When you think of a typical alcoholic, you don’t picture a lawyer or a doctor, and yet it is estimated that between 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their career, and doctors are 3 times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver than the general population.
Efficiency is not a habit which is traditionally associated with alcoholics but many are capable of feats of organization which few sober people could ever manage. To reach the top of a highly competitive corporate ladder or high profile position and then remain there for years is no easy task, especially when you are an addict. Functional alcoholics are aplenty, particularly in high pressure, high paid jobs. Famous high functioning addicts include Winston Churchill, Boris Yelstin, and Eric Clapton.
The ‘functioning alcoholic’
The name given to people who have a serious drinking problem but still remain able to maintain what, for an addict, is a relatively normal existence. Their health, relationships and working life will inevitably suffer but often not to the extent that they become unmanageable.
Admitting you have a problem is universally accepted as being the first step on the road to recovery from addiction but for someone like Gary, an advertising executive in London, alcoholism didn’t seem like too much of a problem. He managed to maintain this image of the model professional for several years while in the grip of what, in hindsight, he acknowledges was an addiction to alcohol, but it took its toll on every other aspect of his life,
“I was married to the perfect woman but my drinking cost me my marriage and my kids. I could keep it together at work, I’d get drunk every lunch time but I somehow had the discipline to continue to do a pretty good job. The amazing thing was I was able to continue to stay pretty professional when I was at work, even though I was never sober for more than a few hours at the start of the day and had been prescribed anti depressants which I was taking every single day. However, I couldn’t keep it together at home, I think the effort of maintaining a pretence all day in the office just left me drained and once I got home I just needed to drink to relieve the strain.”
As a functional alcoholic, Gary had never previously had to properly face his demons because although his drinking had been problematic the pay cheques still kept coming in which allowed him to sustain his lifestyle. It wasn’t until he suffered a family bereavement and whilst he was on compassionate leave, that unbeknownst to his colleagues, he spent the time at The Cabin, a modern residential treatment in Chiang Mai.
The idea that a serious addiction will automatically destroy your life is a stereotype which is perpetuated by the British media. In reality, while many people do lose everything as a result of their addiction, there are those, who manage to continue on a comparatively even keel. The problem for these people is that while life goes on there is often very little incentive to seek treatment.
Alistair Mordey, the Programme Director and Head Counsellor at The Cabin comments:
“People seem to have the view that you must have lost everything and hit rock bottom before you need to access help or seek some kind of treatment. Some people, especially high functioning people have not lost everything, and there is the view that this somehow makes them a different kind of addict. We must differentiate between a material rock bottom, where the addict loses all their possesssions or status, and an emotional rock bottom where they are essentially having what we used to call a nervous breakdown. In rehab we talk about high rock bottoms as opposed to a low rock bottoms; not everyone who hits rehab is coming off a low rock bottom where they have lost everything. Many are coming from a high rock bottom where they still have successful careers but have nowhere to go in terms of mood imbalance and emotional crisis”.
High functioning addicts start using for the same reason low functioning addicts do, to self medicate an imbalanced brain chemistry and calm the symptoms of depression, anxiety or lack of focus (hyperactivity). However using addictive drugs or alcohol to make them feel better eventually stops working as the chemicals this produces in the brain become exhausted and both high and low functioning addicts are left with issues that leave them no option but to seek treatment and not rely on addictive processes.
“Treatment is about instilling new behaviours which will rebalance brain chemistry. This includes group therapy, exercise, new career or relationships goals etc. which are best implemented intensively in an inpatient setting, daily over a significant time span like 1-3 months. This is arguably why residential programmes are considered more effective.
Having a high rock bottom or a low rock bottom is often nothing more than social and environmental differences between individuals, ie how much we had to start out with. Whether you consistently manage to hang on to your material goods or social position, is not a good way to judge the severity of your addiction, but rather how much damage has it caused and will cause you, emotionally and mentally, is the true judge of whether you need treatment.”
Addiction affects millions worldwide, whether it be the 5% of alcoholics on “skid row” or highly functional alcoholics, who are well-educated with good incomes.
Alastair Mordey (BA hons, RDAP, ADAP) is the Programme Director and Head Counsellor at The Cabin, an addiction treatment centre in Chiang Mai. He is a certified and accredited addiction counsellor with over 10 years’ experience working in treatment services. Website: The Cabin Chiang Mai http://www.thecabinchiangmai.com/
Are you a high functioning alcoholic or were you married to one? Maybe you have sought treatment for your addiction and are now sober? If you would like to tell your story of conquering addiction, contact me here: Story to Sell
Featureworld interviewee Sarah Robinson tells her cautionary story about binge drinking in the DAILY MAIL newspaper today.
I sold first sold Sarah’s story last year. As studies have linked breast cancer with excess drinking, she believed binge drinking in her teens and twenties could have been responsible for her being diagnosed with the disease. Then her real-life story appeared over three pages in a glossy weekly women’s magazine. She was delighted with her article and she told me she would love to do another feature.
I kept Sarah’s details on file and when the Daily Mail news asked me yesterday afternoon if I had anyone who might be interested in contributing to their story about binge drinking, I immediately thought of Sarah.
The story in the Daily Mail today tells of new research that young women in the UK are drinking more alcohol than their European contemporaries.
Sarah gave her consent to her story being used again – she wants to raise awareness of how damaging binge drinking can be – so welcomed the opportunity to tell her story again.
And today it appears as part of a bigger news report going over two pages.
If you would like to contribute your story to a news report, get in contact here: Sell My Story form.
To read more stories on the Featureworld website go to: Sell My Story. Real-life and true stories wanted for women’s magazines.
Read more recently sold stories here: Sell your story archives.
Sarah Robinson’s real life story about how she has fought cancer appeared over THREE pages in FABULOUS magazine yesterday.
Sarah is just 29 but is currently she is finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer. And now, following recent research that links breast cancer with binge drinking, she wonders if a spell in her twenties when she drank regularly is to blame.
Certainly regular sell your story blog readers might recall I recently sold another young woman’s story along these same lines. Graduate Claire Whittle’s story ‘Did binge drinking give me cancer?’ appeared in the Daily Mail and Take a Break and is shortly due to appear in a woman’s monthly magazine.
Both Sarah and Claire have no history of breast cancer in their families and it is now well documented that excessive drinking can raise the risk of some forms of breast cancer.
Sarah’s story appeared in Fabulous magazine, a glossy supplement which comes with the News of the World newspaper, and in it she tells how because the treatment to cure her cancer could leave her infertile, she and her long-term boyfriend, have had embryos frozen. He has been a marvellous support throughout and they both hope if she can’t conceive naturally in the future, they can still have a family together.
Claire Whittle’s true-life story about how she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 25 appears on the front cover of TAKE A BREAK magazine this week and inside over two pages.
Claire’s story about she believes she got breast cancer due to binge drinking has already appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper and now I have gained yet another deal for Claire with an upmarket glossy women’s monthly mag.
With no history of breast cancer in her family, Claire believes binge drinking when she was at university is to blame for her contracting this illness at such a young age.
Since being diagnosed, Claire has discovered that drinking to excess can raise women’s risk of contracting breast cancer. She has also been told by doctors to abstain as studies show drinking can increase the chance of the cancer returning.
Claire wanted to gain the maximum publicity for her story to raise awareness into the dangers of binge drinking so that other young women might not suffer as she has. So she was delighted that her story has not only appeared in a big national newspaper but in one of the country’s best read weekly magazines and will now be highlighted in a bestselling monthly magazine.
If you would like to gain the maximum publicity for your story, contact me here: Sell my story!