The signs of alcoholism are not always as easy to pinpoint as you might think. While alcoholism is a very common disease in the United States, not everyone who enjoys a glass of wine, a beer or cocktail on occasion is suffering from this disease. Even those who party hard on the weekends aren’t necessarily alcoholics. If you’re struggling to tell if a loved one is suffering from alcoholism, it’s time to learn what the signs of alcoholism are and how to spot them. So, am I an alcoholic?
Alcoholism is an addiction. Alcoholism occurs when a person can no longer handle or manage their drinking habits. This is not always the person who appears drunk. Many alcoholics are functioning, which means they get up, go to work, and appear to live a typical lifestyle while relying on alcohol to get through the day. An alcoholic can’t control their drinking, and they cannot handle their everyday lives without a drink.
Alcoholism is defined as a drinking problem that’s become severe. This is a person who drinks every day, cannot stop thinking about drinking, and cannot function in their everyday life without a drink to help them get through it.
You might not always recognize this person. The common misconception is an alcoholic reeks of booze, they can’t hold down a job, they aren’t as hygienic as they should be, and they walk around all day drunk or passed out on a chair at home or in a bar. The truth is that many people you see each and every day hard at work and living their lives are functioning alcoholics who are good at hiding their addiction
Signs of Alcoholism in a Loved One
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 25% of adults suffer from this disease in the United States alone. This is a serious problem which is why it’s time for you to learn to recognize the signs of alcoholism in your loved ones.
1. Your Loved One Lies about Drinking or Hides It
If you are looking for signs of alcoholism in a loved one, you should ask them about their drinking. Alcoholics are most often in denial. They think they can stop anytime they want.
They will lie. They will lie about how many drinks they had. They will tell you they were drunk, but that it was just because they didn’t eat anything and it just affected them severely. It's not that difficult to spot their lies when you are close. If your loved one is trying to hide their drinking problem, they will hide alcohol bottles in the house. You will find alcohol in places it shouldn't be because an alcoholic will use any way imaginable to keep you from finding out their secret.
2. Your Loved One Experiences Excessive Mood Swings When Drinking
It’s not uncommon for people to change a little when they drink. Some people become very affectionate, hilarious, and a lot more open, or even braver with a little liquid courage. Others become sullen, sad, and depressed when they drink. If you notice your loved one suffers from serious mood swings, it might be a sign they are drinking too much. One of the biggest signs of alcoholism is when people who drink too much start to become angry and filled with rage even though this behavior is not common in their life.
3. Your Loved One Becomes Isolated
Alcoholics are often depressed. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking more of it only exacerbates feelings of depression. Your loved one might not want to spend time with you anymore. They might be so addicted to the drink they spend their time alone because they’re trying to hide how much they drink from you. They can’t even be bothered to spend a few hours at dinner with you because they don’t want you to see how much they’ve changed or how much they feel they need to drink in such a short amount of time.
4. Your Loved One Cannot Stop Drinking
If you’re on a tropical vacation without any kids and you decide you want to wake up with a Bloody Mary and drink fruity cocktails or a cold beer all day long, that doesn’t indicate alcoholism. It is binge drinking, and it’s not good for you, but it’s not alcoholism. However, if your loved one cannot stop drinking even when they’re sick, hungover, back home, going to work, going to pick the kids up from practice, or anytime it seems inappropriate, it’s a problem. Signs of alcoholism are not always apparent, but a loved one who cannot stop drinking no matter the circumstances is probably suffering.
5.Your Loved One Drinks and Drives
Not only is drinking and driving illegal, it’s also dangerous. You don’t need a DUI to be an alcoholic though being pulled over and arrested for drinking and driving is one of the most prevalent signs of alcoholism. While anyone is susceptible to making the poor choice to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking, one of the biggest signs of alcoholism is someone who drinks and drives regularly. They might not have a DUI or ever get caught. In fact, they may tell you they are fine or that they are more cautious and responsible after a few drinks.
6. More Obvious Signs of Alcoholism
Some people hide their alcoholism quite well, and others are very obviously addicted to alcohol. The fact that you are asking what the signs of alcoholism are and how to recognize them in your loved one indicates you suspect someone is good at hiding their addiction. While the signs above can be subtle, there are some other signs of alcoholism that are more obvious:
These are common signs of alcoholism that most people find it difficult to hide. When someone isn’t drinking enough in a certain setting, they might begin to shake or tremor because they need another drink. They may sweat profusely, their skin appears damaged and puffy, and their appearance changes. It’s not always a quick change, but these slow physical appearance changes can indicate your loved one suffers from alcoholism.
What to Do If Your Loved One Is an Alcoholic
Helping a loved one who suffers from alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder as it is now medically labeled, is never easy. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to help them if they don’t want the help you’re offering. A person who is addicted to alcohol needs to make the decision to get help and change their life on their own, and you can rarely do anything other than show support and love.
Practice What You Will Say
If you cannot sit back and allow this person to continue to ruin their life, practice what you will say before you approach them. This must be said kindly, it must be filled with love, and it must not be accusatory. You must approach your loved one in a way that does not come across as negative or hurtful. Make it about you and what you want so that your loved one doesn’t feel cornered or confronted. For example, you can say, “I’m scared something will happen to you. I want you to get help so I can keep you in my life for many more years,” and let it go at that.
Choose the Right Setting
A family intervention might seem powerful, but it’s rarely the best idea. The correct time and setting is somewhere private and not in public. You don’t want to make your loved one feel ambushed or uncomfortable.
Listen to Your Loved One
When it’s time for your loved one to speak, just listen. Don’t offer help. Don’t interrupt. Just listen. Hug them. Show them you love them. Offer to help them by being there for them. Do not listen to reply. Listen to understand.
Don’t Tell Them How to Cope
Do not offer advice unless you’re asked, even if you’ve been in this situation before. Most importantly, never tell a loved one they should just stop, or that it shouldn’t be so hard, or that it’ll be easy. It won’t be easy, it is going to take a lifetime, and minimizing their disease is not a wise decision.
Am I an Alcoholic: Conclusion
Noticing the signs of alcoholism is one of the first things you can do to help someone you love. Before you talk to them and try to help, do your research on this disease. Learn all you can about alcohol use disorder so that you are armed with knowledge and facts prior to discussing your concerns with your loved one.
There may not be much you can do if your loved one refuses your help, but you can always be there for them to offer support while they come to terms with their own diagnosis. Sometimes that’s all it takes for an alcoholic to seek help. This is a terrifying feeling for someone who cannot control their drinking, and it’s difficult to ask for help.