Alcohol Abuse

Closet Alcoholic

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The concept of closet alcoholics is an important one for the family and friends of an alcoholic to be aware of. Addicts are typically in denial, using every means - including lying or even stealing - to engage in their negative behaviors without being discovered and having to take responsibility for their actions.

Knowing how to identify a closet drinker and taking the correct course of action can potentially save him or her from much greater harm. This article will explain more about the closet alcoholic meaning, signs of a closet alcoholic, and how to help a loved one who is a closet alcoholic. 

What is a Closet Drinker? 

A closet alcoholic (or closet drinker) is someone who hides his drinking from family and friends, often taking great pains to hide evidence of the addiction. A closet alcoholic may use funds from a different bank account to purchase alcohol and store their bottles of alcohol in a secret location.

The goal of the closet alcoholic is to drink as much as they want without anyone finding out, since that would require them to take responsibility for their drinking, admit that the addiction has gotten out of control, and pursue recovery. They may be ashamed of their drinking, afraid of the stigma associated with alcoholics, afraid that they could lose their job or spouse, or in denial of the addiction.

Either way, hiding the addiction does not make it go away. Addiction does not resolve itself. It takes courage to own up to your addiction and face the disappointment of your loved ones, but that’s the only path to recovery.

Signs of a Closet Alcoholic 

Loved ones of closet alcoholics will have a hard time detecting the addiction because the addict invests a lot of time, thought and energy into covering their tracks. If you suspect a loved one may be a closet alcoholic, look out for the following signs. Although closet alcoholic behavior is different for every addict, there are some common closet alcoholic symptoms:

  • Avoiding family and friends- Closet alcoholics tend to avoid functions, events, and celebrations with family and friends because they spend much of their free time drinking alcohol, covering up the signs, and recovering from their alcohol use.
  • Sudden disinterest in hobbies- Once again, alcoholics may drop hobbies and activities they previously enjoyed because most of their time is taken up by their alcohol addiction.
  • Depression or anxiety- A common withdrawal symptom of alcoholism, addicts tend to feel anxious or depressed when the effects of the alcohol wear off.
  • Experiencing blackouts- Blackouts (gaps in memory for events that occurred while a person was intoxicated) can occur when a person is intoxicated. If it happens often to a loved one, it could be a sign of an alcohol addiction.
  • Sudden mood swings- Drinking alcohol causes euphoria and an overall sense of well-being, whereas when the alcohol leaves the body, the addict may feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, and agitated.
  • Defensiveness or denial when questioned about alcohol use- Closet alcoholics resort to lies and denial to cover their negative behaviors from family and friends. Especially when asked about it, they typically deny it and get defensive.
  • Liver issues- Excessive alcohol use can cause damage to the addict’s liver. If a loved one is experiencing liver issues, consider if the other signs are present, too.
  • Extreme weight loss- Another effect of excessive alcohol use is losing a large amount of weight, often in a short time frame.
  • Memory loss- Alcoholics may experience lapses in their cognitive function, causing them to forget events, places, names, etc. temporarily.
  • Using breath mints often- Closet alcoholics use breath mints and mouthwash excessively to hide the smell of alcohol.
  • Unexplained injuries- While intoxicated, alcoholics may fall, get into a physical fight with somebody, or experience other injuries.
  • Rarely suffers from a hangover- The body develops tolerance as the addict continues to consume alcohol. This means that even after having a large amount of alcohol, the addict may not experience a hangover.

Closet Alcoholic and High-Functioning Alcoholic

There is a slight but integral difference between a closet alcoholic and a high-functioning alcoholic. A closet alcoholic is completely secretive, going to every extreme to hide their behaviors and the consequences of them, which means that the loved ones may not suspect that the addict is using alcohol at all.

On the other hand, a high-functioning alcoholic does not attempt to hide their alcohol consumption completely. They will appear to be in control of themselves and lead productive lives, managing their regular responsibilities (such as holding down a job and maintaining their relationships), which causes them to believe that their alcoholism is not an issue. 

Living With a Closet Alcoholic

The loved ones of a closet alcoholic may feel confusion, hurt, and frustration. The behaviors of the addict are often puzzling at best and hurtful at worst. Loved ones may feel like there’s something going on but have no idea what it could be and how to find out, because the addict will deny that anything is amiss.

To compound the confusion, closet alcoholics are often able to control their alcohol consumption in public, causing their loved ones to assume that alcoholism isn’t an issue. The alcoholic may also withdraw from their loved ones, isolating themselves to cover up their negative behaviors. Withdrawal can also cause physical and emotional symptoms that appear out of place when the addiction is disclosed.

Getting Help for a Closet Alcoholic

As the loved one of a closet alcoholic, you may feel inclined to force the addict to go for help. However, being confrontational and forceful will not achieve the desired result. In fact, the alcoholic will likely feel attacked and shut down emotionally or deny the issue and try to shift the blame to their healthy loved ones.

Rather, loved ones should approach the closet alcoholic with compassion and concern, state what they suspect, offer support and validation, and invite the alcoholic to own up to their addiction. Being supportive allows the alcoholic to feel safe and accepted, which makes it easier for them to take responsibility for their behaviors.

Contacting a therapist, counselor, or mental health professional to plan the discussion together is advisable. You can learn how to be respectful but firm, encouraging the addict to admit that they have an issue that is too difficult for them to manage on their own, and urging them to find the help they need.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Admitting that you have an alcohol addiction is hard, but the alternative is far worse. An addiction that isn’t taken care of gets progressively worse until life becomes unbearable.

If you or your loved one is able to own up to addiction and are committed to recovery, reach out to Avenues Recovery Center so we can help you. At our rehab facilities, we have top-rated therapists and mental health professionals who have helped thousands of addicts undergo medical alcohol detox and start the journey to sobriety. Recovery is a difficult ordeal but with the right support, you can achieve sobriety, serenity, and peace. We use holistic and traditional therapies, as well as personalized treatment plans to ensure optimal success. Our empathetic and caring staff are committed to treating every client with utmost care and respect. If you want to begin your journey to recovery, reach out to us today! We will support and guide you every step of the way to the sober future you deserve.

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