How to Recognize Hidden Alcoholism

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group of people at fancy party with alcohol in hands

You have never passed out on the bathroom floor; you have never blacked out from drinking; you have never been arrested; and no one has accused you of being an alcoholic. But you add vodka to your orange juice at breakfast, pour some Bailey’s in your coffee at work, and drink a bottle of red wine at dinner. In your eyes, you do not have a drinking problem: you simply enjoy a good drink. But the truth is you may be more like the 30 percent of Americans who have an alcohol misuse problem than you care to admit. A significant portion of that group consists of high-functioning alcoholics.

People often think that because they are succeeding in their professional and personal lives, they have their drinking under control, but alcoholism is not so black-and-white. Alcoholism is not defined by whether or not someone’s life is falling apart, or even by a specific number of drinks that one has in a day. Alcoholism is being dependent on alcohol. And you can be both dependent and high-functioning.

How to know if you suffer from hidden alcoholism

As mentioned in an article by Psychology Today, “no one ever thinks that they will become addicted or that it will happen to someone in their family, but it does”.

Admitting that you have a problem is never easy, but it is important to living a long, healthy life. If you are not sure if you have a drinking problem, ask yourself:

  • Do you often drink before going out to an event where there will be alcohol?
  • Is alcohol your favorite way to relax?
  • Are you always looking for a socially acceptable excuse to drink?
  • Do you start drinking early in the morning?
  • Do you chug your drinks so that no one can see how much you are drinking?
  • Do you have a high tolerance to alcohol?
  • Are you becoming forgetful?
  • Is when you are having your next drink constantly on your mind?

There aren’t always telltale signs of alcoholism, but if you ever find yourself hiding how much you drink, there is a pretty good chance that you might be suffering from substance abuse and should seek help.

Once you recognize there is a problem, you already have a greater chance of defeating it through corrective measures. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.” Help is available; all you have to do is take the first step.

How to spot hidden alcoholism in a friend or family member

High-functioning alcoholism is hard to spot. Individuals who can simultaneously maintain their lifestyle and their addiction are experts at disguising their drinking problem. But there are warning signs to look out for:


Individuals often come up with elaborate stories to explain their absence or questionable behavior.

Watered Down Liquor Bottles

Individuals refill alcohol bottles with water to hide how much they drink.

Financial Issues

Buying excessive amounts alcohol will begin to take a toll their finances.

Spending More Time Alone

Individuals often cancel plans to drink alone and avoid being questioned about their drinking.

Extended Bathroom Time

During social situations, individuals take their drinks to the bathroom so that no one can keep track of how much they are drinking.

Hiding Spots

Individuals will hide alcohol all over their home and drink it in secret when they’re alone.

Gum Chewing

Individuals constantly chew gum to mask the smell of alcohol.

Traveling unnecessary long distances

Individuals will often travel long distances to buy alcohol as to not be seen by anyone they know.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.