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Warning Signs of an Undercover Alcoholic

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

Functioning alcoholics are notorious for being able to hide their drinking but still appear normal to family members and friends. As their drinking progresses, they learn more tricks for hiding bottles, explaining away work absences and denying their alcoholism until they begin believing their own excuses.

Although undercover alcoholics may continue abusing alcohol without suffering serious ramifications for several years, their drinking eventually catches up to them. It shows up in the form of physical and mental illnesses, encounters with law enforcement or discovery of their secret by suspicious spouses or children.

Recognizing Signs of Alcoholic Behavior

One telltale sign of an alcohol addiction is if the person hides bottles of alcohol in their home, car or office. Other common places for undercover alcoholics to stash liquor is the garage, in rarely used suitcases or even buried outside in a flower garden. If you suspect someone is a secret drinker, you’ll probably be amazed at the clever places you might find bottles once you start seriously looking for them.

Additionally, an undercover alcoholic will likely miss or be late for work as well as school events and other appointments as their alcoholism worsens. Also, during long events, they may disappear for 15 or 20 minutes, return and avoid explaining their absence. They may need to constantly “run errands” or claim to be at a location when, in fact, they are somewhere else, drinking.

Irritability, nervousness and mood swings in people who previously had an even temperament may be signs of alcohol abuse. Avoiding people to drink alone or backing out of attending important events at the last minute and becoming angry when asked why they backed out are also indicative of undercover alcoholism.

Some things secret drinkers cannot hide or explain away are blackouts, memory loss, a constantly flushed face, trembling hands and poor skin health. Alcohol abuse prevents food nutrients from being absorbed by the body, which expedites vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. In addition, as an undercover alcoholic’s drinking intensifies, they will begin neglecting their personal hygiene and take on a dirty, neglected appearance.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Nearly 80 percent of all long-term alcoholics experience a thiamine deficiency severe enough to eventually lead to symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Consisting of two separate disorders — Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis — this syndrome displays symptoms of extreme forgetfulness, problems coordinating muscle control, retrograde amnesia — the inability to remember what happened yesterday, for example — and delusional thinking.

Excessive alcohol consumption prevents the body from absorbing and utilizing nutrients properly, resulting in a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. In addition, alcoholics are often malnourished — a condition that exacerbates thiamine loss.

Alcohol-Related Dementia (ARD)

ARD involves impaired cognitive processing and deep neurological damage caused by long-term alcoholism. Although age-related dementia usually occurs in people over 65, alcoholics can experience alcohol-related dementia before age 40.

Early signs of ARD are memory problems, apathy and slowing of movements due to damage to the cerebellum. If left untreated, ARD may result in peripheral neuropathy, personality changes and even psychotic symptoms. Because ARD resembles later stage symptoms of Alzheimer’s, alcoholics with ARD may be misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s and receive treatment ineffectual against ARD.

If you or someone you know might be an undercover alcoholic, please call Synergy Recovery Services today at 661-878-9100 to receive immediate, compassionate help.