The Myth of the High-Functioning Alcoholic

I had a great evening last night – a group of us went to see Ambler Hutchinson’s show at Florida Mining Gallery, and then to dinner at India’s restaurant afterwards. It’s to the point now, where old friends talk about my previous grapples with alcoholism casually – the way they might remember a long ago bad perm. We were recalling one of our Spiller Vincenty gallery openings and Laurie Hitzig asked, “Do you even remember being there?”

The story was that I was walking around, all snippy, with a wad of red dots in my hands saying, “If someone doesn’t stop eating our food and drinking our booze and buy something I am going to shove these red dots down someone’s throat…” Red dots are placed on the paintings that are purchased, and it was the last days of the gallery and apparently I was on a tear about the fact we always had a big turnout at our openings, but rarely sold anything…

I do not actually remember this endearing little scenario, but I was the definition of “high-functioning alcoholic” at the time. I was married, Kim and I ran a business, my children were well cared for, I worked out every day and looked great, I had lots of friends, I did not cause scenes or black out… Wait. Yes I did. I blacked out all the time. I don’t even remember being the ass with red dots and attitude, and I think you will agree that threatening to shove sticky dots down the gullets of potential patrons is not “functional” whether you recall it or not…

I do not think a “high-functioning alcoholic” exists. It’s an oxymoron and the only reason I got away with behaving the way I did, for as long as I did, was because everyone was too scared of how I would react if they called me on my appalling conduct. At the time of the red dots incident, I kept a bottle of wine in my gallery desk drawer, one under the sink in my bathroom at home, one hidden behind the coats in my closet and several screw top shooters clanking in my glove box. I don’t think I was fooling anybody or that needing to gulp tepid, stale wine secreted in a winter boot could be called “functional”.

There is no such thing as a “high-functioning” alcoholic (it’s also grammatically incorrect). An alcoholic is an alcoholic is an alcoholic. Let’s stop putting qualifications and blinders on the situation, and perhaps it will help someone who is in denial or masking their problem with industriousness or bluster.

Today I’m not drinking because I am highly functioning.

How come you’re not drinking?