It is not always obvious or easy to determine if a loved one has a problem with alcohol.  Alcohol could be subtly affecting your loved one and your relationship. People with addiction issues often hide or deny the extent of their addiction issues.

Here are 14 signs that can indicate a secret alcoholic:

1.  Secret Drinking – Drinking alone or before or after going out.  Talk of “getting ready to go out” which involves having drinks before going to an event.   As alcohol use increases regularly, a person needs more to get the same effect.  So the secret alcoholic often drinks before or after going to events involving alcohol to be at the same level as friends.

2.  Hiding  - Not only will the secret alcoholic drink secretly, they will frequently have hiding places for alcohol. If you suspect someone of being a secret alcoholic, look for full or empty bottles of alcohol.  Common hiding places are bathroom cabinets and shelves (often top shelves), in garages, in closets, clothes, bags and suitcases and in kitchen cabinets hidden behind other cans, jars and boxes.  Empty bottles may be found under furniture and in cushions.  Also look in outside garbage and recycling bins.  Do you notice trash being mysteriously taken out?

3.  Vodka Becoming Preferred Drink - Vodka is often the preferred choice for secret alcoholics because it is colorless and fairly odorless so it can be added to many beverages without being noticed.  Generally the only way to determine if vodka has been added to a beverage is to taste it.  Also, look for vodka on store receipts, or someone switching to vodka as their preferred alcohol choice.

4.  Missing/Being Late for Important Events or Having Unexpected Absences– Increasingly the person misses or is late for important appointments, work, school and family events. The secret alcoholic may disappear for periods of time, or may claim to be somewhere they are not.  They frequently need to go on a variety of “errands”.

5.  Making Excuses to Drink – Frequently stating and actually following through on: “I need a drink”.  They will also become defensive when someone discusses their drinking or will give their “reasons for drinking” with little prompting.

6.  Drinking at Inappropriate Times - You may notice drinking in the morning, even upon waking.  Alcohol added to morning coffee or juice.  Or drinking a large amount of alcohol at lunch or early afternoon.

7.  Increased Isolation, Loss of  Interest – As alcohol becomes more of a focus for the alcoholic, they tend to ignore other areas of their life.  They may avoid people in order to hide their drinking, refusing to attend outings or gatherings with family and friends.  They also may lose interest in things they once loved or enjoyed.

8.  Frequent Mood Swings – Alcohol use and withdrawal affects a person’s mood and thinking.  Sudden outbursts, intense rage, depression and sadness are common.

9.  Physical Symptoms - Trembling hands, flushed face and red or blotchy skin are common.

10.  Memory Loss and Blackouts – Forgetting certain events or facts or completely failing to remember portions of time.

11.  Over-focus on alcohol – Instead of focusing on who will be at an event or where it is, the secret alcoholic will often dwell on what and when they can drink, instead of simply enjoying socializing.

12.  Drinking Quickly or Chugging – Secret alcoholics will often chug or quickly drink their first few drinks.

13.  Drinking rituals – Always drinking at certain times (immediately when getting home from work, always before dinner) or in certain places.  The mark of a secret alcoholic is that they NEED to keep their ritual of drinking.  They become upset or cannot cope when their ritual is disrupted.

14.  Missing valuables – Addictions end up being expensive.  Sometimes in order to hide the amount of money being spent on alcohol, the secret alcoholic will take money or valuables.

No single item or even several of them indicate a secret alcoholic for certain. However, these are common subtle signs that someone may have a pre-occupation with or over-reliance on alcohol.  Alcoholism is a disease that does not go away, however it can be treated.

If you suspect someone you love may have a problem with alcohol, look for ways to get help.  There are many resources for family members affected by alcohol such as Al-anon.

Check out these related articles:

Addiction and Family: Acceptance as a Step Toward Healing in Treatment “Acceptance is not approval.” This saying reverberates through the rooms of 12-step meetings. The saying is common because acceptance is difficult to understand and not easy to achieve.  In fact, it may be easier to understand what acceptance is not: it is not approval, or forgiveness, or weakness.

Co-Dependents and Addicts – 7 Characteristics of Co-Dependents Have you ever been referred to as co-dependent?  If you have, how would you know what that even means?  In a nutshell, if you are as dependent upon another person, usually an addict, as much or more than they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, then you are a co-dependent. Do you recognize any of these 7 characteristics in yourself or someone you love?

How Family and Friends Survive an Addiction Family and friends can survive a loved one’s addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex and other addictions.  In fact the relationship with their loved one can grow to be deeper and more meaningful than ever.  For this to happen, both the addict and their family and friends will need to participate in a family-oriented treatment program.

At New Hope Recovery Center, we involve family and friends as a key component of addiction treatment. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact us at 773.883.3916.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center