Author: Shernide Delva
You wake up at 8 a.m. sharp, jump in the shower, eat breakfast, watch the morning news and go to work. You come home from work, spend time with family, kiss your spouse and go to bed at 9 p.m. On the outside; you look like a person who has it all together. However, on the inside, you are battling an addiction and are too afraid to admit you have a problem. Besides, everything seems to be going fine, right?
If the above sounds like you, you are a functioning addict. The functioning addict looks like the average person. They are not homeless, nor are they unemployed. Most people are unaware they even have a problem. They might be excelling at work, and paying their bills on time. However, on the inside, they are constantly thinking about where their next high will come from. This is the addict that lives next door.
Unfortunately, the stigma of drug addiction leaves most with imagery of a homeless, dirty beggar. Many assume a drug addict has to be homeless, incarcerated or in poor physical health. However, as most of us know by now, this is far from the case. The prescription painkiller epidemic has shifted the image of the average drug addict from a person on the streets to the everyday member of society. An addict comes in many faces. It could be your next door neighbor, the stay-at-home mom, or even the doctor or well-regarded priest. Addiction crosses all areas of society.
About the High-Functioning Addict
If you are a functioning addict, you are less likely to get help for your addiction because you believe you have your addiction under control. On top of that, most will not believe your addiction is real. However, the reality is your addiction is very real and very dangerous. While you might be able to keep your addiction secret, in the beginning, things will eventually get worse. Eventually, your addiction will become unmanageable.
The truth is, it can happen to anyone. In 2011, Whoopi Goldberg of the television show, The View, confessed:
“I was a functioning drug addict; I showed up for work because I knew a lot of people would be out of work and I wouldn’t get a check that I needed to buy my drugs.”
A statement like this is all too common for the functioning addict. They know they need to keep working to keep their addiction alive. If the paychecks dwindle, the “functioning” part of their addiction will soon fall apart.
Addiction: The Real Definition
Addiction has little to do with your ability to keep your life together. Addiction is addiction whether your families or friends believe you have a problem. Addiction does not depend on your work status or your relationship with your family. While the fall of these things typically results on an addict finally getting treatment, addiction does not depend on these factors falling apart.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease caused by substance use and abuse. This substance use results in changes in the brain that make it very difficult for a person to control their desire to use, and therefore control their substance use.
Just like any addict, a high functioning addict has a compulsive need to use and abuse their d.o.c (drug of choice). Even though you might be able to maintain your relationship, friendship, and occupation, you still have a serious problem. If left unaddressed, you can suffer serious health consequences and your addiction will eventually become too consuming to hide any longer.
Could It Be Me?
If you think you might be a functioning drug addiction, look at the following questions and answer them honestly. If you find you are having more “yes” answers than no’s, the time is now to talk to a professional about your addiction.
- When you start drinking or using, do you find it hard to stop?
- Do you often think about using drugs or drinking?
- Do you schedule your time around drinking or using drugs?
- Have you tried to stop before, but found that you were unable to?
- Do you drink or use drugs at work?
- Do you drink or use drugs first thing in the morning?
- Do you hide your abuse from others?
- Have you done something risky, like driven drunk?
- Are you worried about your abuse?
If you are a high-functioning addict, chances are you worry about seeking treatment because you fear it might cost you your job, family, or both. However, there are various options that can be discussed with your treatment center and job to negotiate a plan that works best for you.
Remember, there is no cookie-cutter type for an addict. Addicts come from all walks of life and income brackets. They vary in race, religion and sexuality. Every addict deserves to live a life free from addiction. Hiding from addiction will never help you beat addiction. Stand up and face your addiction today. The time is now. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.