It Is Not Possible to be A “Functioning Addict”
Over the last five years, I believe one of the saddest and most common justifications for continued drug and alcohol use I have heard is the idea of being a “functioning addict.” It’s not uncommon to hear someone say “ I’m not that bad. I go to work every day and pay all of my bills, I’m a functioning alcoholic.” This is a truly tragic state of mind, the idea that because you are working you are ok. The idea that to function and do well as a human being can simply be measured by whether or not you do your job and pay your bills on time is a very sad one. Human beings and their success, happiness and failures are determined by far more than their ability to work or not work. A robot with no thoughts or feelings, no experiences or desires functions at that level. It shows up on time, performs its duties as it’s supposed to, and does it day, after day, after day.
It is my strong belief that functioning and existing as a human being with a fulfilling life you must do much more than simply work and be on time. All too often I hear someone tell me that “things are ok, I’m functioning”. My argument to this would be that if you are drinking or using drugs regularly to the point that you no longer act or think like yourself, then there is no way you could possibly be functioning as a human being. There is so much more to life than punching in and out. In order to be a functioning family member—whether it be as a parent, spouse or child—one must first and foremost be present. To be truly present and in the moment with those you love, you cannot be inebriated or under the influence.
To experience the joys of family, friendship, nature, and community you must also be fully present. Someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol is just a shell of who they really are. Sure they can walk the walk and interact with their environment and those around them but they will never truly experience those moments and those people for what they really are. If excessive drug and alcohol consumption dulls an individual’s emotional pains and anxiety, then it also dulls their capacity to truly experience things such as joy, friendship, love and a connection with one’s fellow man.
Growing up, a friend of mine got caught smoking marijuana and later on his parents found out he had been smoking marijuana every day and binge drinking every weekend. His excuse was this: “Mom, I get straight A’s, I’m on the varsity soccer team, I have a lot of friends and I am doing really well.” At the time I thought her counterpoint was dumb and prudish but reflecting back on that moment twelve years later I realize how beautiful it truly was. She told him, “Son, you are doing well at all of those things and we are proud of you. My worry is about how much better you could be doing and for all of the things and activities you are not involved in.”
“Don’t squander your potential living a life that amounts to far less than the one you are capable of living.” —Zero Dean