Seeing Your Functional Addiction Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Seeing Your Functional Addiction Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Addiction affects those closest to the addict first

If you take a moment to see your drug or alcohol abuse from different points of view, you may rethink the functionality of your addiction. Californians who abuse drugs and alcohol may overlook how their drug use impacts themselves and their loved ones, as addiction is a self-deluding and isolating disease even when it is functional. Understand how much impact your secret habit has and you will open the door for honesty and healing.

Is Drug Use Harmless?

Californians should see their functional addictions through the eyes of medical professionals. A functional addiction may not have led to serious accidents, injuries or overdoses, but physical damage may still occur. The Toronto Star explains that “health consequences — for example, liver damage from the acetaminophen that is often combined with [opiates] — may not manifest themselves for years or decades.” Pills are not the only source of long-term damage: unlike prescription or street drugs, alcohol can be bought anywhere legally, and the long-term health effects of alcohol abuse are well studied. According to, the “invisible” risks of drinking put individuals at risk for diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, stroke, memory loss and more. In other words, you may be able to shrug your drinking or drug abuse off as harmless, but would you see it the same way if you were a doctor, nurse or other medical practitioner?

How Addiction Affects Families

See your functional addiction through the eyes of your California family members. Addiction affects those closest to the addict first, so, while your family may seem unaware of your addiction, does your problem still seem like it only affects you when you consider your interactions? You cannot take a subjective look at family members and deem them fine; in fact, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics explains that addiction, functional or not, affects children in the following ways:

Children of alcoholics or drug dependent parents (COAs)…may resort to intense defenses, such as shutting down their own feelings, denying there is a problem, rationalizing, intellectualizing, over-controlling, withdrawing, acting out or self medicating, as a way to control their inner experience of chaos. The COA may be difficult to identify. They are just as likely to be the president of the class, the captain of the cheerleading squad, or the A student, as they are to act out in negative ways.

COAs will engage the same unhealthy thoughts and actions as their addicted parent, even if they seem healthy and happy on the surface. The long-term effects of growing up around addiction puts children of drug addicts (who already have a great genetic risk for addiction) at great risk for addiction in the future. In fact, such children may already abuse drugs in secret. If you saw your addiction through your children’s eyes, could you still say your drug use only affects you?

Functional or Lucky?

See the risks of addiction from a statistical point of view. Californians may believe their functional addictions do not impact them, but they always risk consequences with drug use. In his book Understanding Why Addicts Are Not All Alike, Gary Fisher states that “functional addicts have been extremely fortunate to have avoided any accidents or serious encounters with law enforcement” (110). Consider why your addiction seems “functional:” is it because you are living a balanced, manageable life, or because you simply haven’t been caught drinking at work, in an accident or left behind by sober friends and family? If you look at your addiction through the eyes of a statistician, Californians may see that a life unaltered by drug use will not remain so for long.

See Your Addiction Differently

If you are concerned about your or a California loved one’s drug abuse, do not write it off as functional or harmless. Addiction is a progressive, chronic disease, so taking action now means preventing future consequences. The sooner you get help, the easier it is to recover, so call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to discuss functional addiction with our admissions coordinators. Our staff can connect you with the intervention, mediation, therapy and rehab resources you need for a long-lasting recovery.

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