Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic

Professional Views and Personal Insights

by Sarah Allen Benton

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Abortion in the United States

February 2009


Pages 224
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/General

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.

Author Info

Sarah Allen Benton is a licensed mental health counselor and therapist at McLean Hospital (affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School) in the “McLean Residence at The Brook” transitional living program for substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment in Waltham, MA. She is a therapist at Confidential Care in Norwell, MA, specializing in substance abuse treatment, and facilitates a women's early recovery group. She previously worked as a therapist in the Emmanuel College Counseling Center in Boston, held various counselor positions at McLean Hospital and received training through the Mind/Body Medical Institute, once affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston (now the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine). Benton has been involved in psychologically-based research studies through McLean Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Northeastern University and the Boston University Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a master of science in counseling psychology degree from Northeastern University. She has been featured in a New York Times article by Jane Brody, has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, NPR, and is a blogger for Bneton is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober since February of 2004.

Table of Contents

Part I: Active Alcoholism
1. Introduction: High-Functioning Alcoholics
2. In the Beginning: High-Functioning Alcoholics in High School
3. Freedom: High-Functioning Alcoholics in College
4. Adrift: High-Functioning Alcoholics as Emerging Adults
5. Falling Uphill: Professional, Intelligent and Alcoholic
6. Attempts to "Cure" the Problem: Out of Control and Hitting Bottom
Part II. Recovery
7. A New Start: The Paths to Sobriety
8. Spirituality, Religion and the Bottle: Filling the Void
9. Transformation: The Twelve Steps
10. The Challenge: Life in Recovery



"[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."—ForeWard Reviews

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