Announcement: How to Do an Alcohol Intervention on a High-Functioning Alcoholic
We suggest you first read “How to Recognize a High-Functioning Alcoholic” to help you eliminate any denial or soft-pedaling by family members. The high-functioning alcoholic can be one of the most difficult to do an intervention on because denial is so strong.
Families often proceed with an alcohol intervention when the alcoholic has really done significant damage, such as been arrest for DUIs, ended up in the hospital, been in a car wreck, or has completely ruined their financial, professional, and family lives.
It’s different with the high-functioning alcoholic.
This person is often at the top of their profession, making good money, and managing to keep all those balls in the air despite their heavy drinking. They can be some of the toughest interventions because they will challenge you thus: If I’m such an alcoholic, why am I so successful at work?
A professional alcohol intervention is absolutely critical in getting any high-functioning alcoholic to see that he or she needs help. The professional interventionist will be very experienced in getting past this powerful denial. They will know exactly how to best get across the point that just because you’ve been getting away with it, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.
An alcohol intervention is essential if the high-functioning alcohol you love is in a profession where impaired judgment can truly harm others – such as a doctor who could harm a patient, an attorney who could seriously undermine a legal case for a client, or a high-level executive who could make decisions that threaten jobs and livelihoods.
The high-functioning alcoholic is not as invulnerable to criticism as you might think at first glance. The professional interventionist will do a thorough pre-intervention and will likely come up with many ways to overcome denial. Certainly if you see a problem that is big enough to warrant looking into an intervention, it has more than likely been a problem for a while. Consequences might not be devastating yet, because the HFA often has the money and the power to hide behavior or make the consequences “go away.” But consequences do eventually pile up for everyone.
Typically the cracks in the armor begin appearing when the alcoholic begins to harm family members. Maybe he gets arrested for drunk driving or embarrasses himself at a work event; maybe she makes poor choices while intoxicated, such as an affair; maybe he develops some health problems such as stomach or liver problems. While the HFA can hide the problem at work, the spouse usually gets the brunt of the bad behavior, and divorce is often one of the signs that the behavior is out of control.
The best way to do an alcohol intervention on a high-functioning alcoholic is to hire a very successful interventionist who has a long history of doing difficult or high-end (such as celebrity) interventions. They will understand the denial, the ego, and the obstacles that can undermine an intervention.