The greatest wish of many addicts is to be able to use the way they would like to while also being able to function within in their normal lives. Many experience this for periods of times, being able to use with impunity while still being to show up to work, family functions, and the like. Like the picture above on the outside everything looks perfect but appearances can be deceiving. The problem is that for many addicts this eventually comes to an end and they reach a point where they can no longer function normally and their lives, as our Steps would say, become unmanageable. For the functional addict, the hardest reality for them to face is that they have a problem, the next hard reality to face is that they may need help and have to ask for it.
For some though their ability to function never subsides and this can continue for years without anyone being the wiser. This type of addict is known as a functioning addict.
The functioning addict appears to be normal in almost every aspect of their lives except in the way that they use. They wake up every morning regardless of how much they used the night before and they go to work. Their finances are in order, their bills are paid, and collection agencies aren’t hunting them down. Their relationships are intact, as many times their loved ones are unaware of their condition, and they very rarely show signs that there is a problem. On the outside, they may look like Mr. Cleaver but inside their addiction has complete control.
This type of addict proves particularly problematic for a number of reasons. For one often times they never actually experience any physical consequences because of their using and because of this they can start to believe that they do not really have a problem. They can say to themselves well I’ve never been arrested, everything with my job is going well, my family is great, so what that I use? It isn’t a problem. On the surface, they would be correct, except for the fact thatthe disease of addiction is not contingent on these physical consequences.
Someone who has been arrested 40 times and someone who has never been arrested before can both be afflicted with the disease of addiction. Just because someone does not experience any of the negative consequences that are usually attributed to addiction does not mean that they are not an addict, but sometimes without these circumstances getting clean can prove more difficult.
Many times for the functioning addict to get clean they either need to experience some sort of physical consequence or eventually feel the emotional consequences of their actions. Hiding your addiction from your loved one and attempting to keep your entire life going, all while in the throes of addiction is an extremely tiresome proposal. Imagine having to do this day in and day out and you can begin to see the emotional toil that this could have on a person. Many times hitting an emotional bottom can be worse than having physical consequences and for the functional addict this is often the catalyst to change.
Another stumbling block in the way of the functioning addict’s recovery is the myth that being an addict is somehow related to the amount you use, the substance you use, or how often you use. Some functioning addicts use very heavily and so this is not applicable but for others, they may go on binges, or temper their usage so that they can continue to function. However, being an addict does not mean that you use a certain way or a certain amount, it simply means that you have the disease of addiction. For instance, someone could use every single day in large amounts and only be a problem user because they do not suffer from addiction and to this same point, someone could use only a couple of times a month and be an addict because they have the disease of addiction.
To clarify, an addict, whether functioning or not, is someone who has a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking. This brain disease does not go away, hence the chronic, and it is present whether drugs are being ingested or not. There is currently no known cure for a person who afflicted with this disease and it gets worse over time and never better.
For people who are closest to the functioning addict, they may have their suspicions that something is wrong, but it can be difficult to tell if the person has a problem or not. There are however some things to look out for in order to see if the person has an addiction problem. Some of the traits that functioning addicts have are:
This is a chief characteristic of many addicts and the functioning addict is no exception. So how exactly does one look for denial? If you suspect that your loved one has a problem with drugs then talk to them about it, many times if they get defensive or react strongly against your inquiry then they may be in denial about the problem and it may be indicative of a substance abuse problem.
No matter how high functioning an addict is they will eventually slip up from time to time. Whether this means money is missing or late night trips or any number of suspicious behaviors, be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.
Many times in order to function and continue to use the addict will need to be a prolific excuse maker. They will have excuses for everything and taken at face value they may seem valid, but when examined closer these excuses usually fall flat.
The functioning addict is in many ways an enigma. They do not fall into the stereotypically addict role and often they’re ability to live double lives is incredible. Every addict to one degree or another does this, but for the functioning addict they truly lead two separate lives. The one is where they are the productive member of society, appearing normal and going through their day to day like everyone else. The other is where they cannot stop compulsively using substances. The difference in these two lives will often lead to them hitting bottom as the pressure of keeping up the charade is often too much. Once this has happened help can be sought. If you think that your loved one may have a problem with drugs then seek professional help today.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director atStodzy Internet Marketing.