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The High Functioning Alcoholic – From Homeless to Harvard

The High Functioning Alcoholic

I wanted to share a couple things in this post – the first being a recent article published in The Grindstone regarding The High Functioning Alcoholic.

What is a high functioning alcoholic?

A high functioning alcoholic is usually defined as someone that is able to maintain a successful career and give the appearance of maintaining their outside life with regard to family, friends and health all while drinking alcoholically.

With the Sobriety Coaching services I provide and my flagship product, The 30-Day Sobriety Solution, I encounter the high functioning alcoholic every day. Because of that I recently had the honor of being one of the featured experts in an article written by Meredith Lepore in The Grindstone discussing the high functioning alcoholic – I Was An Alcoholic During The Best Years Of My Career.

The article breaks the myth about the “face of an alcoholic”. This was best captured by a quote from Sherry Stewart.

I was a high functioning, extremely successful controlled drinker. I am what I call “The new face of alcoholism”. We are your doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, professors, paid consultants – and most of us drink /drank every night. I was not homeless, I didn’t get DUI’s, didn’t lose jobs, wasn’t disorderly. I gave my children an unrealistic view of the potential outcome for someone who drank too much. There were no “Outwardly Obvious” negative consequences for me. I drank only at home. I never drank and drove. I drank until I passed out or fell asleep at least five nights per week. I drank to escape.

Sherry is the epitome of the high functioning alcoholic. She was mother to 5 children and acting Vice-President of five different corporations, all while drinking to excess most nights of the week.

It is estimated that as many has ½ of the alcoholics are high functioning alcoholics.

The High Functioning Alcoholic

What about you? Do you live behind this facade that because you have maintained a successful career that drinking 5, 6 or 7 nights a week to excess is not a problem?

If you drink to excess most nights of the week it doesn’t matter how well you fit in a photo like this – a high functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic and it will shave years, and probably tens of years, off the end of your life.

Now I want to finish up this post with a story that I found really inspiring.

From Homeless to Harvard

A friend recently shared with me the inspiring story of Liz Murray, and how she went from homeless to Harvard. Although Liz was never an alcoholic or addict she was born into a family with two parents that lived a life of addiction. Their addiction would certainly not be classified as “high functioning”. Rather they fit the stereotype that many of us have about the typical alcoholic/addict.

Liz faced an upbringing that most of us could not even begin to imagine. She can remember seeing her parents shooting up as young as the age of 3. Liz started working at the age of 9 to feed herself and by the age of 15 she was living homeless in NYC after her mother passed away from aids.

This interview on Fox news shares her story and how she was able to overcome great odds.

In this interview she shared several things that to me really captures the essence of the human spirit.

No one really owes me anything. I am going back to create what I want in this world.

Choice by choice, day by day I went to school while I was living on the street.

What I love about this attitude is she took ownership of her future. She didn’t dwell on what was fair or unfair. She didn’t focus on the fact that she was born into a family circumstance that could have easily led her down the path of addiction.

Instead she made choices every day to improve. One thing you often hear “experts” talk about is the concept that if you don’t take 100% ownership of your problems you can never heal from them. If she were to focus on blaming her parents I am convinced her story would be tragic instead of triumphant.

She also shared a significant shift she had in her attitude when she was homeless. She started living by the belief that, “It is unlikely, but possible.”

So many of us think about our dreams and what we want to accomplish, then spend however long it takes telling ourselves why and how we can’t do it. Although she never believed she was going to get into Harvard, she lived from the perspective of possibility. That alone was enough to get her to apply to Harvard and to her surprise she got in.

What possibilities have you closed off in your life because you rationalized how you would never be able to do it?

Most people I do coaching with, and that go through my quit drinking programs, have lost touch with what and who they really want to be in this world. We tend to be great at limiting ourselves and closing the doors of possibility before we even try to open them.

What about you?

Your Sobriety Coach, Dave Andrews

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