In the world of active addiction, there is a multitude of myths. One which continues to perpetuate the enabling process for many is the myth of the happy drunk.
The happy drunk is portrayed as one who may indeed drink too much but appears to be joyful or even happier or more fun to be around when drinking. As such, this substance abuse is seen as inconsequential simply because these individuals don’t become belligerent or abusive when intoxicated.
However, nothing is further from the truth.
The 'Happy Drunk' in Reality
The disease of alcoholism is not diagnosed by abusive or angry outbursts. In fact, that’s not a criterion for any addictive disorder. The negative consequences that occur (and the drinking that continues, regardless) are criteria, along with the reasoning for use. Both are simply likely unseen by those who engage in or encounter the drinking habits of the so-called happy drunk.
The reality is that these individuals are no less addicted than those who display negative or even dangerous behaviors. Additionally, their emotional state is no less unstable. More importantly (and often tragically), their lack of belligerence often prevents the world from seeing the reality of their pain and life-threatening addiction.
In this way, the happy drunk is often times even more at risk for liver disease, accidental overdose, and suicide. The false presentation of joy typically implies the reasoning for their drinking – not merely to numb the pain, but to present and experience the exact opposite of it. This reality leaves the happy drunk consuming more and more alcohol to achieve this altered state.
The Harm of Unseen Pain
As the happy drunk's addiction worsens, their pain does as well. The world around them may see them as joyful. Therefore, loved ones will likely never reach out to them or support them through the unseen pain they experience. This leaves the happy drunk feeling empty and alone – an experience that typically sends them to the bar or after-party to seek solace from the crowd whose inaccurate reflections feel better than the reality they experience within.
In this way, the pain cycle and cycle of addiction for the happy drunk continues and intensifies, leaving them with an emotional experience that is anything but happy. In fact, it may be more akin to an emotional roller coaster. Even worse, these so-called happy drunks likely experience a great deal of shame, loneliness, and self-loathing.
The latter is nothing new to any alcoholic, but those who are abusive and belligerent make their pain and need for help well-known.
Seeing Addiction for What it is
The happy drunk’s pain and cries for help go unseen and unheard, making their existence a myth that typically ends in tragedy – a harsh reality for friends and family who never saw the signs.
If you fall into this mythical category of addiction, be aware that it is exactly what the experience is – addiction. And, as such, it’s no less holistically painful and self-destructive. There is help, hope, and no need to pretend anymore. Get honest and get help today.