leave he will take my kids from me. He is very good at manipulating and playing mind games. I love him dearly, but I can’t go through it any longer. I feel that I am getting depressed and I am happier when I am out. The kids are not quite old enough to understand yet, but when they do, I don’t know how to explain it. He has had a blood test that says he has fatty liver cells. He is a great caring person when he is not drunk and he loves us all dearly, but when he gets on the spirits, he is a different person all together. Any thoughts on what to do will be very much appreciated. Many thanks.

  • Debbi

    I am now divorced after 15 years of marriage and still trying to understand if I was married to an abusive man or a functioning alcoholic.

    The progression of abuse and increase in drinking have me believing he is/was a functioning alcoholic. 12 years into the marriage the verbal abuse started, then emotional abuse, then infidelity, gambling & finally abandonment.

    6 months out of the divorce I am still not sure what I was dealing with except that during the divorce I paid more attention to the volume of alcohol he was consuming and also realized that probably for every amount I saw him drink in the house there was probably double that amount daily that was hid from me and others.

    He is well-liked and convinced others I was controlling, crazy, mental, you name it. The repercussions of his bad-mouthing me continue and even put my job at risk.

    All this made me feel my whole marriage was one big lie and he was the actor and I was the naive stupid person who believed him while he was out behind my back spreading lies about me and untold other things.

    Alcoholism has to be the hardest thing to understand in a relationship or ever make sense out of it. It has ruined my life and I don’t even drink.

  • Laurie

    I am a functioning alcoholic – or so I thought – I’ve just turned 50 and have become someone else.

    I’m a single mom with a beautiful teenage boy, and he doesn’t deserve my disease. I’ve tried everything… AA meetings, lots of counseling and therapy, even rehab a couple of times. It all goes well for a while, but then the demon comes back. It’s almost unbearable sometimes (with my guilt inside trying to hide it).

    Anyways, I’ve been in the professional field for 30 years but recently moved and I’ve had trouble finding a job because my anxiety and nervousness seems to get in the way. A drink seems to make me feel better and calm…has it come to that? Unfortunately it has.

  • Erica

    I have a sweet boyfriend, but he drinks every day and that is a problem for me. I’m a hypocrite because I enjoy drinking and probably drink too much on the weekends myself. I’m just totally against drinking every day. He says he likes to have a beer after a long day of work. Maybe I could handle that, but its always multiple beers and usually 20 ounce cans. He ends up passing out by 8:00 or 8:30. I’ve asked him to stop which he hasn’t. Am I over reacting? I think this could be a deal breaker.

  • Laura

    My husband consumes 6-10 beers a night. We have 6 children and one on the way. I like to think of him as a functioning alcoholic. Although after reading some of the things you wrote, I agree that he definitely isn’t functioning normal. Neither are we at times in our family. He is very secretive and only drinks in our bedroom and then leaves the cans in our private bathroom, like trophies on a shelf. But will hide some under the bed and in his dirty laundry basket, and dresser drawers. So I know he knows it is wrong. That part disgusts me, and like tonight I voiced it. I pointed out that the 8 he left in our bathroom, seems to be a little much…then of coarse he told me to go to hell and bagged them out and took them out to our recycle box.

    When I do try my hardest to tell him how concerned I am both for his health and our family life, he always blows it off as if it is no big deal. He says that I am always over reacting. I would really like to help him stop, but I think I am beyond that point. He has been this way forever. I really feel like there is no hope.

    Our oldest is in high school, and the baby will be born early next year. He is really a wonderful dad, and faithful husband, and provider for our family. Most people wouldn’t believe it if they found out about him drinking so much. But every night he does it and passes out like a log. It makes me sad that I know deep in my heart that he is never without alcohol when we are intimate. It makes me feel like I am not worth anything.

    3 of our kids have an auto immune disease, that unfortunately comes from me. We have many doctor visits and medications, and sleepless nights to deal with… all of which I do mostly alone. It really takes it’s toll on our family as well, and I feel like somehow he blames me for their problems. When I try to talk about the doctor’s appointments, he usually zones out or tells me that I do so good handling things, and tries to change the subject.

