Alcohol addiction can disrupt a person’s life greatly, but it’s not always easy to tell when a loved one has a problem. Many people struggling with alcohol addiction tend to keep their activities hidden from their friends and family. Why? They either underestimate the extent of their problem or they don’t want others to interfere.
Unfortunately, even obvious symptoms of alcoholism can go unnoticed, particularly if your loved one is a high-functioning alcoholic. However, you can determine if your loved one has a hidden alcohol problem by learning how to look for signs of alcohol abuse. By staying alert, you can help identify a drinking problem and then support your loved one throughout treatment.
Signs of Hidden Alcohol Abuse
We’ve grouped the various signs of alcoholism into five main categories:
High Alcohol Tolerance
Numerous factors can impact someone’s tolerance for alcohol, including weight, age, sex and genetics.
No matter what other factors are in play, though, the more a person drinks, the higher his or her tolerance will be. Thus, the more drinks it will take to become intoxicated. Repeated drinking episodes can lead to very little functional impairment, even after consuming large amounts of alcohol.
To tell if your loved one has a high tolerance for alcohol, watch their behaviors after drinking. If they don’t show any signs of intoxication at that point, then they may have a high level of alcohol tolerance.
Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Repeated drinking does more than build an alcohol tolerance in the body; it also impacts people physically and mentally. The body starts to adjust so that drinking becomes the norm, which means not having a drink can cause withdrawal symptoms.
For alcohol, common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Shaky hands
While symptoms of alcohol dependence don’t always indicate alcoholism, the impact of withdrawal can play a major role in forming alcohol abuse and addiction. If your loved one starts to exhibit physical signs of alcohol abuse in the form of withdrawal after not drinking for some time, then he or she may have a hidden alcohol problem.
Because people struggling with alcoholism have a higher tolerance for alcohol, they often need to drink more to feel intoxicated. This can lead to behaviors where someone may drink alone or while getting ready to go out to a social event with friends; the latter is known as “pregaming.” Secret drinking can also involve drinking after coming home from events.
To facilitate this type of drinking, people with hidden alcoholism will sometimes have hiding places for alcohol:
- Bathroom shelves, dresser drawers, the garage, and behind other items in kitchen cabinets are common places to covertly store alcohol.
- Furniture can also be a place to stow empty bottles and cans.
If you have concerns about hidden alcoholism, you can search those places. You may also check the outside trash bins, as your loved one may be taking out empty bottles and cans directly to the main trash when nobody’s looking.
Making Excuses to Drink
To make their drinking behavior seem less like a problem, people struggling with alcohol addiction will often make up reasons to drink:
- If something bad happens, they will use alcohol to make themselves feel better.
- If something good happens, then what better way to celebrate than with a drink?
These “reasons” become protection if you or someone else tries to point out your loved one’s drinking behavior.
Additionally, people struggling with alcoholism will make excuses for why they can’t or won’t stop drinking:
- Some will say that they can stop whenever they feel like it. (They can’t.)
- Others will argue that their drinking only impacts themselves. (It doesn’t.)
- There’s also a chance that they will agree to get help, then come up with excuses to keep putting it off.
Episodes of binge drinking can lead to falling and blackouts – both of which can easily cause injuries. The lack of bodily control after heavy drinking can contribute.
The potential damages can range from minor cuts and bruises to larger traumatic injuries; but, one scenario will often serve as a telltale sign of hidden alcoholism: The person doesn’t want to admit what caused the problem.
Those struggling with alcoholism will often feel too embarrassed to admit what really led to their injuries, so they’ll brush the problem off without answering. Or, if pressed, they may make up a story about what happened.
If your loved one has suspicious or repeated injuries and won’t give you a clear answer as to how these wounds occurred, alcohol may have contributed.
Helping a Loved One with Hidden Alcoholism
Living with someone who has an alcohol addiction can be a challenging experience. Your loved one may experience mood swings and ignore responsibilities in favor of drinking. He or she may look to you to encourage the behavior or actively start to tear down various relationships when drinking.
The key is to remember that you cannot control your loved one’s behavior and that the situation is not your fault. You do not need to enable the addiction or accept poor treatment from them.
However, it’s possible to learn how to help an alcoholic. Once you’ve identified that your loved one may have a hidden alcohol problem, you can plan appropriately. Enlist the support of your friends and family, and possibly an intervention specialist. You should also care for your own personal needs throughout the process, so that you are in the right state of mind to fully help your loved one.
From Alcoholism Intervention to Rehab
Before staging an intervention, you and the intervention team should carefully plan and rehearse what will happen. Prepare possible treatment options, so that your loved one can’t stall the admission process. Once you’ve completed the intervention successfully and your loved one begins receiving treatment, remain supportive and participate where possible. The encouragement of friends and family can make or break a recovery from alcohol addiction.
At Reflections Recovery Center, we provide the highest quality of care for our clients, every step of the way. Explore our alcohol rehab programs, or get in touch with us to discuss how we can help your loved one overcome their drinking behavior.