In The Functioning Alcoholic: Gaps in Functioning I argued that doing one’s job is not one’s only function in life. For the alcoholic to consider himself to be “functioning” he has to function in various areas of life, not just on the job. In Can the Functioning Alcoholic Last?: Part Three I tackle the issue of using the term “functioning” when the alcohol leads to an early death.

Abandoned Dreams and Under-achievement

Consider the young woman with brains and ambition who wanted to become a doctor. Like many students, she had to take a work break from her studies to earn the money to continue. She worked in a bar, but drinking gradually crept into her daily routine. Now at 50 and four marriages later she’s still working in a bar, her dream of being a doctor a distant memory. She considers herself to be a functioning alcoholic, but is she really functioning when she has abandoned her dream and falls so far short of her potential, is she just getting by?

During my alcoholic period, I did my job and I was a kind loving father. But I never got around to writing. I will never know whether I might have started my writing career much earlier, were it not for the drink. I do know that I never went to any of my kids’ games during my alcoholic period, and I wasn’t even aware of the neglect until it was too late. I thought I was functioning well, but only after I had switched my lifestyle to a much healthier one did I realize how far I fell short of what i aspired to and was capable of.

The point is that addictive drinking leads to under-functioning, and under-functioning people do not live up to their potential and in the end usually quell their dreams.

In my mind, the abandoned dreams and the general underachievement of those who abuse alcohol do not spell “functioning.” They spell serious “under-functioning.”

Whenever I meet a person who considers himself to be a functioning alcoholic, I can’t help but wonder what that person might have been or might have created or might have given, if he or she hadn’t fallen under the spell of alcohol.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Neill Neill, psychologist, author and columnist, maintains an active practice with a focus on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic - A Woman’s Survival Guide. From time to time life presents us all with issues. To find out what insights and guidance Neill shares about your particular questions, go to