    I never have questioned my love for him. However, I do often think that when the kids grow up, it will be in my best interest to separate. Also I think his health is already deteriorating, which is so sad. He gags, coughs, and vomits stuff up every morning. However, believes this has nothing to do with drinking and his liver, just that he has bad reflux. I can’t get him to go to the doctor, ever. Any input or help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Sue

    My alcoholic husband is now passed out on the floor with his pants around his ankles. I came home from walking my sweet dog and found him like this. I thought he was dead, but when I shook him he said, “huh.” We had to leave a work function a couple hours ago. I am in a silver service club at a utility and they have events. This was my first one. It was a special showing of the Honor Flight movie. He was so drunk in the theater that he thought we were at home and he said, “get the remotes.” Fortunately he walked out of the theater before the movie ended, I ran out and followed him. He had to go to the bathroom, so I had to rush him to it before the people came out. I came out of the women’s bathroom, saw that he was not there, and asked a man to check on him. I shuffled him out the back door so I could get out of there. He was not happy I asked someone to check on him and I heard about it all the way home.

    I just started seeing a counselor. They advocate not leaving now, but I am only at step one. How much longer do I have to do this? I should add that he is in chronic pain and is on prescribed narcotics, which are not working. He believes that alcohol is the only solution now. I have older brothers who I know I could call now. Debating if I should call them or not. This is my second marriage. I feel like an utter fool. Thank you for letting me post.

  • linz

    Hi everyone. I am relieved to have found this site. As per usual I have been online trying to get advice on a desperate situation we as a family are facing. My sister is an alcoholic. 3 years ago our mum passed away suddenly and she has been struggling since. We all have. We had the best mum we could have asked for who never drank and just loved us all unconditionally. My dad however, was an alcoholic, so I know it can be hereditary.

    I think, since my mum passed, my sister has been a functioning alcoholic, but we were not aware of it until last year. She always had a drink on weekend so didn’t think it was that bad. Last year her partner told me she had been drinking through the week and he was finding bottles hidden around the house. She was still grieving for our mum and they had also been trying for a baby a few months before and nothing was happening, so this was also adding to her depression. I was really worried about her. After a while, they sorted out their differences and she had promised she was going to stop drinking, so as far as I was aware, everything was going okay. She then found out she was pregnant at 20 weeks ( no symptoms-but this obviously worries me now) and baby was born May this year. Over the past few months we have noticed, on several occasions, that she has had a drink. Not drunk, but slightly slurring her words. Bottles of spirits are found around the house. We have tried dealing with this as a family ourselves, someone is with her everyday ( for babies sake- even though she loves him dearly and looks after him). Because the baby is involved we have all been reluctant to go to a doctor and tell the truth (worried about service being involved).

    We have now been to the doctor and got help for depression and she is currently on tablets. She is still drinking. We are all at our wits end. We have threatened her with all she will lose is she continues to drink, and she agrees and promises she will stop, but next day she does it again. After another midweek incident, where I called her at tea time and she answered phone drunk (my dad had baby out at this point) I contacted my dad to tell him and when he got home she wouldn’t admit anything and ran away for an hour or so. She was found in the back garden with a bottle of gin.

    I am deeply worried about her mental state and the following morning I phoned her doctor and told her everything. She made an appointment for her to go see her and she went that afternoon with her partner. She has given her 2 weeks to go to AA meetings and appointments or she will contact social services. She knows that we are a strong family unit and baby is well looked after by everyone. I just don’t know what the right thing to do is. I feel that because of the depression she should be in rehab, but her doctor has not suggested this. She seems to go from being happy one day and everything’s well to later the next day we notice she has had a drink. She is her usual happy self when she has a drink so she is definitely using it to feel better. When we ask her if she ha had one she denies it and doesn’t admit she has until next day and she is then so apologetic and so down. My sister is such a wonderful kind person who was desperate to have a baby- its like someone else has taken her place. Any advice on this matter is greatly appreciated.

  • Trudy

    Much has been publicized and related educationally about alcoholism, symptoms, degrees of alcoholism etc. I am writing from the other side of the fence.

    I have jokingly been referred to as a “functioning alcoholic” by my friends and I resent that. Of course, you will argue that all alcoholics find excuses, and can explain away the reasons for their behavior, so here is mine. (Now you will say I’m falling into the classic alcoholic of justification).

    I work 12-15 hours daily, probably around 60-70 hours per week. I work most weekends. I am a mother (yes female) of two beautiful, well centered and independent (and highly intelligent) girls aged soon to be 17 and (today) 18. I am the primary care giver, disciplinarian, and, I believe, the most respected and loved parent of the two (I don’t take pride in that, it is what it is). I am the glue that holds our family together.

