My Husband is a Functioning Alcoholic

I have been married to my husband for 23 years and he has drank the whole time. The volume he consumes has varied throughout the years but he still drinks daily. He is what some call a functioning alcoholic. Is there such a thing?

He has always worked hard and been a good employee and provider for our family. He does not drink and drive therefore we do not go out in public much. We also own our own business which he is very faithful to and ambitious in. Some of the things I am reading about alcoholism does pertain to our marriage and children so I am wondering just how is this any better than your average alcoholic.

P.S. He says he is not an alcoholic because he can quit any time he puts his mind to it.


It is possible for someone to be a functional alcoholic. He has likely built up a tolerance to the amount he consumes, therefore, he doesn’t appear overly intoxicated and isn’t suffering many of the common negative consequences such as loss of job, loss of money, hangovers, etc. Although not ideal, this is better than the average alcoholic because, like I said, he is not suffering all of the negative consequences.

However, he is consuming large amounts of alcohol, and that is detrimental to the body. It can result in organ damage, digestive problems, cognitive impairment, stroke, alcohol dependence, and more. The negative consequences of his behavior may not be evident until much later, but there are consequences to his choices. It sounds like the two of you are suffering social consequences as well.

In terms of quitting, it is likely that he believes he can quit at any time. However, if there are few negative consequences being experienced then he may not ever decide to “put his mind to it”. Anyone can quit (with support) if they really want to. He is no different. The issue is that he does not want to. Until he tries, he won’t know whether or not he is truly an alcoholic. The day he decides to quit drinking will be the day you will get a definitive answer. You will know whether he experiences physical and/or psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Until then, he is the only one who can make the choice to continue drinking or to stop. It is helpful for you to share your concerns and the ways in which his drinking negatively effects you. This may encourage him to quit.

Here is some additional information that you may find useful:

Effects of Alcoholism on Marriage
Support For Families of Alcoholics
Alcoholism Statistics
Information on Treatment

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