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Help Me Stop Speak to G B News about ‘Functioning Alcoholism’

The myth of the functioning alcoholic

The majority of people that Help Me Stop work with haven’t yet lost everything: they have jobs, families, homes and opportunities. But alcohol addiction is making their life increasingly difficult, unmanageable and painful. In Alcohol Awareness Week and beyond, we really want to change the language about alcohol addiction. Let’s say it how it is, so people who are suffering can identify the problem sooner and get help with alcohol. Please call 0208 191 9191 to talk about treatment in our London Dayhabs or our Online Rehab.

Speaking the Truth about Alcoholism

Our Director of Admissions, Chris Love, spoke to G B News about alcohol addiction, treatment and recovery. The interview centres around challenging the myth of ‘functioning alcoholism‘. There’s also advice for family members, friends or colleagues, about how to speak to someone who is suffering with alcohol addiction.

Full Interview Transcript

New research has found 30% of people in the UK say a friend or family member drinks more than they used to before the pandemic. Help Me Stop, one of the first drug and alcohol programmes to offer intensive treatment online, says almost a quarter of people know someone struggling with an alcohol addiction. As it’s Alcohol Awareness Week, the centre also wanted to warn against using the term ‘functional alcoholic’, saying it’s a myth to suggest that someone can continue to function well whilst struggling with a drink dependency.

We’re joined now by the Director of Admissions at Help Me Stop, and also recovered alcoholic, Chris Love, whose Dayhab programme has a higher success rates than other types of treatment.

Where has this term ‘functional alcoholic’ come from? And why have you got problems with it? Why do you think, in practice, that isn’t ever possible?

We feel that the term ‘functioning alcoholic’ is a misnomer. It can be quite dangerous. The belief that continuing to work, pay the bills and maintain the appearance of normality, can actually feed into people’s belief that everything is okay.

Can you spot someone who is a ‘functioning alcoholic’?

Very much so. In fact the majority of people that we work with are still in that place where ‘the wheels haven’t completely fallen off’. And yet when we sit down and speak with them, it’s apparent that their relationship with alcohol has become unmanageable. They break all sorts of boundaries that they’ve set in place for themselves, particularly over the last eighteen months. That can include taking a drink earlier than they planned, drinking more than they set out to, and most importantly, when they honestly want to stop or bring about a change in terms of their relationship with alcohol, they are absolutely unable to do so.

What do you do if you have suspicions that is your friend, your family member, your colleague?

The first thing to do is talk to them gently and kindly, rather than in an accusatory tone. We understand that alcoholism, which I know is a term that many people are uncomfortable with, is an illness rather than some sort of moral failing. So to show people compassion, understanding and love, and suggest to them that they may want to reach out and seek some support from an organisation such as ourselves. We absolutely understand – most of the staff at Help Me Stop have their own personal experience, as well as their professional experience, to draw on. We feel that we can connect with people who have a problematic relationship with alcohol in a way that other professionals simply cannot.

Particularly given your own experience – because you battled with this in 2008?

Very much so, yes. For me, I ticked that box for many years of ‘functioning alcoholic’. I had a successful career. I got married at a young age. I had a family and from the outside looking in, everything was okay. However, it finally came to a point in 2008, where my relationship with alcohol was utterly out of control and I was able to reach out and get some support. And my life is, from the inside out now, unrecognisable from that place,

Was that self-motivated in your case?

I was in a position whereby my hand was forced, to be honest with you. My partner at the time had left me. I was in a place whereby my attendance at work was sporadic to say the least. And the physical consequences of my drinking were apparent. I was physically unwell and thankfully my GP was one of the few GPs who was always to recognise and see through what I was presenting to him. That’s another part of the issue here, is that when we are presenting to medical professionals, we are often unable to connect with the truth about what’s going on with our drinking. There’s such a stigma attached to this illness, to this problem, and so much shame around admitting that we’ve lost the power of choice over our drinking – that we often present with symptoms that look like depression, that look like anxiety. We see so many people now who are misdiagnosed and are taking prescription medication for conditions it transpires they don’t have. Thankfully, that wasn’t my experience. My GP was able to suggest to me that I went and sought some help. And I was at a stage in my life where I grasped that opportunity and I haven’t looked back since.

Get Help with Alcohol Addiction Today: in London and Online

  • Help Me Stop provides intensive Dayhab addiction treatment in London and our Online Rehab, which is accessible worldwide with a computer and wifi.
  • Our programme is based on the 12-step model of addiction treatment and it incorporates integrative psychotherapy, peer support, recovery workshops and community-based 12 step recovery meetings.
  • It works: our treatment outcomes are as good as residential rehab, at a fraction of the cost. Our prices are low because our clients don’t have to pay all the overheads associated with residential addiction treatment, with no compromise on the quality of care.
  • Call 0208 191 9191 to find out more about our programmes or contact us here. Your enquiry is confidential.

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