The Myth of the Functioning Addict

5. July 2016

Addiction is a very complicated and enigmatic disease that we’ve only very recently begun to understand. Before the wealth of science and research we have at our disposal today, the consensus was that addiction was a moral affliction rather than an actual disease; people who exhibited problematic chemical consumption issues were assumed to merely be bad people, resulting in many of them being sent to asylums or prisons. The idea was that being sent to prison would force these individuals into sobriety while the fear of additional imprisonment would discourage them from any further substance abuse or relapses in the future.

Since then, we’ve gained a much more enlightened understanding of addiction. Instead of believing that substance abusers are merely bad people, we know that addiction is an actual disease. Specifically, addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing brain disease that causes people to behave in ways that defy logic and reason. Even though addicts are fully aware that their substance abuse behaviors will result in negative consequences, they continue to defy their own best interests by pursuing illicit substances and chemical intoxicants.

There are many different reasons why a person might choose to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place. Some people are just curious about substance abuse due to knowing that there are so many people who turn to substance abuse and wanting to know what it is that all those people are seeking. Others become addicted through no major fault of their own; instead, the addiction develops to substances they are taking for legitimate reasons. And still others are coerced into substance abuse somehow, either because of their peers or because there’s substance abuse in their family units. Whatever the case, there’s something that each and every single addict tries to achieve with their substance abuse, which is to be functioning addicts.

What Exactly is a “Functioning Addict”?

Before we discuss the so-called functioning addict, we must first get an idea of the mindset of an addict. People who are addicted to alcohol and drugs don’t want to make sacrifices. They are aware of being addicted to chemical, mind-altering substances, but they remain in denial that the decision to sustain their addictions have negative repercussions. The problems that addicts often encounter as a result of their chemical dependencies aren’t actually attributed to their addictions. Instead, they often try to find other people to blame their problems on, preventing them from having to admit that their alcohol and drug addictions are at the center of most of their problems.

That’s where this myth comes into focus. At the onset of a substance abuse problem, people try to keep themselves under control. They do what they can to keep their indiscretions secret from their loved ones and other people around them so that they won’t have to make any sacrifices to remain in active addiction. In fact, maintaining many of their responsibilities and obligations are essential to sustaining their actual substance abuse problems, the most obvious of which would be to keep their jobs so as to have a way to continue funding their substance abuse. In other words, they want to continue to function at their normal, non-addicted level although they’ve become addicted to mind-altering, chemical substances in the meantime. And that’s the so-called functional addict, which is supposed to be someone who is able to become and remain in active addiction without having to make many sacrifices. The phrase “Have their cake and eat it, too” often comes to mind.

man taking shit of whiskey

Is It Possible to Be Functional as an Addict?

Whether one’s hope is to be a functional alcoholic or drug addict, it should go without saying that there’s no such thing for a number of reasons. It’s not very difficult for someone who has only just recently become addicted to remain mostly functional as the substance abuse problem is still new and has not yet begun causing destruction to his or her life. However, the effects of an addiction to alcohol or drugs are inevitable as a person continues to progress in severity.

At the onset of a substance abuse problem, an individual is not yet consuming his or her desired substance on a daily basis. However, as the substance abuse continues, the individual’s dosage and the frequency with which he or she consumes the substance of choice increase. With the addict spending more and more time consuming alcohol or drugs, the individual’s physical dependence becomes stronger and requires larger amounts of the substance, which requires more money. Additionally, needing more of the substance and more money means that sustaining the addiction is requiring more and more of the individual’s time, even beyond the time that’s required to simply consume the drug. As mentioned previously, it’s simply not possible to spend more and more time seeking, finding money for, purchasing, and using drugs without the demanding addiction affecting other aspects of the person’s life.

What Really Happens to an Addict

Becoming an addict is a very comprehensive, all-encompassing transformation. The disease affects a person’s physical health, mental and emotional stability, and social life. There’s virtually no aspect of life that goes untouched by the disease. Addicts often lose their jobs, their cars and homes, their important relationships, their passions and interests, and so on. This is a disease that renders a person a mere shell of his or her former self, far from someone who is functioning. And even when an addict is able to function today, it’s only a matter of time before the disease brings it all crashing down.

Choose Life By Calling Intervention Services Today

If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621. We’re available anytime, day or night, to help you or your loved one begin the healing journey. As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present, so don’t you wait another second to get your life back — call now.