High Functioning Alcoholic – Signs of a Closet Drinker

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Signs of a Closet Drinker (Also known as High Functioning Alcoholics)

Men and women walking around, attending meetings and carrying out their daily responsibilities; to many, these people have normal lives, are friendly and even seem happy. They may be a co-worker, a friend or even members of the family. But, they have a dark side that often goes unnoticed because they have become so adept at concealing their addiction. Even they will usually deny their alcohol abuse. This is the high functioning alcoholic, also known as a closet drinker.

Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. have an addiction to alcohol, 20% of these people are high functioning alcoholics. They are one of the most difficult to distinguish, but the signs are there. You just have to know what to look for.

What is closet drinking?

High functioning alcoholism or closet drinking is when a person is able to maintain their life while drinking alcohol. This does not mean a beer after work or glass of wine at the occasional dinner, but rather a significant amount of alcohol which is leading to impairment (often undetectable).

A closet drinker can typically manage their work role, family life and social life without anyone noticing their alcoholism –which is continuous. Essentially, this is a double life. They can be a wife or husband, a friend, a parent, a co-worker or sibling. They are successful and outwardly appear happy. Inside, they have an addiction to alcohol and could really use the assistance of a rehab centre.

High functioning alcoholics are often in great denial, even more so than the average abuser. The reason for this can often be attributed to their ability to appear to be a responsible person. In this sense, they do not see their heavy level of alcohol consumption as being an issue.

Who are the most common high functioning alcoholics?

Although a closet drinker can come from all backgrounds and every profession, ethnicity, sex and religion, many are middle to upper class adults. They have good jobs and are raising families. Some are women who stay at home to take care of the children and household. Others are busy attending meetings and travelling. Some have a history of alcoholism and others experienced a trauma at some point in life. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, impulsive personality or peer pressure can all be a factor in the closet drinker’s personal reasons for abuse.

It’s not always easy to recognise a closet drinker. If you think alcohol could be affecting someone you know, yet they continue to deny or hide their abuse, take a look at some of the following warning signs of a high functioning alcoholic.

Secretive Drinking – A person may drink alone or before or after going out. They may pour alcohol into a soda, water or juice bottle and hope that no one will know what they are really consuming.

Hiding alcohol – The individual may hide alcohol in various places at home, in the office or even in the car. Bedrooms, suitcases, the garage and other places you may least expect could all be places where alcohol bottles (full or empty) are hidden.

Vodka over anything else – Vodka is an alcohol which has no color and very little odor. It can often be added to juice or soda without being detected until it’s drank. Unlike wine, beer or certain liquors, vodka can be difficult to smell on the breath.

Missing events – As a person continues to be actively engaged in closet drinking, they may be increasingly late for meetings, appointments and important events. When they do show up, they may disappear for a lengthy amount of time; usually because they are drinking more alcohol.

Becoming defensive or making excuses up about drinking – Another warning sign of high functioning alcoholism is the excuses that start to come up more and more frequently. They may constantly need just one more drink or become defensive when someone asks about their frequent alcohol consumption.

Increased isolation – Eventually, as the alcoholism takes hold, the person may start to lose focus of other things in life. They may avoid people to hide their alcohol use and discontinue doing things they once loved. At this point, the closet drinking becomes more obvious to the outside world; yet to the person, their denial may be just as strong.

Mood swings – When there is a case of closet drinking, withdrawal symptoms can more frequently occur because the person is not always able to drink. These can affect their mood and way of thinking; leading to irritability, anger, anxiety, depression and sudden outbursts.

Blackouts – As the high functioning alcoholic continues to drink without seeking the help of a rehab centre, they may start to endure blackouts of memory loss in which they cannot remember certain periods of time.

Drinking “rituals” – Most closet drinkers will have some sort of ritual in which they will drink alcohol. This could be immediately after work or first thing in the morning after the kids have gone to school. When the secret alcoholic is not able to fulfill this ritual, they can become very upset.

Reaching Out to an Alcohol Rehab for Help

At our Thailand alcohol rehab centre, we regularly treat high functioning alcoholics. These people may have some or all of the above signs, but in any case are always desperate for some sort of help. Guided by a full time team of Western counsellors, a closet drinker at Serenity Chiang Rai Rehab Centre can get sober and reclaim their life.

We don’t just treat the addiction; rather we treat the underlying causes. Group counselling, therapy and holistic healing modules are just a few vital aspects of our individual treatment programs. If you or someone you know is a high functioning alcoholic and would like to go to rehab, please contact us today.