When many people think of someone with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), they envision a certain stereotype. Often, they picture someone who is stumbling around, unable to keep up with their personal and professional obligations, and simply not in control of their own life. In many situations, this is just not the case. There are many individuals who do engage in excessive drinking but somehow manage to keep their AUD just enough in control that others do not recognize what is happening. This is often the case for those that engage in secret drinking and hide their alcoholism. This is something that can be hidden for an extended period of time.
Understanding What Secret Drinking Is
Not everyone that struggles with alcoholism is going to make this status clear to those around them. They may drink while nobody is around or hide how much they drink from friends and family members. This could be because they are ashamed of how dependent on alcohol they are or by how much they drink. They could also be worried about how others would perceive them if they were aware of their drinking habits. Someone who engages in secret drinking could be very well aware that they have a drinking problem. However, they may make excuses for themselves. They may think that as long as they aren't hurting anyone and are still keeping up with their responsibilities, then there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. In reality, their actions are dangerous and can be very detrimental to their future.
Looking for the Signs of Secret Drinking
Some people who engage in secret drinking may hide it so well that there are virtually no signs of what is happening behind closed doors. They may always be dressed and groomed well and appear completely put together. Other times, there are signs, even very subtle ones, that you can be on the lookout for. Some examples include:
- Sudden changes in weight
- Failing to put effort into their personal appearance
- Arguing more often
- Sudden mood swings
- Sneaking around or being deceitful
- Becoming defensive
- Frequently chewing gum or mints to mask the smell of alcohol
- Avoiding close contact with others
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Frequent unexplained bumps and scrapes
There may also be things around the house that you'll notice in the case that you are living with someone who is engaging in secret drinking.
- Money strangely going missing
- Discovering alcohol bottles turning up in strange places as if they've been hidden
- Items being damaged or broken with no explanation as to what happened to them
Confronting Your Loved One
If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with a drinking problem, you may hesitate to talk to them about it. You may worry that if you approach this subject, things could get awkward, or they may become angry and defensive. They may deny that they even have a problem. Don't let these worries hold you back from having a very necessary and serious conversation with them. Your intervention may be just what they need to decide that they really do need to seek treatment and change their life for the better.
You should not confront your loved one when you are feeling angry or emotional. Nor do you want to do it when they are drinking or you are in an argument with them. Instead, wait until you are both calm and clear-headed. It can help you to plan out what you're going to say ahead of time so that you don't end up saying something in the heat of the moment that you will regret.
When you are ready to confront your loved one, do so in a private environment where you can speak openly without fear of being overheard. Tell your loved one that you care about them and are concerned for their wellbeing. Make it clear that you are coming to them from a place of love, not ridicule, judgment, or anger. While having this conversation, avoid raising your voice or blaming this individual for their behavior,r as this is not productive. Instead, encourage them to get professional help and assure them that you will support them the entire way.
Remember that it may take time and more than one conversation to convince your loved one to follow through with treatment. Don't give up on them, and continue to try to help them recognize that they have a problem and that there is hope for the future. Life-long sobriety is possible for them if they put in the work.
Not everyone who struggles with an alcohol use disorder fits the mold that has been created by society. They might be stumbling around intoxicated or appear disheveled, but, in fact, they could be very well put together and seemingly in full control of their lives. They may have a successful career and be on top of their responsibilities but still have a secret problem. Many people can hide their alcoholism by only drinking when they are alone or hiding how much they drink. They may think that because they are seemingly in control of their life, they aren't doing anything wrong. In reality, this practice is very dangerous and can lead to serious consequences if they continue to drink excessively. It's important for you to confront them and encourage them to seek treatment. If you are struggling with alcohol use, The Ho Tai Way can help. Call (714) 581-3974.