“Functional alcoholic” is a destructive term that everybody has heard.  Generally, the term is used by those who are aware of the alcoholic’s drinking pattern, but wish to avoid feeling responsible or confronting it by denying its problematic impact.

There is no such thing as a functional alcoholic just like there is no such thing as functional cancer.  This term is an example of enabling. It is a term of convenience created by enablers. In a sense, all alcoholics — if they’re alive — are functional.  It’s a matter of degree.  This term is destructive because it helps the alcoholic avoid being confronted and it works for the enabler quite well. 

Functional alcoholic means the coworker’s behavior doesn’t bother you.  Indeed, others may see the same alcoholic as quite dysfunctional — particularly family members.  Don’t use this term to describe alcoholics.

If you feel that you may know someone that fits this description you can call us and we’ll help you with the resources you need to effectively handle this difficult situation. 770-683-1327 24/7/365.


Posted by Dan Feerst, MSW, LISW