High Bottom Drunks vs. Low Bottom Drunks: Who's Worse?

Maybe some of you haven't heard of these terms yet, while others may already be very familiar with them. They are new to me. I have heard these two terms thrown around, but I didn't fully understand what they meant until recently.

Let me explain.

A high bottom drunk aka a high-functioning alcoholicis defined as a person who manages to escape their alcohol addiction before it causes too much damage in their life. They may not have lost much during their addiction. They are the people that many refer to as "functioning alcoholics," although there aren't any true functioning alcoholics. However, it's quite typical for high bottom drunks to be in a deeper state of denial, to normalize their excessive drinking habits, and to have a stable job, home life, and relationships. Many of them will never get help because they don't identify with the stereotypical drunk who is portrayed as an old man living homeless in the park drinking liquor out of a paper bag. They easily convince themselves that their drinking is not worrisome and that programs like AA are not for them. If they read my blog, or open up the Big Book, they would stunningly see that they are just like any other alcoholic, and that they too can recover.

A low bottom drunk is defined as an alcoholic who loses a lot in their life before deciding to get help. These are the types of people who may have done jail time, lost jobs, houses, cars, driver's licenses, or committed unspeakable crimes. A low bottom drunk has most definitely hit a typical rock bottom and has reached utter and complete hopelessness in their life. Choosing sobriety is their only option. Their tragic bottom becomes the foundation on which they rebuild their life.

Most high bottom drunks believe getting sober and programs like AA aren't for them because they picture a room full of criminal addicts who are old, scary, and dangerous. I know this to be true because it was a silly prejudice I held about the rooms. It's funny what your brain will tell you. Mine told me, "But, I'm not like them. I'm not that bad. I didn't kill anyone. I didn't get a DUI. I still graduated college and got a good job." By achieving goals, acting like you're keeping it together, and hiding your fears about whether or not your drinking is out of control, it's easy to convince yourself life is normal and drinking wine 4 times a week is only a stress-reliever. Their alcohol abuse may continue until some sort of alcohol-related crisis occurs.

It's also hard for high bottom drunks to come to grips with the reality of their addiction because they don't fit the scientific definition of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Many times they are not physically addicted to alcohol. That doesn't mean that they don't experience inner turmoil, engage in dangerous behaviors, and consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

So what's worse?  The immediate answer might seem like the life of a low bottom drunk. No one wants to lose everything they've worked for, go to jail, suffer irreversible physical damage, or lose their own children. But, sometimes I feel like they are the lucky ones. In a way they are forced to see the light. They hit a noticeable rock bottom and must face their addiction or die. High bottom drunks on the other hand, might spend the rest of their lives slowly drowning in their own misery. There is only so long they can flounder before the urge to give up the fight and slip away into the dark water wins out. The justification of their actions will keep them in a vicious cycle for a long time, if not forever. They might not ever understand how their behavior is toxic and unhealthy, but most of all, unnecessary. It pains me to know there are so many people out there who will never know the beauty of a sober life.

I guess I am one of the lucky high bottom drunks. Sure, I dabbled in some trouble, I did a little damage, but I had countless people tell me, "but, you're not an alcoholic! You're fine! You'll learn to handle it." Oh, but I am. And I'm so glad I came to this realization when I did, because today my life is so much more full and rewarding.