But something is gnawing at you, and it’s not the usual hangover feeling. No, this is an icy pit in your stomach.

It was something you overheard your co-workers talking about as you walked to your office … something about you being the most high-functioning alcoholic they’d ever met.

Alcoholic? There’s no way you could be addicted to alcohol. You just really enjoy it, that’s all. After all, “alcoholics” are people you see begging for money on street corners, not sitting around the conference table at a large corporation … right?

Think again, my friend.

High-Functioning Alcoholism Does You No Favors

Even if you haven’t overheard your co-workers talking about your alcohol use, chances are your big “secret” is well-known throughout the office.

In fact, there are a lot of people who are concerned about your well-being and who want you to get help. Ask yourself this: has anyone tried to broach the subject with you? Did you respond by adamantly denying that you had a problem? Your concerned friend may have backed off at the time, but they still care about you and know you need help.

The trouble is, no one can help you until you are ready to help yourself. Recognizing and accepting your addiction is the first step toward recovery.

However, if you’re a high-functioning alcoholic who still manages to hold down a job, you have a lot of denial to slog through. It’s hard to admit that you are at the beck and call of a powerful addiction when you can still pay your bills and your spouse isn’t filing for divorce.

But are you living a full life? Or is every day a new charade? Your best self is hiding underneath this addiction. You have to kick it to the curb in order to flourish professionally and personally.

Hitting Rock Bottom

Recovering addicts often talk about how they had to hit “rock bottom” before they could enter recovery. This looks different to everyone.

Sometimes it looks like a near-fatal overdose. Sometimes it is a simple realization that you don’t have to keep up appearances anymore because everyone already knows you’ve been struggling with alcohol.

Whatever your rock bottom looks like, seize the opportunity to get help.

Being Afraid of the Implications

If something continues to prevent you from seeking help, it could be a fear of the stigma surrounding alcoholism. You might have even held a few of these beliefs yourself:

  • “Alcoholics are too weak to hold their liquor.” There is nothing weak about alcoholism, and it is not a competition. Addiction is a chemical dependence that is difficult to fight. And while increasing alcohol tolerance can be a sign of addiction, it isn’t always. In fact, you may have friends or co-workers who are also trying to keep their addictions secret. Admitting to yours might actually help them come to terms with their own alcoholism. No one should treat you poorly once they learn about your struggles. If they do, they likely have their own struggles to contend with.
  • “Alcoholics are deadbeats who can’t do anything but drink.” Are you afraid your boss is going to suddenly forget about your talent and capabilities once you admit to an alcohol problem? In reality, your boss probably already suspects a problem and will be relieved to see that you will be sobering up. Think about it this way: if you haven’t already been fired, why would you be once you enter recovery? Things can only look up from here! Your focus and attitude will improve, and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with once again.

In short, being addicted to alcohol is simply not a morality issue. You didn’t become hooked because you were “bad.” And you don’t need to stay hooked as a form of self-punishment for your perceived failings. Don’t trap yourself in a vicious cycle.

When it comes to the stigma associated with alcoholism, you might actually be your own worst enemy. Because your big secret is likely fooling no one, you’ve already dealt with most of the negative repercussions that might come your way. In truth, admitting to your alcohol addiction will encourage much-needed positivity and support in your life.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin by opening up to your closest friends and family. If finding treatment is overwhelming, ask your loved ones to help you find a great program. From there, you can seek the advice of professionals about how to broach the subject at work.

Take it one step at a time. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight.


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.