I wasn't your usual characteristic alcoholic. I had a bachelor's degree in international business, climbed social and corporate ladders and raised two successful children. At least that was what the outside saw.

Author Sarah Allen Benton had the same kind of life, she was smart, successful but noticebly on the edge. Five years ago she entered recovery knowing soon her luck would run out. She recently authored the book Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, an incredible book that describes the high functioning alcoholic.

The Double Life

High functioning alcoholics (hfa)are generally in denial about their drinking problems, and friends, coworkers and relatives rarely confront or even see there is a problem. HFAs don't fit neatly into the stereotypical symptoms of an alcoholic - they hold good jobs, make good money, are active in the community and engage in raising a family.

Benton said she believes nearly half of all alcoholics are high fuctioning. The silent suffering can continue virtually undetected by the outside world for years until a major tragedy or event occurs - a DUI, divorce or embarrassing display in front of co-workers or relatives.

Some tend to also have a false security or over-the-top confidence that their behavior is not dangerous, they drive cars and even practice medicine while drunk. I know this experience all too well, I used blast drunk drivers for being losers, thinking that driving after 3 cosmos was ok.

The New York Times (May 5, 2009) profiled an interview with the author and she identified characteristics that can help people recognize themselves as an HFA:

    1. Difficulty controlling intake even though they made a conscious decision to
      not drink too much
    2. Obsessing about drinking and wondering where, with who and when can they
      drink next
    3. They act completely unlike their sober selves when they are drunk

    4. Experiencing blackouts and unable to remember what they did while

Check out the New York Times article - it will also lead you to some other great articles on identifying problems drinkers.


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