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Why Taylor Swift's 'functioning alcoholic' lyric 'offers hope and inspiration' to problem drinkers

Sobriety coach Christy Osborne shares why Taylor Swift's 'Fortnight' lyrics are a lifeline to those struggling with drinking  

Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
April 30, 2024
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Taylor Swift and Post Malone's collaboration, 'Fortnight', is sitting high at the top of the charts, but as well as being an undeniable bop, the evocative lyrics, "I was a functioning alcoholic until nobody noticed my new aesthetic," are proving to be a lifeline to listeners.

While fans of the singer believe the track to be about a fictional character rather than a biographical track about Taylor herself, the lyric struck a chord with sobriety coach Christy Osborne, who says that high-profile celebrities such as Taylor shining a spotlight on alcoholism can only be a good thing.

"The more people share, the more it helps normalise the experience for people who might be going through something similar," she says. "When we see or hear about celebrities or role models sharing their experiences it helps send the message that anyone could be going through the experience, regardless of who you are, which helps unify us.

Woman sitting on a bed in a leopard print dress
Christy Osborne is a sobriety coach

"It also encourages dialogues and conversations around these topics – think how one song lyric has us speaking about this topic. Fundamentally it offers hope and inspiration to those who might need help with their drinking and starts to remove the stigma attached."

To help us understand what Taylor's lyric means, Christy explains exactly what it means to be a functioning alcoholic, the signs to look out for and how to tell if you have a problem with drinking

What does functioning alcoholic mean?

"A functioning alcoholic is a more casual term used for someone who is alcohol dependent but able to still function and carry out tasks within their daily life, such as work and family commitments," Christy explains.  

"Functioning alcoholics could be seen as not having an alcohol problem as they are able to fulfil daily life commitments but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem there.

MORE FROM CHRISTY: Drinking wreaked havoc with my sleep - here’s what happened when I stopped

She adds that the term ‘functioning alcoholic’ isn’t widely recognised when diagnosing someone’s level of alcohol dependence and is more a colloquial term.

"Functioning alcoholics might not even drink every day, but instead partake in frequent sessions of binge drinking or heavy drinking throughout the week. They might not also see a problem with their drinking as they are able to cope with daily life," she adds.

woman holding glass of alcohol© Getty
There are signs to look out for in a functioning alcoholic

What are the signs of a functioning alcoholic?

Christy notes that it’s important to note that everyone’s relationship with alcohol and alcohol dependency can vary, but signs of a functioning alcoholic include:

Regular drinking and a high tolerance to alcohol

 Someone who can drink a large amount of alcohol on a regular basis but not appear intoxicated.

READ: I quit alcohol 3 months ago - and the results were not what I expected 

Denial or defensiveness when challenged

A functioning alcoholic might downplay their drinking or become defensive when asked, as they are still able to function during daily life.

Portrait of happy young bride in off shoulder wedding dress holding wineglass at vineyard© Getty
What does it mean to be a functioning alcoholic?

Hiding alcohol use

Secret drinking or hiding alcohol around the house could be a sign of a functioning alcoholic.

Alcohol as part of their daily life

This could be associating with others who like to drink or factoring it into their life.

INSPIRATION: Ask a life coach: How can I cut back on drinking? 

Excuses and rewards

Many of us like to indulge in a glass of wine after a busy day, though using alcohol as a reward for a hard day can be a sign of a functioning alcoholic.

Glasses of red white rose wine and wine bottle on the table shot from above© Getty
Relying on alcohol as a reward could be a sign of a functioning alcoholic

Strained interpersonal relationships

If alcohol impacts those around them, it could be a sign of a functioning alcoholic.

What are the risks of being a functioning alcoholic?

 While a functioning alcoholic sounds less serious than alcohol dependency, Christy says there are many risks associated, including physical and mental health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular problems, depression and cognitive impairments.  

"Emotional impacts can occur when relationships are damaged through drinking, which can lead to loneliness and isolation," she adds. 

"Whilst someone might be a ‘functioning alcoholic’ that doesn’t mean that it won't escalate into a further alcohol misuse problem, which could lead to impacts at work, accidents, injuries and more.  

"The more tolerance you have to alcohol the more you may drink to experience highs, but this can make it harder to stop drinking as you could experience withdrawal symptoms."

Blonde woman in white jeans sitting on step
Christy Osborne shares her advice for tackling drinking

Understanding your relationship with alcohol

"I always ask the question of the purpose you are giving alcohol," Christy says. "Ask yourself what alcohol is doing for you. By listing this, you get a stark look at the ways that alcohol is impacting you.  

"Working with a coach can help navigate these areas. Reaching out for help is often the most difficult but important step.  If you do feel you need more medical support or are worried, then of course speak with your GP who can help."

Find out more about working with Christy and visit Mind for help with alcohol addiction.

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