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Secret Drinking: Spotting The Signs Of Alcoholism

Posted by Martin Preston
on 28 Dec 2021


Man Secretly drinking in his car

Many people aren’t aware their partner, friend or family member is drinking too much. Secret drinking is a warning sign that someone has a problem with alcohol when a social lubricant slips into a destructive habit. If you’re worried that you, or someone you know, is secretly drinking, there is help available. Residential clinics, like Delamere, offer advice and support to family members and work colleagues who are concerned about someone’s drinking and, if necessary, can offer a staged intervention. First, let’s take a look at some of the common behaviours that may indicate hidden drinking and flag up signs of alcoholism. 

What is secret drinking?

There are certain behaviours that ring alarm bells when it comes to spotting an alcoholic. One of those is secret drinking. Someone who is highly dependent or addicted to alcohol may feel the need to hide how much they drink from friends and family members. This could be because they feel guilty or ashamed of their actions, but more often it is due to denial, which is a common among people who are addicted to substances. The secret drinker may refute that their drinking is a problem or try to rationalise it by comparing themselves to others.

The purpose-built Delamere wellness clinic, in the heart of rural Cheshire, can treat all aspects of alcoholism, from assisting with an initial intervention to providing a clinically managed alcohol detox or offering one-to-one counselling for alcohol addiction. We are specialists in treating Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) and can give yourself or loved one all the help you need.

Worried About Secret Drinking? Contact us

Signs of secret drinking

Alcoholism isn’t a choice, it’s a chronic and progressive brain disorder. Whilst some behaviours can be frustrating for family members, secret alcoholics aren’t in control of their actions. Treating alcohol addiction requires a lot of patience from everyone involved. At Delamere, we take a holistic approach to treatment that seeks to find the original cause of the addictive behaviour. We look at all aspects of the person to build up a picture of their lives and develop individualised treatment programmes that address their emotional, physical and psychological needs. Together, we can develop coping strategies to help the secret drinker in your life get back on the road to recovery. Most secret drinkers will display common addiction symptoms. Here are a few you may recognise:

Arguing more often

An alcoholic will be defensive about their actions and will pick a fight if you choose to raise questions over their drinking. They may say they are stressed out at work or invent excuses to make their actions seem acceptable. They will be frequently angry, irritable and inpatient.

Lying and being deceitful

You may find a secret drinker becomes less responsible, slipping into debt, avoiding work, neglecting their children or having too many late nights. They will do anything to hide their drinking even if it means overtly lying.

Making excuses

Alcoholism has a profound affect on behaviour and can make someone who previously had high morals be more prone to letting their standards slip. This might include missing an important event or not turning up for work.

Always being the most drunk

Your secret drinker will have an inability to say no to alcohol and will need to drink a lot more to achieve the same intoxicated effect. They may use their secret drinking to ‘top up their levels’ before a night out and seem unusually drunk despite having not drunk much in front of you. 

Lack of self-care

A secret alcoholic will start to neglect their personal hygiene and physical appearance. They may start to shower less or choose not to get dressed. They may also stop doing things that are good for them, such as taking regular exercise.

Once a person’s alcohol use is no longer recreational, they can develop a physical or psychological addiction which will be obvious if they don’t drink. It’s important that anyone with an alcohol addiction does not stop drinking suddenly as the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and sometimes deadly.

Concerned about your drinking? Contact us

How alcoholics hide their drinking

Deception is a common trait in a secret drinker. They will find many ways to conceal the presence of alcohol and any evidence of their excessive drinking. These include:

Masking the smell of alcohol

A person who regularly hides the amount they drink may always keep mints or chewing gum on their person or in the car. They may also insist on buying mouthwash which, despite being designed to mask bad breath, also contains alcohol. This means any unusual smell s can be explained away easily.

Hiding the amount they drink

Wine boxes or opaque bottles make it hard to tell how much has gone from a bottle. Also, clear spirits like vodka can easily be replaced with water to trick someone into thinking less has been drunk. People who are secret drinking have been known to use shampoo bottles, flasks and water bottles to conceal alcohol.

Secreting bottles around the house

Secret alcoholics will also start to stash drinks in various parts of the home. If you find alcohol in unusual places, such as bottles behind the couch, spirits in the airing cupboard or beer cans in the car, you might be living with someone who is showing all the signs of alcoholism.

Avoiding close contact

Not wanting physical interaction can be another tell-tale sign of someone who is secretly drinking. Alcohol often makes people more amorous as it helps us to lose our inhibitions. But, if someone close to you is suddenly avoiding close contact it might be that they don’t want you to smell alcohol on their breath.

How Delamere can help you tackle secret drinking

If you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself or someone else, it’s time to get help. Delamere offers a range of alcohol addiction treatment programmes in a purpose-built wellness retreat in the heart of Cheshire. Secret drinkers are prone to denial and resistance so it may be that a specialist intervention is the only way to tackle someone’s behaviour and recognise that they have a problem.  

Our experienced professionals can work with families and the addicted individual to accept that they need help and support them with an alcohol detox treatment to help them to safely withdraw from alcohol. They will have access to our fully qualified nursing team around the clock in their own ensuite room set in tranquil surroundings. 

Residential rehab programmes usually last for 28 days and include a range of evidence-based treatment techniques including one-to-one counselling, group therapy and somatic experiences. Our aim is always to understand why the person is secretly drinking and to help them find the best way through and out of addiction.

Secret drinking can be very destructive within families and so we also extend our support to loved ones and friends. We will look at all aspects of the individual’s life to develop a future proof recovery plan that means everyone can remove the toxicity of alcoholism from their lives and enjoy a better future.

If you're worried about secret drinking? Contact us



About the author: Martin Preston

Martin created Delamere in order to provide exemplary care in first class facilities. Find out more about Martin on our team page.



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