When people think of alcoholism, they typically think of the physical signs of drinking: unsteady gait, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness, and vomiting. They may also picture someone who misses work due to drinking, becomes violent when he drinks, or lies about how alcohol consumption.
All of these may indeed be signs of alcoholism, but in reality, the addiction is much more complex. Many people who abuse alcohol do not exhibit these classic signs but hide their addiction very well. They have successful careers. They seem fit and healthy. They’re considered good spouses, children, or parents. Yet, they are still addicts, with all the physical and mental risks associated with excessive drinking.
If you’re a secret alcoholic you probably hide your addiction well. Even those closest to you don’t recognize how much you drink. You function adequately — even successfully — in society, lowering the possibility that you’ll receive help while increasing your risk of alcoholism-related disease. No one suggests entering an alcohol rehab facility because no one knows you have a problem.
“Successfully” handling alcoholism often becomes a delicate balancing act. You drink enough to function and stave off withdrawal symptoms, reserving heavy drinking for times when you’re alone. Your tolerance for alcohol gives the illusion that you’re sober when you’re actually intoxicated. You may even fool yourself by assuming your drinking is under control so you don’t need alcohol rehab.
The Bitter Truth
In truth, you’re not in control. You’re constantly pulled between intoxication and withdrawal symptoms. Your morning coffee contains a splash of alcohol. You may have secret alcohol stashes at home or even at work. And if someone notices any signs of excessive drinking, you’re quick to lie or misdirect concern away from yourself.
All the while, your drinking damages your heart and liver. Your family may react with shock when you develop heart problems, or worse, receive DUI charges. They never knew about the problem.
Secret drinkers may not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, which assumes alcoholism has a negative impact on relationships or careers. Fortunately, changes to diagnostic criteria are underway. Under the new criteria, problem drinking is seen as a spectrum, rather than an all-or-nothing diagnosis.
Are you a secret alcoholic? Now is the time to be honest and seek the help you need.