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Is It Possible To Be A High Functioning Alcoholic?

Women struggle with a phenomenon of mental health called “smiling depression”. Despite their emotional turmoil and deep pain, they are able to maintain appearances and meet the emotional demands of their life like an on-demand performance. When they are behind closed doors, they are able to fall apart and experience the full breadth of their emotions. For addiction and alcoholism there is a similar experience that creates more of a problem. “High-functioning” addiction or alcoholism has many of the same properties, but can cause many more complications in someone’s life.

The use of the term “smiling” depression at least indicates that there is depression happening beneath the surface. It isn’t described as “high-functioning” depression, though someone may be functioning highly in their life despite their  depression. Yet, addiction and alcoholism are described as “high-functioning”. Someone who meets the social demands of life by maintaining a job, paying their bills, taking care of their family, and having a social life can still be addicted to drugs. Somewhere in the midst of their busy schedule they are able to abuse drugs and alcohol to maintain a working level of intoxication and avoid withdrawals. Many professionals in the recovery field question whether or not this should be considered high-functioning or functioning at all. Should addiction and alcoholism be categorized as functioning?

To function is to “work or operate in a proper or particular way”. Functioning under the chronic influence of drugs and alcohol is certainly a “particular way” to function, however, it may not be considered the most proper way. Women who are balancing the many demands of their life are used to thriving in chaos. Caring for jobs, children, partners, a home, pets, and many other spinning plates keeps a women moving at a fast pace which may never like proper or even particular. If a woman is simultaneously struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, she is neither working nor operating. This may be the defining difference which separates functioning alcoholism from the fact that alcoholism simply isn’t functioning. Alcoholism doesn’t and cannot work. It isn’t a way to work or operate in a woman’s life. She is barely getting by when she is juggling the demands of her life with the demands of a chemical addiction. Eventually, the chemical addiction will bring her many other spinning plates crashing down.  She cannot maintain at that pace while struggling with her mental and physical health. She will recover.


If you are a woman struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, you are not alone. Women need a specific support system to receive the compassionate care they need in order to grow into the authentic individuals they are. Finding serenity in sobriety, women can create a new lifestyle in which they don’t just function or survive, but thrive. Villa Tranquil offers this opportunity to women in a unique transitional living program. For information on our beautiful home in Jupiter Farms, Florida, call us today:  214-799-3080