Life When You Love a High Functioning Alcoholic
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Do you love someone who is a high functioning alcoholic? If you are new to this term, the high functioning alcoholic, or HFA, is referring to an alcoholic who doesn’t necessarily fit the typical stereotype of an alcoholic. They seem to function normally to the outside world. They can maintain a job, social activities and have families. They seem to have it all together. They may even trick themselves into believing they don’t have a problem, since they think no one knows their “secret” and they think are getting away with it. They can be so full of denial they will start to blame, rationalize, lie and provoke anger just to justify the drinking.
Master pretenders and the emotional roller coaster
The HFA is great at creating a fake reality. They can manipulate situations and people around them to best suit their needs. They have their own little tricks that only those close to them know about, creating an illusion that everything is normal when it’s not. But for those of us who love a HFA, the pain is real. You can feel like you are trapped in a black hole where no one can hear you scream. You feel like you can’t ask for help because you don’t want to “out” the person. You sit back and watch the people you love destroy themselves, slowly, and you feel like there is nothing you can do about it. Unless they feel they have a problem, and many do not, confronting them doesn’t do any good. It's only met with resentment. Your own emotions are like a roller coaster. You get angry, hurt and sad all at the same time. You can feel isolated and wonder why is this happening. You can feel betrayed when the HFA seems to put the alcohol above everything else.
What does the Bible say about alcohol?
Drinking moderately is not a sin. When the drinking becomes an addiction, then there's a problem. Remember, all sin must be repented of. Emotionally, it can be especially hard when you know the alcoholic knows what God says about alcohol abuse in the Bible. Paul stated: "…contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and the like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21 Galatians 5:21Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×). Your heart breaks thinking about what they are willing to throw away just for another drink. No unrepented sinner will be allowed in the Kingdom of God. It’s hard enough to see the alcoholic put marriage, family or jobs on the line, but knowing that their salvation is at stake is scary.
Show love, but don’t enable
You can prolong the behavior of the alcoholic by becoming an enabler if you are not careful. Making excuses for them is never the right approach. It’s also never alright to lie for them. The alcoholic must be allowed to face the consequences for their choices. When you cover for the alcoholic, the problem will continue to intensify. For example, if they miss work or a function because of the alcohol, don’t make excuses for them. With love, just be honest and maybe even ask for prayers if you have to let others in on the problem. That could lead to others asking them about it and showing genuine concern. When the alcoholic starts to realize how it’s affecting others around them, and that other people really do care about them, maybe that would be incentive to ask for help.
The power of prayer and giver of hope
So what can you do when you love a HFA? How can you help when they don’t want any help? The only thing you can really do is pray! Seek God’s help and guidance. When you feel betrayed by those who you love most, remember the One who will never betray you. Ask Him how you can be a help to those around you who you know are struggling with addiction. Remember to love beyond the sin of alcohol abuse. Love the person like God loves them. Pray that they will see that the misuse of alcohol is a sin. We should not turn our backs on them. Jesus did not turn His back on us. While we were still sinners, He died for us. An exception to this would be if they become physically abusive. Then ask God for protection and pray for the courage to seek out help from a trusted individual and the authorities.
Other ways to find peace
Another tool is locating your local Al-anon group and attend some meetings. Al-anon is a place where you can go and meet with others who are going through the same issues you may be dealing with. Since most HFAs feel they do not have a problem, getting them to go to a meeting is usually unrealistic. Al-anon is for the family members and friends of the alcoholic. They can help you with understanding and support. This can be very helpful when you feel you’re alone in this struggle. It's comforting to have a safe place to meet and be able to share your story in a non-judgmental environment. It's also helpful hearing the stories of others. Weather its AA, Al-anon, or any other group that offers help, they should always be carefully and prayerfully considered.
As hopeless as it may feel some days, remember, you are not alone. So many out there are going through this same trial. Keep praying for wisdom and love. Pray for the alcoholic in your life. They need all the support they can get.