What is Functioning Alcoholism?

Man with functioning alcoholism.The most common depiction of a person with alcoholism (shown in movies, television shows, etc.) is someone who cannot pay their bills, who has lost all friends and family, who has recently lost their job and someone who is otherwise at “rock bottom”. These images come to mind so quickly because they’ve been ingrained in our minds ever since we saw them in the media. The problem with this depiction, however, is that it’s not entirely true. Of course, there are some people who do hit “rock bottom” – but there are many others who live a seemingly “put-together” life. In fact, according to Bustle magazine, an older study published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) noted that only 10% of those with alcoholism are actually homeless/low functioning.

Stephen Ross, MD, told Everyday Health in 2016,

“What it means to be a [person with functioning alcoholism] is that you can be addicted to drinking and continue to function in certain domains. [Those with functional alcoholism] drink heavily once they get home from work and yet they are still able to get up the next day…”

Ward Richmond, a father and husband, once explained on Medium of his own experiencing with functioning alcoholism. He stated in 2018 that he too once viewed someone with alcoholism as hitting “rock bottom” – but when he started hearing concern from his loved ones about his alcohol use, he quickly released that he was just as capable of developing alcoholism. In fact, before he recognized that he needed help, he took pride in his drinking habits, almost as if he should be awarded “life of the party”.

Many people with functioning alcoholism can feel this way, as it’s often the after-hour work meetings and social hours with friends on the weekends that place the symptoms of alcoholism in their “best light”. If you have been struggling with alcoholism, make the decision to seek help today. Recovery is right around the corner – and it’s time for you to embrace it.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.