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Closet Alcoholic

Do you remember your high school days? Your friends passing around the water bottle full of vodka before class? It wasn’t every day, at least not for them, and they eventually grew out of the phase. But you were just getting started. Alcohol made everything easier for you – you were stress-free and could handle anything the day had to throw at you.

closet alcoholic clean recovery center

Your coworkers don’t even know that the coffee cup you bring to work is full of whiskey. When you get home, your wife has no idea that you finished off a pint on the drive. There is rarely a moment when alcohol is not in your system. Sure, there were some days when you had to call in sick or leave early to sleep before your wife got home, but you are in control. This can go on forever, right? Until one day your coworker has to get a file from your desk and finds your stash. And just like that, your world begins to unravel.

In 2021, the rate per 100,000 of alcohol-confirmed motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities in Hillsborough County was 1.8, which was the same rate as the whole state. At Clean Recovery Centers, we utilize our blog to educate families and loved ones on the tough topics surrounding substance and alcohol use disorder. Our treatment program involves family members in the recovery process and gives them support and resources. Today, we are discussing what a closet alcoholic is, and how you can help a loved one.

What Is a Closet Alcoholic?

A closet alcoholic is someone who hides their drinking from everyone around them. This includes their spouse or partner, coworkers, friends, and family members. They may have a separate bank account that is kept secret to buy alcohol and they dispose of any drinking paraphernalia (empty bottles or cans) in secret. The goal is to be able to drink on their own terms without raising alarm or suspicion of their alcohol consumption.

What’s the Difference Between Closet Alcoholics and High-Functioning Alcoholics?

There are both similarities and differences between closet alcoholics and high-functioning alcoholics. Both will try to sneak alcohol and will have difficulties controlling how much they drink at a time. High-functioning alcoholics are typically more open about being able to drink. For example, they may go out after work with some coworkers and have a few drinks. However, they may go home and have more without their coworkers knowing. Their spouse or family may see them binge drinking or drinking every day, but the high-functioning alcoholic already has the excuse of maintaining their job and home life. They do not see their drinking as a problem because they are still contributing and providing.

The closet alcoholic is much more secretive than the high-functioning. They don’t want anyone to know about how much they drink or when. This makes them much more antisocial and withdrawn. While the closet alcoholic may still maintain a job and home life, they may show more signs of loneliness as the weight of drinking in secret wears them down.

Signs and Indicators That Someone Might Be a Closet Alcoholic

It can be difficult to spot the signs of a closet alcoholic. The closet alcoholic thrives on secrecy, discretion, and control. It can be hard to “catch them in the act” as they have usually thought of every way to keep their drinking concealed. Schedules, hiding places, and subtle ways to get away are all planned, so they always know when and where they can get a drink. Some signs that a loved one may be a closet alcoholic include:

  • Isolating themselves from family and friends
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Difficulty remembering certain events or situations
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Sneaking away during events such as a birthday party

These signs do not necessarily indicate closet alcoholism. Mental health conditions could be present and lead to alcohol use to mask the symptoms. If someone you love is showing these signs, it is time to have a conversation about how they are feeling and what you can do to help.

Living With a Closet Alcoholic

Living with a closet alcoholic can be very difficult as understanding the behaviors can be frustrating. You may notice something is off with your partner or family member when they begin isolating. They may be more guarded around you and always be on the defense. This happens because they may feel guilty after drinking, but they cannot communicate these feelings without giving away their whole secret life. Eventually, you may see signs in their health that alcohol is taking a toll, such as poor appetite, nausea, and headaches. They may also go through alcohol withdrawal when they can’t get to a drink, causing irritability, sweating, and shakiness.

What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Loved One Is a Closet Alcoholic?

closet alcoholic clean recovery centerBefore addressing your loved one, make sure you are taken care of first. Prioritize your needs to ensure you are mentally and emotionally ready to have a conversation with your loved one. Be prepared as they may try to blame shift or downplay the situation. Listen to what your loved one is saying and remain calm but firm as you express your concerns.

Having proof that you know they are drinking can be a way to start the conversation. Check different containers throughout the house, such as water or soda bottles or unmarked bottles in cabinets or closets. They may contain alcohol even if it doesn’t look like it. Again, do not use negative or combative speech when you bring it up to your loved one that you found alcohol in the house. This can make them shut down and not want to accept they may need help. Having this conversation is the first indication that they have lost control, and they may already be panicking at that.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to your loved one alone, you may ask for help from another family member or friend you both trust. Going to see a therapist together can also ease the tension or nervousness and make the conversation go smoother.

Getting Help for a Closet Alcoholic in Tampa, FL

It can be difficult to help a closet alcoholic seek treatment. They may deny or downplay that there is a problem and try to brush it off. It is important to keep the conversation going and always reiterate your concerns about their drinking. Provide consequences if they do not get help and encourage them to take the first step. Always remember to keep yourself healthy first, and be supportive when they do decide to find their recovery from alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you love is trying to manage life and closet alcoholism, you are not alone. At Clean Recovery Centers, we surround you with a community of support throughout your treatment. Housing is available at each of our locations so you never have to go through anything alone again. Our alumni program also keeps you connected with like-minded peers that celebrate recovery with you. Living as a closet alcoholic is a lonely life, but with recovery, you will never have to feel lonely again. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our alcohol use disorder program.


What is a closet drinker?

A closet drinker is someone who hides their drinking from everyone around them. This includes their spouse or partner, coworkers, friends, and family members.

What are the 3 types of alcoholic?

The three main types of alcoholic are social or light drinkers, moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers.

What is a compulsive drinking called?

Compulsive drinking is a way to refer to alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is defined as an impaired ability to control or stop drinking even with adverse health, social, or occupational consequences.



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