It can be devastating to learn of the addiction of a loved one. Knowing what to do can be harder still, especially if the person in your life is a high-functioning alcoholic. Such an alcoholic is able to function in life, get things done, and keep a job. It can be a challenge proving to them that they are going seriously wrong when there are few major ill-effects to point to. Dealing with a functioning alcoholic can be very difficult, indeed. Their denial can be very strong.
When a person addicted seems stubborn, withdrawn and unreasonable, it's easy to think of them as irresponsible or lacking in a moral sense. The view that medical science holds of addiction, however, is very different.
Addiction is recognized as a chronic mental disorder -- which means that it is something that involves harmful changes to the brain. Without medical assistance, addicts cannot help but be the way they are. Helping the loved one in your life can be very hard, however, if you head in with serious misconceptions about the fundamental nature of the problem. You need to learn as much as possible about everything to do with addiction, the signs of a functioning alcoholic, the behaviors of an alcoholic and the treatment needed. There are great books and websites, and it can even help to talk to others in your situation, on an online forum.
You need to put in a lot of thought before you begin dealing with a functioning alcoholic. You need to think of the different ways in which they might deflect or deny your assertions, and work to pick effective points to bring up. Speaking to a qualified intervention specialist at a trusted local rehab is an excellent way to gain the training needed. If it seems strange that you would need training simply to talk to your loved one about their alcoholism, it shouldn't. Addicts tend to be masters at deceptive argument.
In general, the right way to approach such a person is not to go in with accusations of alcoholism. Instead, you should simply go in as a completely vulnerable and childlike well-wisher who is simply concerned. When the alcoholic in your life says something in denial, it won't do to simply contradict them; instead, bringing up a childlike question about how what they say seems to go against observable reality, may work.
An intervention, an expression of concern by a gathering of friends and family members, is an effective way of getting someone to admit to their addiction, and seek treatment. If you bring a professional interventionist in to guide the intervention process, your rate of success rises to 90%
Dealing with a high-functioning alcoholic is about more than talking to them about it. It's also about not enabling them, something that often happens in families of addicts. As addicts begin to lose control of their lives, they may not have enough money to pay the rent, and they may fail at their responsibilities. As these things happen, they often look to close family members to bail them out. When they are bailed out, however, they rarely learn anything; they simply go on doing what they do. Refusing to support their mistakes in any way is an excellent way to push them towards seeking treatment and taking responsibility. It can also help to seek therapy yourself. Living with an alcoholic can be a severe psychological strain on anyone.
Knowing how to help an addict doesn't have to be a mystery. There is considerable expert knowledge out there that you can tap. It is knowledge that has been obtained by experts, from years of research. Rather than go in with guesswork, you should go in armed with expert knowledge. Success is much more likely then.