Think back to childhood and a moment of sibling rivalry.
Many well-known people publicly acknowledged their battles with alcohol and entered recovery before their lives were destroyed. Betty Ford; the astronaut Buzz Aldrin; the actors Elizabeth Taylor, Mary Tyler Moore and Robin Williams; the singers Keith Urban and Eric Clapton; the football legend Joe Namath; former U.S. President George Bush and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam all courageously went public about their HFA status. But there are millions of others who have not even become aware they are HFA themselves. Pete Hamill said in his memoir, A Drinking Life, “If I was able to function, to get the work done, there was no reason to worry about drinking. It was part of living; one of the rewards.” High-functioning alcoholics might not have a physical addiction to alcohol. Often the addiction is an emotional one, almost like a habit or a reaction to good or bad stress and similar to emotional eating. They might be capable of going long periods without drinking alcohol, but then they drink to excess when celebrating, rewarding themselves, or they drink when they are stressed.
I WONDER HOW THE YOUNG PRINCESS MARGARET FELT AS SHE PLANTED A TREE, WITH A FORCED SMILE ON HER FACE FOR THE CAMERAS, TO COMMEMORATE HER SISTER BECOMING QUEEN.
IF I'D BEEN DELEGATED TO THE ROLE OF BECOMING THE PUBLIC RELATIONS SERVANT TO MY BIG SISTER, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, I'D HAVE DONE MORE THAT REBEL, I'D HAVE HIT THE BOTTLE, AND MIGHT NOT HAVE HAD THE ELEGANCE NEVER TO APPEAR OUTWARDLY DRUNK, TOO.
ALCOHOL IS USED AS A TOOL FOR COPING.
YOU CANNOT JUST TAKE IT AWAY.
YOU NEED TO REPLACE A TOOL FOR COPING WITH NEW TOOLS. SAFER ONES, AND A SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE, PLUS HELP TO BUILD FEELINGS OR SELF-WORTH.
Princess Margaret became a high-functioning alcoholic, and probably, as a result, she became a user of people. She’d invite herself wherever she wished to go, and often overstay those welcomes. She always had an alcoholic drink close to her, although she was never seen to be drunk.
Her former friends reported how, if she wanted a lobster dinner she wouldn’t buy one, she would just ask her neighbor to bring one over, and would never offer to pay for it.
Her extensive drinks list was sent ahead of her to wherever she invited herself. Tho host was expected to have all of her alcoholic preferences on hand.
Two of her former circle of friends stood up to her, one by refusing to provide the biscuits the late princess always expected to be served. The royal princess never re-visited that friend. She did make a joke of it, played out from beyond the grave, as she willed a lifetime supply of biscuits to the former friend she broke up with over not serving her biscuits.
As for the other former friend. His crime was that he did not hold an ashtray at the ready when Princes Margaret needed it. She had to remind him, with a glance at the required dish. Belatedly, understanding the demand, he held out the ashtray to her. Princess Margaret reached beyond the ashtray to shake her cigarette ash onto his hand.
Behaviors such as that, show a lack of interest in others which isn’t uncommon in people fighting their inner demons of substance abuse.
People observe them as high-functioning.
Take a harder look.
You may see a lot more high-functioning alcoholics whose behaviors are causing estrangement from loved ones.
These people are suffering, even if you cannot see it beyond the forced gaiety of being perpetual, if not visibly, drunk. On many occasions, their body is barely able to fake a healthy outer image.
How can we help the high-functioning alcoholics we meet?
Would you refuse to serve alcohol to a high functioning alcoholic friend and tell them it was because you care about them and are concerned for their well-being? Or would you act like so many friends of celebrities and urge your high-functioning, often life-of-the- party friends on, for the benefits that that association brings you?
If you had or have a dependence, who do you want close to you, someone who is only interested in themselves, or someone with your interest at heart?
I once took a wine cask from a friend and put it in the kitchen sink and stuck a knife in it. They were angry at that time. We are friends decades later, and they have been sober formal all of than time.
I know. It isn’t always that easy. But, that’s also because most friends don’t step in early enough.
Enquiries welcome for commercial use of images or commissioned artwork.