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Closet Alcoholism

closet alcoholism

Your brother has missed family events off and on all year after his wife suddenly passed away. When you’ve called to check on him, he says he is okay, but his voice sounds slurred. However, you aren’t so sure. You visited his house one day and noticed empty bottles in his trash can. After confronting him on the phone, asking about his drinking, he gets upset at what you’re suggesting. A friend you’ve confided in told you they think he might be a closet alcoholic.

In 2020, 19.9% of people in Cuyahoga County, OH, excessively drank alcohol. However, this number might not include closet alcoholics, since they do not want others to know about their alcohol use. They often want to keep their alcohol use a secret.

Superior Behavioral Health is a small facility that does not see hundreds of patients. Our staff works one-on-one with clients because of our small size, meaning we have intimate knowledge of how many people try to hide their alcohol use from others.

What Is a Closet Alcoholic?

When someone is managing an alcohol use disorder but goes to great lengths to hide it from others, it is commonly referred to as a “closet alcoholic.” Sometimes, closet alcoholics will deny their alcohol use. They might also go out of their way to hide empty bottles under trash or furniture.

There are several reasons someone might try to hide their alcohol use from those around them. For example, they might feel embarrassed about their alcohol use, or they want to keep their alcohol use a secret from others to not worry them.

How Do You Define a Closet Alcoholic?

Someone who is a closet alcoholic often knows alcohol has control over their life, but they want to hide it from others. They might have a job and close relationships, but behind closed doors, they might engage in alcohol use and feel like they can’t stop.  They will often have many of the same signs as other alcohol use disorders, which might include binge drinking, engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, or symptoms of withdrawal if they have gone too long without alcohol. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal might include anxiety, tremors, and restlessness.

coping with closet alcoholism

Signs of a Closet Alcoholic

While they do hide their alcohol use, a few signs might show through. You might notice them in yourself or your loved ones. Here are some signs that might be present in someone who is hiding their alcohol use disorder.

Consumes Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

Many people have experienced trauma or mental health concerns. These concerns in a person’s life can result in some people turning to alcohol to cope. While not everyone with these concerns turns to alcohol to cope, those who hide their alcohol use might be using alcohol as a way to cope with the challenges in their life. These concerns might include stress, depression, or anxiety. Often, they will choose to manage this way alone. Treatment is possible for both mental health concerns and alcohol use disorder.

Conceals Alcohol

Another common sign that someone is a closet alcoholic is if they hide or conceal their alcohol. They don’t want others to know they are drinking alcohol. It might look like hiding empty bottles under trash in the trashcan or using an opaque water bottle so others don’t know they are drinking alcohol.

Denies the Existence of a Problem With Alcohol

If you have confronted your loved one about their alcohol use, they will most likely deny they have a problem with alcohol. A closet alcoholic does not want others to know they have an alcohol use disorder. They have worked hard to make sure those around them don’t know alcohol is impacting their life. So when confronted, they will want you to continue believing they don’t have an alcohol use disorder.

Engages in Heavy Drinking

One of the main signs of an alcohol use disorder is if someone is engaging in heavy drinking. For men, this is 15 drinks a week; for women, it is 8. However, this sign might be more challenging to notice when it comes to your loved one if they are hiding their alcohol use. Seeing this sign is especially difficult if you are not around your loved one regularly. They might withdraw away from others and come back with alcohol on their breath multiple times during a week. These actions might be a sign they are a closet alcoholic.

closet alcoholism signs

Getting Help for Closeted Alcoholism in Garfield Heights, OH

If this article is hitting home, or you see any of these signs above in yourself or a loved one, know that recovery is possible. You might feel like you have to deal with your alcohol use disorder alone, but having a support system around you can give you the strength to gain control over your alcohol use. There is no shame in receiving help; it can empower you for the rest of your life.

Located in Garfield Heights, OH, Superior Behavioral Health helps you build strong foundations to find your inner strength to weather life’s challenges. The initial moment of deciding to get treatment for alcoholism can be crucial, and often, waiting times lead to changed minds. We offer same-day appointments that allow you to get started on your treatment before you can change your mind. For more information or to get started today, call us at 216-435-1110.