    I don’t drink every day because I need to have a clear head for work the next day. I work many hours per day as stated previously, including weekends (so I never get a break). I work weekends as my job demands it, but I always take the time to take my girls to school, their extra-curricular activities, their Parent teacher meetings, to organize their activities/parties etc. as they need me. I don’t do domestic work because we are blessed enough to afford a housekeeper. Basically I am constantly feeling that I am being spread thin and feel at some stage something will give way.

    I will have drinks once per week, and when I do, I can’t stop, (more like I don’t want to stop) until I feel what most everyone describes as euphoria. I can drink alone or with friends ( I prefer alone to be left to my thoughts). I am in the sanctity of my own home (99% of the time) when I do so. I may drink 1-2 bottles of red wine or 1/2 bottle of scotch (not at the same time it’s one or the other). The next day do get up and I may feel a little woozy but I get on with the tasks at hand because I have to. I drink that much because I want to get to the stage of being so relaxed and care free because of the tremendous pressures on my daily life.
    Some people go to the gym, some read, I drink, I enjoy it and I don’t feel it’s doing any harm, yes sometimes I may act stupid and embarrassing to my kids and husband, but never to my friends (I think my family often judges me too harshly).

    So my question is: Is this harmless relaxation, am I a functioning alcohol or worst still an intellectual alcoholic? When I drink people can never tell I’ve had too much (except my husband). If I am and I must stop what then do I do in its place to relax and feel a little human?

    I think with all the political correctness of the world we have become a race of humans of “moderation”. Honestly I know the answer, I am not an alcoholic, I’m a passionate person who pushes the limits (with everything) this used to be a good thing. If you bother to read this you will say, “so if you don’t think you an alcoholic why are you bothering to write on this site?” Truth is I’m done doubting myself, tonight was another conversation with my partner. So I went to do research, but writing this has been cathartic and I now who I am, what I am, what I can do and what I have to do, so my reason for writing here is to give strength for people who are being pushed around who MAY NOT, in fact, have any problems. Know yourself and DO WHAT YOU MUST.

  • Jen

    I’m only 21. I have a very young child and my boyfriend is a ”functional alcoholic. He works 9 hours a day 6 days a week, but the first thing he does when he’s home is drink. On his days off, he starts drinking at 11 am and lounges around the house, he falls asleep early and I can’t get a conversation out of him.

    He doesn’t like to do stuff as he’s always feeling tired. I’m always telling him he’s drinking too much, but his reply is he works hard at his job (which he does ), he pays the rent and bills and helps with house jobs. The rest of his money he wants to spend on beer. Am I over reacting because it’s, “his money, his body, his life,”?

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  • Rachel

    Does any of this sound familiar to anyone with an alcoholic boyfriend or husband?
    My boyfriend is a great guy, but I can’t take it anymore.
    1 Sex lasts 2 minutes, if he can get hard. No intimacy.
    2 He’s always late, because he’s drinking. Sometimes he doesn’t show up at all because he has passed out.
    3 He has passed out during dinner, on the way to dinner, in my drive way, during sex, etc….
    4 He drives drunk 2-3 times per week
    5 When I want to break up with him, he will say that I have mental issues or bring up my ex-boyfriends and that I can’t hold a relationship.
    6 Wants my life to revolve around him and his needs. No regard for my house, job, son, its all about his needs. I feel tired and overwhelmed.
    7 I am angry a lot and starting to feel depressed.

  • Antoinette

    Dear Dr. Neil,
    I am so glad that I found your website about functional alcoholics. My loved one is a functional alcoholic. He is able to hold down a job and is known to be kind and generous, but he has a serious drinking and driving problem. He drinks and then thinks it is okay to drive at all times. His friends also are functioning alcoholics and drink and drive all the time; therefore, he thinks that he can drink and drive all the time like his friends. He has never been pulled over by the police; therefore, he keeps drinking and driving. I know a lot of people who drink and think it is okay to drive. He lies too. When someone approaches him and asks him if he was drinking, he gets loud and verbally abusive and denies that he had any drinks. He then tries to change the topic. Why do so many people drink and feel that it is okay to drive? Why aren’t police officers pulling over more people to see if they are drinking and driving? I am afraid that my loved one will have one too many and get in an accident and wipe out an innocent family one day.

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