Case Study: The Underemployed (Beth)

Case Study: The Underemployed (Beth)

The Underemployed (Beth)

The case study of Beth becoming underemployed is very typical of addicts. When Beth first called me, she claimed that she was a “functional alcoholic.” She went to work every day, paid all of her bills, and had no significant negative consequences as a result of her drinking.

When someone tells me that they are a functional alcoholic, I wonder just how functional they really are. Usually their lives have gotten pretty small to accommodate their addiction.

I asked Beth a few questions.

“Are you happy?”

She confided that she wasn’t happy. She admitted that passively wished that she was dead, saying, “sometimes I go to bed hoping that I don’t wake up.”

“Do you enjoy seeing friends or going on dates?”

Recognizing the Problem

She admitted that she hadn’t been on a date for years, and that she was too embarrassed to see friends as she had gained weight. She lives alone she doesn’t invite anyone to visit her apartment.

“What do you do at night?”

Beth said that most nights she drank alone in her apartment. Drinking was the one thing that made her happy.

“Do you ever drive under the influence?”

She admitted that she frequently drove with a drink that she mixed at home and took on the road.

We also spoke about Beth’s job. She had a solid college degree, and in her twenties she got promoted several times. In her early thirties she ended up in a job that she found very easy. She was working in a company’s accounts payable department. Most employees in that department worked with little room for promotion. While Beth made enough money to take care of herself, she was working below her potential. Beth admitted to passing on promotions to avoid stay invisible and avoid additional responsibilities.

Isolating with an Addiction

As we spoke, I gently pointed out that she wasn’t as functional as she thought she was. She went to work, she got a paycheck, but her life was tiny. She wasn’t passionate about anything, she didn’t have any hobbies, and she never did activities with friends. Like most advanced alcoholics, she’d totally isolated herself. By telling herself she was a functional alcoholic, she allowed herself to maintain a life that supported drinking.

Beth wanted to try a harm reduction approach in getting her drinking under control. Over the course of a few weeks of working with her, I was able to get her to more accurately assess her situation. Ultimately, she hated the town she lived in, hated her job, and had a poor self-image. Beth came to realize that she wasn’t functioning at all and that she actually wanted to change everything about her life. More than anything she wanted to return to snowboarding, which she had enjoyed throughout high school and her twenties.

Beth tried to taper down her drinking for several weeks. The last thing she wanted to do was to go to a treatment facility. But every day that she tried to taper, she’d give up after a few drinks and consume a bottle or two. Her harm reduction approach wasn’t getting her anywhere.

Getting into Treatment

Eventually Beth chose to go to an inpatient treatment facility, and her life changed quickly and remarkably. Twelve Step programs recommend “no major changes” in the first year of sobriety, but once Beth got out of treatment there was no holding her back. She returned to her job in accounts payable for a brief time while attending AA and making plans for her new life.

In a matter of a few months, she quit her job, sold most of her belongings, and moved to a mountain town close to where she went to treatment. She took a job in management at a ski area, which, though it was not particularly high-paying, made her very happy. To this day, Beth calls me to invite me to join her on one of her 100+ days of skiing a year. 

About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

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