high-functioning alcoholic

How to Talk to a High-Functioning Alcoholic

For many people, the word “alcoholic” conjures up a stereotypical image of someone whose life is in shambles and who starts drinking soon after they wake up. They have probably lost their job or maybe even spent time in jail because of the extent of their drinking habits. Their loved ones have left them, and their health is severely compromised.

While in some cases, this might be an accurate picture of what a person with alcohol addiction looks like, it isn’t always. There is another type of addict who has learned how to hide their self-destructive habits behind a veneer of normalcy. These people have managed to separate their daily responsibilities from their problematic drinking to the extent that many others around them may not even realize they are dealing with alcoholism. However, just because an addict is supposedly “high-functioning,” that doesn’t make their issues any less severe. They still need to get help before their addiction jeopardizes their ability to lead a successful life.

Convincing a High-Functioning Alcoholic to Seek Treatment

If you know a high-functioning alcoholic who needs help, the first step is getting them to admit they have a drinking problem. Because they can successfully manage their responsibilities at work and at home, they are probably in deep denial about the fact that their drinking is out of control. Therefore, if you have tried bringing up the topic in the past, they might have brushed off your concerns by saying something like, “I can quit on my own anytime I decide to.”

Part of starting a conversation with this type of alcoholic, then, involves knowing how to move past denial and when to make the approach. Often, the best time is when they are hungover and already feeling guilty. You could start by saying something like, “I love you, and it hurts me and everyone else who cares about you to see you this way so often.” This type of non-accusatory phrasing is a simple statement of how you feel. Instead of provoking anger, it shows you empathize with your addicted loved one, and that you don’t want them to be in pain anymore.

What to Say About Treatment

Discussing different options for addiction treatment centers might help motivate someone to get treatment. For example, if they are worried about undergoing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens, you can suggest a facility that offers medically managed detox. You could then gently steer the conversation toward a discussion of various types of therapy that have proven benefits for addicted people, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Your goal in bringing up the topic of treatment is to emphasize the positive aspects as much as you can. For example, mention that many addiction treatment centers strive to create a warm, homey feel, rather than being cold, sterile-seeming places. If your loved one already enjoys doing activities like yoga, you can bring up the fact that modern treatment methods have embraced the advantages of adding holistic therapy alongside more traditional options.

The Benefits of Professional Addiction Interventions

If you have any concerns about persuading an alcoholic in your life that they can’t continue on this dangerous pathway, a professionally facilitated intervention could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Interventionists have the training necessary to help you plan and manage a family meeting that succeeds in its goal of getting your loved one to agree to enter treatment. At Whitman Recovery Service, we have more than 30 years of experience with conducting interventions, and we can coach you along every step of the way. Contact us if you’re ready to learn more.