Nearly 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder, a debilitating addiction characterized by an uncontrollable compulsion to drink despite its effects on one’s health, career, relationships, and financial well-being. However, not all alcoholics exhibit the same signs of this self-destructive habit. It’s estimated that nearly 20% of alcoholics maintain stable jobs and family life, otherwise referred to as closet alcoholism. Closet alcoholics work at mastering their behavior, so they learn how they can maintain other areas of their lives while they continue their drinking.
Closet Alcoholic Definition
A closet alcoholic is someone who hides their alcohol abuse from friends, family, and coworkers. Otherwise referred to as a high-functioning alcoholic, a closet drinker or alcoholic will go to great lengths to hide their excessive drinking from loved ones, bosses, and coworkers.
Unlike people with alcohol use disorders who are not high-functioning, closet alcoholics can hold down their jobs and stay on top of their responsibilities at work and home despite their heavy drinking. They remain involved with their loved ones and friends and rarely show signs of having a severe addiction.
These individuals usually do not meet the stereotype of people with alcoholism and appear to have their lives together. Their behavior covers up their drinking enough to where any mention of an alcohol problem would come as a surprise to loved ones.
Signs of a Closet Alcoholic
As we mentioned, closet drinkers will go to great lengths to keep their habits under wraps. They will try their hardest to sustain their drinking while remaining engaged in all other areas of their lives.
For this reason, it can be difficult to determine whether a loved one is struggling with closet drinking. If you suspect that someone you know may be battling this problem, below are some common signs of closet alcoholic behavior to look out for:
- Hiding empty bottles or cans in different places in the house, their car, or under things in the garbage so no one sees them.
- Hiding stashes of alcoholic drinks in different areas of the house, their vehicle, or even their station at work.
- Drinking vodka instead of other alcoholic beverages because its lack of odor and coloring is more difficult to detect. Closet drinkers might put vodka in their coffee, soda, or water bottles to conceal their drinking.
- Disguising alcohol in containers that don’t resemble what they are, such as secret flasks or empty juice or sports drinks.
- Lying to friends, family members, and healthcare providers about how much alcohol they drink.
- Using mouthwash or frequently brushing their teeth, chewing gum, or consuming items that mask the smell of alcohol on their breath.
- Disappearing for long periods when out with friends, family, or coworkers to drink.
- Denying their drinking when confronted or even becoming angry or defensive.
- Drinking alone in their car or away from others to avoid detection.
- Being anxious or irritable about little things or problems.
- Hiding legal problems linked to alcohol abuse, such as DUIs.
- Not returning phone calls or messages to the family due to drinking.
- Lying about being sick instead of admitting they’re hungover.
- Leaving work or family functions early to go home and drink.
- Getting to work late because they’re hungover or drinking.
- Taking multiple bathroom trips at work or events to drink.
- Always seeming to be missing at some point in social settings.
Although the individual may be able to maintain their life with work, social obligations, and family, eventually, drinking will catch up to them. Alcoholism is a severe disease that can take a person’s life, so if you recognize any of these signs in a loved one, our Pennsylvania rehab center offers addiction services that can help.
Help for Alcoholism
Closet drinking or high-functioning alcoholism can be dangerous because it makes drinking nearly undetectable until the person is severely ill, and, by this point, the damage may be irreversible. Get help before it’s too late.
Our drug rehab in Pennsylvania offers alcohol addiction treatment to help clients safely and effectively withdraw from heavy drinking. Starting with our medical alcohol detox, we address clients’ withdrawal symptoms to ensure they safely get through the early stages of recovery.
Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery, so it’s important that individuals looking to quit drinking receive the medical support needed to stay safe. Our addiction treatment also utilizes therapy programs to address the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that had motivated the person’s drinking and help them adopt healthier habits to stay sober.