Who is the typical alcoholic among the 12.5 million living in the United States now? Many, if not most of us when asked that question, would envision a skid row bum or someone at least out of work or with little education locked into a low-skill, low-paying job. But that is not accurate, according to the results of a national study released in June, 2007 by the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The NIAAA determined that alcoholics in the United States really fall into five subtypes, including nearly 20 percent who are highly functional alcoholics, well-educated with good incomes. They include corporate presidents, powerful politicians, police, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and other highly-skilled, highly-educated people who are middle- to high-income and by most accounts successful. In this unprecedented book, mental health counselor Sarah Benton takes us into the worlds and minds of so-called high-functioning alcoholics, to understand how people so intelligent and achievement-oriented get drawn into states in which they secretly cannot control their liquor consumption but still manage to excel in their careers.
The book includes a look at celebrity alcoholics like singer Eric Clapton and actor/comedian Robin Williams, as well as alcoholics in high positions including Chris Albrecht, former Chairman and CEO of HBO. Other high-profile people included in this book are Miss USA 2007 Tara Conner and football legend Joe Namath. With her own story of alcoholism and her recovery woven into the text, Benton takes us into the lives and challenges of these well-educated and successful people, seeking to understand how, when, and why they became addicted, as well as the reasons their alcoholism is, for most, so hard to admit, cope with, and recover from.
"[E]xplores in depth a hidden class of alcoholics that are professionally successful; topics include High-Functioning Alcoholics (HFAs) in high school, college, and as emerging adults."
"Through telling case examples, interviews with recovering alcoholics of all ages, accomplished professionals and executives, and through her own reflections, Sarah Allen Benton brings to awareness that the largest majority of alcoholics are high functioning and, too often, go undetected. Drawing on the experience of high functioning alcoholics, including her own experiences, this book is both instructive and inspiring."
"I hope this book will help to puncture the myth that alcoholism/addiction is a condition associated with those with less education or lower incomes. Too often, individuals in powerful or highly respected positions suffer much longer than necessary because they and those around them (including their treatment providers) are blinded by their social status. Professionals may delude themselves despite facing a higher-than-average risk, seeking help only after their careers are coming apart."
"Alcoholism has many faces and high functioning alcoholics are invisibly among us every day. Congratulations and thanks to Sarah Allen Benton for the courage she displays by showing her face and telling her story."
"Sarah Allen Benton's work brings to life and thoroughly examines the risks and challenges that confront one-fifth of our nation's alcoholics, an often seemingly invisible element of our dysfunctional adolescents and adults, the high functioning alcoholic. This work will be a useful resource for lay person, professional and trainee interested in a realistic and professionally informed understanding of high functioning alcoholics and the Twelve-Step recovery process. Those whose loved ones are suffering and living the effects of high-functioning alcoholism as well as HFAs themselves will find important identifying information and resources for hope and change."
"Sarah Benton's book Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic is a gift to both clinicians and clients alike. It is a thorough and insightful discussion of an often misunderstood and mistreated clinical group that frequently does not respond well to traditional psychotherapy, or psychopharmacology, or simply Twelve Step approaches. Sarah presents an integrated treatment approach in a highly personal and engaging way that truly bridges the gap between research, clinical work and moving personal experiences. Despite 35 years of working with this population of substance abusers, I was delighted to see how much I learned from Sarah's book. The highest compliment that I can pay her for this accomplishment is that I immediately thought of many clients and therapists that I could give it to."