Becoming a Functioning Alcoholic
If you are a functioning alcoholic it will be even more difficult to self-diagnose, seeing as most functioning alcoholics experience very few external consequences as a result of their drinking. You might be drinking an excessive amount on a daily basis, but because you are able to maintain your career and because you wake up at 7 a.m. and brush your teeth every morning, you are able to convince yourself that everything is just fine. If you are a functioning alcoholic, your alcoholism will typically develop in four distinct stages.
Stage #1: Occasional Alcohol Abuse And Binge Drinking
During this stage, you might start using alcohol more frequently than you did before. Maybe you go to the bar with your friends one night and binge drink to the point of blacking out. You wake up the next morning confused and full of remorse, vowing that this is the last time you drink so much; you’ll never let yourself get to that point again. The next weekend, the same thing happens. Maybe you start drinking at home after work. You start with a glass of wine to “unwind,” and within a month or two you are drinking an entire bottle to yourself before bed. You begin to grow concerned about how much you drink, but you never suffer any serious personal consequences and so you continue drinking despite this growing concern.
Stage #2: Increased Drinking As A Coping Mechanism
The majority of functioning alcoholics begin to increase the amount they drink over time, often using drinking as a coping mechanism. Maybe you have just undergone a difficult change, like a major transition or the loss of a loved one. You start to drink to numb the emotional pain — which, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic. Some people drink as a coping mechanism and stop as soon as enough time passes for the initial severity of the emotional pain to subside. Others recognize they are using alcohol to cope, and make the decision to seek therapy or join a support group. If you are a true alcoholic, the amount you drink will slowly (or quickly) continue to increase, and whenever you experience emotional discomfort in any capacity you will reach for a drink without giving your actions a second thought.
Stage #3: The Consequences Of Problem Drinking Start To Show
As the amount of alcohol you consume and the frequency of use increase, you start to experience a greater amount of personal consequences. If you are a functioning alcoholic, these consequences might be predominantly internal. You might wake up in the morning wishing you hadn’t, or you might drink at night because you can’t stand to sit alone with your thoughts. Your self-esteem and sense of self-worth might be suffering — they may have disappeared entirely, replaced with self-loathing and despair. The consequences of problem drinking might also be external. Maybe you have been fighting with your loved ones more often than not, or perhaps you have gotten in trouble at work as your superiors have noticed your productivity has been on the decline. Whatever the case may be, consequences continue to worsen in severity over time.
Stage #4: Noticeable Physical And Psychological Changes
As alcoholism progresses, you might start to notice physical changes. Maybe you are always sick to your stomach, or you constantly feel fatigued and slightly under the weather. You also experience psychological changes. Maybe your anxiety amps up or you start to experience depression; there are entire days during which you can’t motivate yourself to get out of bed, let alone fulfill your personal responsibilities. It is important to note that physical and psychological changes only continue to worsen the longer they are left untreated.