HFA: Shhhh

I’m an HFA (High-Functioning Alcoholic). Who knew?

No one. Sometimes that’s the point. Secrecy, silent suffering, and deadly choices all whirl towards the alcoholic drain that becomes the high-functioning alcoholic’s destiny.

The secrecy is intentional. At first, it was a desire to hide the alcoholic consumption from my business partner and neighbors. I thought of my drinking as a welcome escape from the pressures of self-employment, the challenges of living alone and facing my ‘golden years’, which were starting to appear hopelessly tarnished.

I’m naturally kind of legalistic. I always liked to follow the rules and I was happy to set rules: rules for myself and rules for my classes. My first handout to any class used to be a whole page of them! I have no recollection of when I started to ignore the basic rules of honesty. It was so subtle that I had no clue when I crossed the line between secrecy and self-deception.

If the limited exposure I’ve had to HFAs around the table is any sign, I’d say there are far more HFAs in the halls of AA than not. The days of conveniently identifying the drunk are gone with the likes of Otis of Mayberry.

I don’t know what that means for you, but for me, it means that anyone I come into contact with may be a secret HFA. There’s no club membership card, no secret handshake, no intimate signal.

It’s a secret, remember? You might be in a workgroup with one, you might be next door to one, you might live with one—you might be one and not know. In fact, in typical HFA fashion, you might be the last to know. I was.