Like most high-bottom alcohol abusers, when I was drinking, I didn’t scream “alcoholic.” I held a steady job, did well in classes, played a sport, was involved in the college newspaper, and had a good number of friends. I managed to balance and do well in all these areas, despite my drinking.
Because I was able to do this, I didn’t think that I could possibly have a problematic relationship with alcohol. The only people I had ever known to struggle with alcohol had faced major consequences as a result, whether that be lost jobs, legal issues, or ruined relationships. My drinking hadn’t caused anything catastrophic in my life, so the world “alcoholic” never crossed my mind.
Eventually, however, alcohol began taking a toll on my day-to-day life. While I still balanced all my obligations, the effort I put into them suffered. By the time I stopped drinking, I had realized there was a term for what I was: a high-functioning or high-bottom alcoholic, which refers to someone who is able to maintain normal day-to-day life yet still have a problematic relationship with drinking. I was happy to have this explanation. As time has passed, I’ve found that being a high-bottom alcoholic has come with challenges of its own. Here are just a few.
1. The extent of your problematic relationship with alcohol may be questioned because you’re a high-bottom alcoholic.
I’ve encountered this more than once. Because I was able to remain fairly successful in the activities I was involved in, people were surprised when I came out publicly about having got sober. Some people expressed that they never even noticed I had a problem. The truth is that high-functioning alcoholics are good at hiding their drinking. Because they manage to balance their life, people don’t take as much notice of their drinking habits. Additionally, other people have told me that I didn’t have a problem because I drank when I was in college, where binge-drinking is “normal,” and that I would have grown out of it after college. Hearing these things never gets easier because you often feel as if your experiences are being minimized and your life decisions are being judged. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to find peace in the decision to be in recovery. Only you can acknowledge whether or not you really had a problem in the first place, and acting on that is your call, no one else’s.
2. You may find yourself thinking you didn’t have a serious enough problem to get sober.
I’ve sometimes wondered if I am a, “good enough,” alcoholic, especially when other people jump in and question why I got sober in college. When such people ask if I would ever drink again, I do let it cross my mind. It can be a dangerous path to go down. Sometimes, I start to convince myself that maybe certain people were right and I could have grown out of my drinking habits. I wonder what it would be like to try and drink again. The reality is that I know I would drink the same way I did when I drank problematically. It’s just how I am wired. When you begin to go down this path of thinking, it’s important to remind yourself of why you got sober in the first place. Chances are you had a long list of reasons, and most of those are probably still relevant.
3. The people who were close to you during your drinking are the only ones who will really understand why you stopped.
As mentioned before, sometimes when you’re a high-bottom alcoholic, people in your life may not even know you had a problem. However, chances are the people close to you picked up on it. They likely saw you at your worst and were the ones to hear about it when drinking negatively affected your life. The people who weren’t in your life during your drinking, on the the other hand, may not ever fully grasp it. This doesn’t mean they can’t be supportive. It just means it may be more difficult for them to truly understand how alcohol impacted your life since you seem to have it all together. In cases like this, just remain open and honest about the effects of alcohol and why you stopped drinking.
If you’re a high-bottom alcoholic, you’ll likely encounter some of these situations when you decided to get sober. The important thing is that you don’t let them affect your decision to stop drinking because that’s a decision you made for a reason. Doubt can be crippling to recovery, so do your best to always keep your reasons for stopping at the front of your mind.