closet alcoholic

It didn’t start as something you wanted to hide. You had a drink or two when your friends came over. Whether it was for a game that was on that night or you had a meetup to hang out and play board games. That was normal; no one frowned if you had a beer in your hand while you socialized.

Unfortunately, your drinking started to expand beyond that. You knew having alcohol frequently in the fridge or cabinets wasn’t feasible because you needed space for other food, and your partner didn’t want the kids to be able to easily grab a drink, either. So, you started hiding your alcohol. It was for the kids’ sake. Plus, it worried your partner less.

It was almost too easy to expand from there. You knew to buy your alcohol after work instead of on grocery trips. You knew what time of day was best to drink or what containers you could easily hide drinks in. It helped you feel better and your family didn’t have to worry about you, so it was a win-win, right?

If this situation sounds familiar to you, you might also be a closet alcoholic. Nearly 18% of Texas residents over the age of 18 reported binge drinking at least once a month. The numbers we have available to us only count those who are willing to report. Just because alcohol use is hidden, doesn’t mean the inherent risks of drinking disappear. Why do people feel the need to hide it? Is there a way to spot someone who is hiding their alcohol use?

We get questions like this often here at San Antonio Recovery Center. As a facility that opens its doors to all area centers attending our alumni programming, we’re dedicated to offering quality care and information to the residents of Texas. Our dedicated team of medical professionals knows the importance of answering questions like these so people can make informed decisions about their health. Let’s take a closer look at the term “closet alcoholic” and what it means.

What Is the Definition of a Closet Alcoholic?

You’ve probably heard of the expression, “in the closet,” before. Maybe you’ve heard about “skeletons in the closet,” or you’ve heard it in other settings. Regardless, the meaning is the same.

To put it simply, a closet alcoholic is someone who is hiding their alcohol use, intentionally or not.

identifying signs of a closet alcoholic

The Common Signs of a Closet Alcoholic

How can you know if a loved one is hiding something from you? Are you able to look at yourself and fully accept that you might be hiding something from your loved ones? We know the answer to this isn’t straightforward, so let’s break it down a little bit further into some of the ways a person might hide alcohol use and why.

Consumes Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

One of the main signs of an alcoholic, also referred to as an alcohol use disorder, is utilizing drinking as a means of managing mental health or other stressful factors in life. One cannot be a closet “alcoholic” if they do not have an alcohol use disorder.

When things are tough in your life, do you crave a drink? When you get home from a long day at work, do you immediately crack open a beer or another drink? When you think about alcohol, is it a stress reliever?

If you answered yes to any of these, or if these questions make you think of someone important in your life, then alcohol might be a type of coping mechanism for you or your loved one.

Hides Alcohol From Others

No matter their level of use or how it is used, the biggest sign of closeted alcoholism is hiding alcohol. This might showcase itself through stashed beer bottles, finding containers in places alcohol normally isn’t stored, hiding the evidence deep in trash cans or even taking out the trash separately, and many other things. There is no one way to hide alcohol use from loved ones, but the act of hiding is what makes it a point of concern.

Denies the Existence of a Problem With Alcohol Abuse

It’s important to note that confronting someone about alcohol use, especially one who’s already taking the steps to hide it, won’t usually end well. Generally, someone is hiding their alcohol use for a reason, so coming to them with “proof” or instantly being angry or upset can make them far less likely to want to discuss the topic.

When approaching a loved one with a concern regarding their alcohol use, it’s best to do so with an open mind and loving heart. Remind them that you care and are there for them. Be open to listening and not judging if they do decide to open up and speak with you about it. Also, think about the level of support you can and are willing to offer to them. This could mean anything from helping them research recovery centers to driving them to appointments.

Engages in Heavy Drinking

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, heavy drinking is not uncommon here in the state of California. Heavy drinking tends to come in two different forms. The most common two are drinking often, usually a couple of drinks or more each day, or drinking a lot in one sitting which is known as binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as 4-5 drinks being consumed in one sitting. The CDC constitutes it as 4 drinks for women, and 5 for men. This is due to an enzyme within the body that helps digest alcohol generally being more present in men than women. One drink can consist of 12 oz of beer, 8 oz of malt liquor, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits.

Both common forms of heavy drinking can start to impact a person’s overall well-being over time.

The Physical Signs of Closeted Alcoholism

If your loved one is doing a decent job at hiding other behavioral side effects from you, there are also physical side effects you can keep an eye out for. Over time, alcohol use starts to impact the body, causing side effects. Many of these side effects can be treated if alcohol use is properly addressed.

The most common side effects of long-term alcohol use include:

  • Liver damage
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes

Common Reasons Why Someone Might Become a Closet Alcoholic

So, with all of this in mind, why might someone try to hide their drinking? Alcohol is a legal substance if you’re over 21. It’s socially acceptable to drink in many situations, so why hide it?

There is a lot of negative stigma associated with “alcoholism.” If someone might be perceived to be drinking too often, they might feel judged before they feel cared for. Alcohol use disorders can stem from many things, whether it’s a family history, stress, untreated mental illness, or something else, they’re rarely just because someone “wants to drink all the time.” If a loved one has a concern that they don’t know how to address but they feel bringing it up might cause others to look down on them, they’re far more likely to just hide these concerns.

It’s this worry about societal and familial judgment that often leads to people hiding their alcohol use.

hidden struggles of secret alcoholism

Getting Help for Closeted Alcoholism in Texas

No matter your relationship with alcohol use, whether you hide it from others or not, if you’re looking to take the first steps away from alcohol use our team here at SARC is ready to help with our alcohol rehab program. Alcohol use can impact many facets of life, but with our 1:8 therapist-to-patient ratio, you’re sure to find the support and hands-on care you need. We’ll help you get an individualized treatment plan geared toward your unique needs to help set you up for long-term success. With the full continuum of care available at our facility, we have all the tools you need to begin your journey of healing.

If you’re wanting to start your recovery journey, our team at SARC is here to help. We’re ready to work with you throughout this whole process to ensure your needs are met. If you have any questions about your treatment programs, insurance, or anything else – don’t hesitate to give us a call anytime at 866-957-7885.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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