Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Ditch the Term "Functional Alcoholic"
Reasonable suspicion training often omits (almost all of the training I've seen) any discussion about the concept of "functional alcoholism." If you are a DOT supervisor and have been trained in drug and alcohol awareness, and are still using this term, you have failed to grasp one of the most important educational elements in DOT supervisor training. Labeling someone a functional alcoholic is a strong and reinforcing enabling behavior. It is used to describe someone the enabler believes to be alcoholic, but also seems to “function” acceptably in their occupational or social activities--at least the ones that you are most familiar with. And this is the point. Usually these are areas where the enabler knows the alcoholic best. There is no such thing as functional alcoholism, just as there is no such thing as functional cancer. Both are chronic potentially fatal illnesses that grow worse over time. The term functional alcoholism allows the enabler to continue the advantages of the relationship they have with the alcoholic, even while the role as an enabler grows worse. The defense is called “minimizing", and it kills more alcoholics with kindness that cirrhosis. This tip sheet on Functional Alcoholism used in Reasonable Suspicion Training will give you more information.