Alcoholism is a progressive disease, so any phase of being a “high-functioning” alcoholic is a temporary one. Alcoholics who are “high-functioning” take one of two roads: They cut down on their drinking and get better, or they get worse. It’s possible to become aware of how drinking is impacting your life long before you ever hit rock bottom. In fact, it’s possible to avoid rock bottom altogether. If you have high-functioning alcoholism or concerns about your drinking, an IOP (intensive outpatient program) can help.
Alcoholism (or alcohol use disorder, as it is officially known) is recognized as a brain disease by the medical community. For that reason, it is listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) — a book that doctors use to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
The most recent version of this book, the DSM-V, includes a list of symptoms of alcoholism:
- Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
- Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol, or alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Only a medical professional can diagnose alcohol use disorder, and this list is not meant to replace true medical care. However, if you or a loved one has shown two or more of these symptoms within the last year, you might have a mild alcohol use disorder. Four to five symptoms indicates a moderate case, and six or more is a sign of a serious sickness.
What is High-Functioning Alcoholism?
High-functioning alcoholics may fall on the more “mild” end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum as outlined in the DSM-V. Or, they might be more severe alcoholics, but may have a lifestyle that allows them to get away with it. Overall, people consider a “high-functioning” alcoholic to be someone who can drink to excess while maintaining a job, financial health, relationships, and physical health.
The reality is, almost no one can do that. People who consider themselves to be “high-functioning” alcoholics are constantly spinning plates in the air, with any plate liable to crash down at any given moment, in the form of a DUI, a termination, or an ultimatum from a spouse. Getting help for drinking earlier on can help you avoid those negative consequences further down the road.
Perhaps more importantly, it will give you some reprieve today. Anyone who’s been caught in the cycle of drinking and hangovers knows how exhausting it is to try to hold it all together. Sitting through work with a crippling hangover, missing events with friends, lying to your spouse about your drinking — all of that takes an enormous toll. The fact is, if you think you are “high-functioning” while abusing alcohol, you could be even more effective by removing it from your life entirely.
What is an IOP for Drinking?
An intensive outpatient program for drinking can help you cut down on your alcohol use without having to press pause on your life. In IOP, you attend 9 or more hours of sessions per week, split up across the week. This kind of schedule serves a dual purpose: It allows clients to continue working, going to school, or caring for family while attending treatment. At the same time, having more integration into normal life gives clients the opportunity to practice their new recovery skills as they learn them.
IOP can teach you a variety of new skills for coping with life in a healthy way. Depending on your needs and goals, your IOP treatment plan might include one-on-one counseling, group therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and a variety of other treatment methods. You’ll also learn relapse prevention tips, alcoholism facts, and more to help you get and stay sober.
Paying for IOP
IOP could be more affordable than you think. Most insurance providers will cover all or at least part of your outpatient treatment. Call our caring admissions team or send a chat to verify your insurance and learn whether IOP can help you start a new road — from high-functioning alcoholism to health and peace, at last.