What Is a Functioning Alcoholic, and Does Working Remotely Help Them Hide Their Addiction?

The stereotypical caricature of an alcoholic will have you thinking of somebody who can barely stay on two feet, mumbling incoherent phrases and starting heated arguments with others. Contrary to popular belief, many people privately struggle with alcohol addiction and can continue functioning normally, even if they face immense psychological struggles.

Such “functioning alcoholics” fear sudden emotional turmoils, mental health complications, or external factors like social isolation and a switch to remote work can worsen their alcoholic use.

What Makes a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

alcohol does not go well with working full time

Being a functioning alcoholic is different from having alcoholic use disorder (AUD) because the compulsive element of addiction is less pronounced. A person diagnosed with AUD may find themselves unable to resist their cravings or withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, making them turn to alcohol no matter how negatively it affects them and those around them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition for alcohol addiction. Depending on how frequently and extensively you consume alcohol, your current emotional, genetic, mental and social condition, and other external factors, how alcohol affects your life can vastly differ.

A high-functioning alcoholic can continue to function normally for the most part. They can successfully carry out everyday tasks like keeping up with obligations at work, taking care of children, doing housework, and participating in social and recreational activities and hobbies. On the other hand, а functioning alcoholic doesn’t consume with the same frequency and intensity, or even if they have such periods, they can bounce back from them. Their alcohol dependence still negatively affects their physical and mental health but not to the degree that throws their life into complete chaos.

Denial is common in people who are dealing with addiction. It’s tough to admit that you have an issue which can jeopardise your personal and professional life. A high degree of denial may be more present in functioning alcoholics because it’s harder to see the stark consequences of your addiction. If, on the surface, you appear productive and successful and primarily manage to contain your cravings, then it can be easy to pretend there isn’t an issue.

We all are aware that chronic consumption of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of pancreatitis, liver disease, and cardiovascular issues and may worsen existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. Although being a functioning alcoholic isn’t as devastating to your health as an AUD diagnosis, it can still lead to significant physical and mental health issues. It can also spin out of control if you set the reins loose, even for a second.

A functioning alcoholic may manage to pull through for the time being, but they remain very vulnerable to internal or external factors changing, which could worsen their addiction. For example, losing their job, facing stronger cravings or experiencing symptoms of depression could be the tipping point that severely worsens their addiction.

It’s preferable to seek professional medical help, along with various public, private, and community-based options, to help a functioning alcoholic treat their physical and psychological dependence on alcohol and the underlying reasons that fuel their addiction.

Can Remote Work Affect Alcoholism?

Remote work as a person with an addiction

Remote work can be an excellent work style for people who prefer to set their hours, have a dynamic schedule, and need more flexibility to balance multiple co-occurring responsibilities in their personal and professional life. Even since the COVID pandemic, it has become part of the mainstream, with many workers refusing to get back into the office.

For people who struggle with addiction in one form or another, working remotely can affect their mental health and ability to be productive and limit accountability mechanisms, which can all contribute to a higher chance of making their addiction more severe, and harder to spot.

In many cases, even if there is physical dependence, people don’t get addicted solely to that. Addiction, such as regular consumption of alcohol, is often used as a coping mechanism.

Working remotely means you either work through text messages with occasional video meetings where you don’t even see the face of everyone. As a result, remote work can contribute to feelings of alienation and loneliness, making a person more likely to turn toward alcohol.

Furthermore, remote work can present unique productivity challenges, increasing your anxiety. Since you are not in the office, being observed and supervised by other people, and you don’t have a strict schedule, remote work can lead to procrastination. Even if the job gets done in the end, you experience much more stress, making you more likely to turn toward alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Finally, remote work can blur the lines between your personal and professional life. Consumption of alcohol and other substances is strictly prohibited in the office, but there is no limitation when you are craving from home. As a result, you are exposed to more opportunities where your cravings can get the best of you, and you may struggle to keep up with your tasks if you drink during the day, making you more stressed and more likely to turn toward alcohol even more.

Remote work can not only fuel addiction, but it can make it easier to mask. Communicating through text or video calls and not having as much in-person communication means it’s harder for people to spot the way alcohol addiction may be affecting your health, communication, and thinking process.

Frequently Asked Questions about Remote work and Alcoholism

Should I Seek Treatment if I Fit the Profile of a Functioning Alcoholic?

Even if it’s not as severe as AUD, seeking professional medical help is preferable because being a functioning alcoholic is a slippery slope toward more severe cases of addiction.

What Can I Do to Reduce the Chances of Addiction as a Remote Worker?

To reduce the chances of addiction, you can ask people with whom you live to keep you accountable during the day, make an intentional effort to socialise at and outside of work, and consider therapy to resolve underlying mental health issues and better manage stress.

I Don’t Think Alcohol Affects Me Negatively. Am I a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

This is the big question we all need answering, right? If you get tipsy on a more regular basis or use alcohol to manage your mental and physical health (anxiety, panic fits, exhaustion, bad mood, anger, irritability, sleep regiment, numb pain), then you most definitely are abusing alcohol. If you succeed at your workplace and have a healthy personal life, you are high-functioning. Considering the two as one, you should ask about drinking management sessions with a trusted, experienced professional. It might be alright now, but you are at risk of complications.