The Rise of the Functioning Alcoholic: Is Getting Drunk After 30 Still as Fun?

Alcohol has unfortunately been a theme in my life for some time. At the age of 15, I had two people in my life abuse alcohol and other substances to the point where they could no longer function successfully in society. At the age of 15, I became an adult, and never looked back. I watched first hand, how alcohol abuse can ruin someones life. I had a front row seat to seeing how adults medicated their 9-5 and the problems they were going through with a glass, hell, a bottle of wine every night. I struggled with understanding how someone who had a successful life, could fall so hard, and so fast. I read a lot, attended Al-anon meetings and became very educated about addiction and abuse.

I grew up in a beautiful suburb outside of Boston. I had a childhood that most dream of, and my best friends today are more like my family. We grew up down the street from one another, and we have been best friends since the age of 5. Our town was filled with successful doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists. It has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the US with some of the best public school systems around. I have to say, growing up in my town was a lot of fun. We all had abundance and luxuries that allowed for amazing vacations, non-working summers with friends and best of all, lots of busy parents out of town, leaving us with cash and freedom. We also grew up faster than many of my friends from college, and my friends outside of Newton. Many of us discovered drugs and alcohol by freshman year of high school, and were already having serious relationships with our significant others.

Every weekend, most Friday and Saturday nights there was a big party to go to, and running from the local cops was a norm. However, at the age of 15, you feel invincible, and often, you are. Those days of partying didn't come with bad hang overs, loss of energy and usually with some food and relaxing, we were ready to do it all over again the next night. For some, their grades or athletics did not suffer, and for others, they took their experience to another level, and their grades were an example of this. Most of us though, got into good schools, and entered successful careers.

We are now entering our 30's and are well into our careers. We are getting married, some having children, and we are on the edge of truly becoming adults with major responsibilities. This summer alone, I have been to five weddings. It has been amazing to be in a room with everyone I grew up. I look forward to hearing of everyones success, and to take a trip down memory lane. As a group, we still have a great time together, and at weddings, people tend to go overboard. With old friends, a open bar and the emotional experience of watching the people we grew up with enter the next chapter in their lives, wedding guests can easily go over board with drinking over their limit. I have been there, and most of us have. However, this past month, I have realized that many people my age, don't just go overboard at weddings. Alcohol and partying hard is still a common theme in many of their lives.

As I try to leave my judgement out of my experience (because I've been there), I grow worried for the next five years and many of the people I know. Not just in my group of friends, but in society today, there are so many functioning alcoholics struggling through their work week. They count the days until the clock hits five on Friday, and look forward to relaxing and drinking towards that invincible feeling of a carefree buzz or drunken state where nothing seems to matter anymore. Some will get better when the responsibility of being a parent does not allow for a functioning alcoholic lifestyle anymore, but I am afraid some will not. As we grow older each year, the problem seems to get worse. The drunken state isn't as funny anymore, it isn't as enjoyable and it raises a red flag to others around you. Here are a few signs that you may be a functioning alcoholic, or abusing alcohol.

7 Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic:

1. You cannot have just one or two drinks.

2. You have to order your next drink before you finish the one in front of you.

3. You are not comfortable talking about your relationship with alcohol.

4. You drink almost every night of the week.

5. You often experience blackout or memory loss when drinking.

6. You cannot imagine your life without alcohol.

7. You drink to be happy, confident or comfortable.

If you feel that you or a loved one may be at risk for abusing alcohol, I urge you to start a conversation now. Often drinking or abuse stems from something in your life that you are not at peace with. It could be your job, your partner, your confidence, depression, anxiety or boredom. If you are a functioning alcoholic, you can change now. It starts with looking in the mirror and radically accepting where you are without judgement. Start the conversation with yourself, or the person you are living with. If it is too hard to face, write a letter or a email, and just get in on paper. Make a promise to yourself that you are aware of this issue and that you do not want it to become a bigger problem.

Often, when you heal other parts of your life that need healing, alcohol and substance abuse are no longer an issue. We all deserve to live a happy, healthy and successful life, so I urge you to try to make a change. Once you face your fear head on, it won't be as scary anymore, and you will now work on taking the next step forward. There is so much help and guidance out there today.

For starters, if you pay for health insurance every month, use it! On the back of your health insurance card, there will be a 1-800 number for mental health and substance abuse. Find a list of providers and go talk to a professional. Often therapists are like dating. You have to shop around until you find the one who works for you. The people who reach their fullest potential in life, and experience the deepest form of happiness and success are the ones who truly work on themselves.

So I invite you now to drop your judgement and shame, and change your life, starting today. If you aren't ready today, start tomorrow. But please, do not deprive yourself of this beautiful world and experience. Remember that drinking even more than two days a week can negatively impact your mood, attitude, health and energy. Even if you don't realize its negative effects, believe me, they are there. Sometimes starting a drinking diary can help. Simply account for how much you drink on a daily and weekly basis. Often you will be shocked at how much alcohol you consume. You can take it a step further with tracking your behavior, attitude and mood levels before and after you drink. Sometimes the negative affects of drinking don't affect you for a day or two, but in the end, it will always catch up with us.

Kristina XO

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