Overcoming High Functioning Alcoholism in the South African Workplace

High functioning alcoholism is a silent epidemic that permeates our society, and its presence in the workplace is even more pronounced. Despite maintaining a veneer of normalcy, many South Africans grapple with this form of alcoholism. You might be performing well at work, meeting your responsibilities at home, and yet, you’re secretly wrestling with alcoholism. This struggle is often overlooked, downplayed, or even denied due to the lack of apparent consequences. However, the internal toll it takes on your well-being is undeniable.

The roots of high functioning alcoholism in South Africa can be traced back to our cultural and social norms around alcohol. With a history of wine production dating back to the 17th century, alcohol has been an integral part of our social fabric. Yet, the line between social drinking and problem drinking can easily blur, leading to situations where alcohol becomes a coping mechanism for workplace stress, pressure, and burnout.

Moving from denial to acceptance is a pivotal step in addressing high functioning alcoholism. Recognizing and admitting that you have a problem with alcohol is challenging, particularly when your life seems to be in order on the surface. However, it is the first crucial step towards recovery. Following this, seeking professional help is key. Therapists, counsellors, and support groups can provide the guidance, support, and tools you need to navigate your path towards sobriety.

Workplaces also have a role to play in addressing this issue. By promoting a culture of understanding, creating supportive policies, and providing resources for employees, workplaces can play a significant role in helping employees overcome high functioning alcoholism.

It’s important to remember that overcoming high functioning alcoholism is not a sign of weakness, but rather a testament to your strength and resilience. You’re not alone in this journey, and there’s always help available.


  1. What are the signs of high functioning alcoholism? Symptoms can vary, but they often include relying on alcohol to relax, drinking alone, experiencing blackouts, and becoming defensive about alcohol consumption.
  2. Can a high functioning alcoholic recover without professional help? It’s possible, but professional help can provide crucial support, guidance, and tools, increasing the chances of a successful and sustainable recovery.
  3. What resources are available in South Africa for high functioning alcoholics? Numerous resources are available, including therapists, counsellors, rehabilitation centres, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  4. How can workplaces support employees struggling with high functioning alcoholism? Workplaces can offer supportive policies, education, resources, and access to counselling services.
  5. Is it possible to return to moderate drinking after recovering from high functioning alcoholism? While this may be possible for some people, many find that abstaining from alcohol entirely is the safest and most effective way to maintain their recovery.

Step-by-Step Guide: Overcoming High Functioning Alcoholism in the Workplace

Step 1: Recognize the Issue The first step in overcoming high functioning alcoholism is recognizing and admitting that there’s a problem. This step may be challenging as you’re likely performing well at work and maintaining your responsibilities. However, if you find yourself relying on alcohol to relax, drinking alone, or becoming defensive about your consumption, it’s time to take notice.

Step 2: Self-Reflection Engage in self-reflection. Try to identify why you’re turning to alcohol. Is it to cope with stress or pressure at work? Are there emotional or mental health issues that you’re trying to numb with alcohol? Understanding the ‘why’ behind your drinking can help you address the root cause.

Step 3: Seek Professional Help High functioning alcoholism is a serious condition, and it’s tough to overcome alone. Reach out to professionals like therapists, counselors, or physicians who are trained to deal with substance abuse issues. They can provide you with the guidance, support, and tools you need to navigate your recovery journey.

Step 4: Communicate with Your Support Network Let your trusted friends, family, or even colleagues know about your decision to address your high functioning alcoholism. Their support can be invaluable during this challenging time. If you feel comfortable, you may also wish to inform your employer or HR department to ensure you can receive any available workplace support.

Step 5: Develop a Treatment Plan Based on professional advice and personal introspection, develop a treatment plan that addresses your unique needs. This may include therapy, support group meetings, medication, or a combination of these.

Step 6: Implement Lifestyle Changes As you embark on your recovery journey, you’ll likely need to implement lifestyle changes. This may include developing healthier coping mechanisms, engaging in regular physical activity, adopting a balanced diet, and ensuring adequate sleep. These changes will help support your recovery and improve your overall well-being.

Step 7: Regular Follow-up and Maintenance Recovery from high functioning alcoholism is an ongoing process. Regular follow-ups with your treatment professionals are essential to assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan. Continued participation in support groups can also provide you with the encouragement and community you need to maintain your sobriety.

Remember, overcoming high functioning alcoholism is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Take each day as it comes and celebrate your small victories along the way. You’re not alone on this journey, and the strength to conquer this challenge lies within you.