Addiction, if left untreated, is a degenerative disease. It breaks down physical and emotional health, mental capacity, relationships, financial stability, and more. Given the potential for drastic outcomes, it’s easy to think that we can recognize a person who is addicted. We expect them to look and act differently. We expect their struggles to be obvious. But addiction is often unnoticeable to outsiders, at least at first.
High Functioning Alcoholics/Addicts or HFAs
Treatment jargon calls people who can mask their substance use disorder and continue to lead “normal” lives High Functioning Alcoholics/Addicts or HFAs. These individuals do not fold neatly into the stereotypical box of addiction. An HFA maintains their life well–including their social, professional, domestic, and romantic lives–while excessively consuming alcohol or drugs.
HFAs generally live in a state of denial about their addiction. This denial is supported by our culture, which tends to celebrate alcohol and drug use in productive people rather than seeing it as addiction.
So how can we tell if someone struggles with substance use disorder? If you notice any of the following in a person, it’s likely that addiction is present:
- A refusal to view themselves as addicted because they have a successful life
- A belief that their substance use is justified, either as a reward for their hard work or as stress relief
- A use of their professional accomplishments or education level to deflect any doubts about their level of substance use
- Drastic personality changes when using the substance or obsessing about the next opportunity to indulge in the substance
Of course, the danger of addiction, at any level, is that it will eventually take over. No HFA can remain high-functioning indefinitely. Without self-awareness and treatment, addiction will become unmanageable. Something will have to give, whether it be the person’s health, career, relationships, or all three.
How Can We Help
At Great Oaks Recovery Center, we understand the pressure to succeed in this world–and how that pressure can lead to substance use and addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, we are here to help. We will design a treatment plan to fit your unique needs and help you become a truly high-functioning person: someone who can navigate life’s challenges with wisdom, health, and ease.