Closet Alcoholic

closet alcoholic

You and your spouse have been together for years and you’ve always felt closely connected. But lately, you’ve noticed some peculiar behavior that just isn’t sitting right. He’s showing up late to your son’s soccer games, making more “stops” after work and is overall less engaged with the family at home. You tell a friend, and while her mind goes straight to “He’s having an affair,” you know this isn’t it.

What’s concerning you is the empty alcohol bottles you’ve found hidden in the home. The way your husband seems to be using mouthwash, gum and mints when he’s around others. And the cups he carries around – he always seems to have a coffee cup or water bottle in hand. What you’re really concerned about is that your husband may have a problem with alcohol.

Many people are living with addiction and do not get the help they need. According to a recent SAMHSA survey, 94 percent of people aged 12 and older with a substance use disorder do not receive any treatment. The main reason for this is that they don’t believe they have a problem.

Let’s learn more about what it means to be a “closet drinker”, the signs to watch for, and where to find help.

What is a “Closet Drinker”?

A “closeted alcoholic” is a colloquial term for someone who hides their alcohol use from friends, family and coworkers. They may also be referred to as “closet drinkers.” These individuals tend to go through great lengths to cover up their drinking.

In an effort to appear as if they have things under control, a closet drinker will often hold down a steady job and maintain their responsibilities at home. They usually remain connected to their loved ones and rarely show signs of an alcohol use disorder. But underneath, a progressive substance use disorder is forming.

You might be wondering what the problem with closet drinking is. If a person is still managing their responsibilities, is their drinking really a concern? Yes. Hiding one’s drinking is still damaging, as it has negative health effects and causes a person to engage in harmful patterns of behavior.

challenges facing closet alcoholics

Signs of Secret Drinking

While those hiding alcohol use may not be as obvious about their drinking, there are still ways to tell that they are engaging in destructive behaviors. Remember, if something feels off, listen to your gut. Even if it’s not an alcohol addiction, the signs below may indicate a problem with another substance or the presence of a mental disorder.

Here are some telltale signs that someone may be trying to hide their drinking:

Secretive behavior

Closet drinkers often engage in secretive behavior. If they do end up getting caught, they tend to feel guilty and ashamed. Watch for secretive behavior, such as using mouthwash or gum to cover up the smell of alcohol, adding alcohol to other drinks, hiding alcohol bottles or sneaking drinks when no one is looking.

Heavy drinking patterns

Those who are hiding their alcohol use may drink in social situations and even appear to keep things under control. However, behind closed doors, they usually start drinking before going out, continue drinking when others have stopped or choose drinks with a higher alcohol volume.

Denies the problem

Someone who is not sharing how much they’re drinking will consistently deny that there is a problem. They work hard to rationalize their drinking habits and tend to be very convincing. For instance, they might claim that they drink to relieve stress or only when hanging out with friends.

Hides alcohol

To cover up how much they are drinking, secret drinkers typically hide any evidence of their habit. They may have bottles of alcohol stashed away or be untruthful about how much they’re drinking. They do this to protect their habit and prevent others from recognizing the severity of the problem.

Uses alcohol to cope

People often use alcohol to relieve feelings of stress or pain. While alcohol can provide a temporary escape, it can also create a cycle of dependency. This can cause a person to self-medicate, making it difficult to recognize their underlying traumas, mental health conditions or substance use.

Exhibits isolating behaviors

Another sign to look for is isolating behaviors. Those hiding their alcohol use tend to withdraw from social interactions and personal relationships with others because they don’t want anyone knowing about their alcohol use. They prefer to drink in secrecy rather than spend time nurturing personal connections.

Causes of Closeted Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a complex disorder that involves many factors, and the same is true whether a person recognizes their problem or doesn’t. Individuals may turn to alcohol to cope with stress or trauma, seeking comfort in its numbing effects. However, the short-term relief that alcohol provides is just an illusion.

Genetic predispositions make it easier for some people to develop a dependence on alcohol, and social influences can contribute to forming a secretive relationship with the substance. People who hide their alcohol consumption do so for a number of reasons, such as to protect their habit and to avoid judgment.

Alcohol addiction treatment can help your loved one recognize their problem, but ultimately, change is up to them.

What are the Impacts of Being a Closet Drinker?

Having a secret relationship with alcohol is not healthy for the individual or those around them. Alcohol use is still taking place, putting the person at risk for a number of negative health effects such as:

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Compromised immune system
  • Liver disease
  • Mental health disorders
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Cancer

As the drinking takes over more of the person’s life, their relationships often become fractured  and their personal lives impacted.

support strategies for closet alcoholism

Getting Help for Closet Drinking in Prescott, Arizona

Whether you are engaging in secretive drinking, or you believe that your loved one is, it’s important to know that help is available. While it’s ideal for a person to acknowledge their problem and accept help, people can still do very well in treatment even if they are pressured to go by loved ones.

That being said, change is always up to the individual. It can take time for people to see the extent of their problem and be willing to work toward recovery. This can be especially difficult for a closet drinker, as they often haven’t suffered the same consequences as others. You may need to protect yourself and set healthy boundaries until they are ready to accept help.

Wolf Creek Recovery offers treatment services for alcohol use disorders. Clients enjoy our programs because they get to reside in Arizona and enjoy a range of therapies that support their mental and physical health. For example, outdoor therapy exposes clients to various outdoor activities like golf, pickleball, tennis, basketball and softball.

Wolf Creek Recovery provides comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment services in peaceful Prescott, Arizona. Our serene location gives individuals in recovery the chance to focus on their healing, free of distraction. Closet drinkers are often in denial, but our team understands how to break through those barriers and guide them into a healthy life of recovery. To build a life you love, contact Wolf Creek Recovery at 833-732-8202