Closet Drinker and the question of, "Am I an alcoholic?"

Sobriety Navigator: Closet drinkers and the question of, “Am I an alcoholic?”

The first step in the recovery process from alcohol addiction is admitting you have a problem. Answering a few simple questions may tell the tale. The answer could be as simple as not liking yourself when they drink. Questioning a constant preoccupation with drinking might do it.  Even more obvious problems such as degrading displays of bad behavior in front of others may provide the answer. To put it simply, if your drinking causes problems in your life, or if your drinking makes you feel sad, mad or bad about yourself, chances are you have a drinking problem. If it is as simple as feeling bad about yourself, thank God or your higher power you’ve discovered it now, because it can only get worse. 

It is important that individuals do not compare their drinking patterns to those of others. Everyone is an individual, and a person must determine for himself what is acceptable and what is not.

For example, at the age of 22, a young woman told her family and spouse that she thought she had a drinking problem. She was immediately told that couldn’t be. They provided many reasons for their beliefs about her. She was told, “You’re too young and responsible and popular and pretty,” and “you always do as you are told.” This only added to the guilt and confusion she already had about herself. Within one additional year of drinking she no longer needed any more convincing about whether or not she was an alcoholic.  She had proved it to herself. She had subconsciously sabotaged every relationship she was in, except with her toddler child. She was finally given permission to seek treatment.

Many closet alcoholics face a harsh reality when they come to the realization that they have been surrounded by people who have been less than honest with them.  These people found the alcoholic’s unhealthy neediness and dependency on them emotionally and mentally quite self-serving.  This is indeed a rude awakening.

Spouses who also drink may tell you, “Only drink when I do, but don’t quit altogether”. Spouses who slip out at night after you’ve passed out, knowing you’re not going to “come to” until morning, usually have other interests than what’s best for you. Having closet drinker as a spouse can be quite convenient for certain types of people.  Closet drinkers who blackout can offer an array of benefits to an abusive spouse who is inclined to deceive and generally lead a double life. While you’re the one feeling shame, guilt and remorse, your spouse may be out living it up. Quite often, closet drinkers make wonderful scape goats for transferring blame. 

Closet drinkers usually have an army of enablers which include the extended families. If you go to AA and admit you have a problem, how will it reflect on your parents, siblings or grandparents?  This is a big concern for many family members.

There are also the family members who think to themselves, “I’ve spilled more that she has ever drank. If she is an alcoholic, what am I?”  This can be most disquieting for them. 

Ask yourself, “If someone is enabling my drinking what’s in it for them?”

For many people, treatment is a great place to learn about the disease of alcoholism and the guaranteed progression of problems if drinking continues. Most treatment centers thoroughly explain Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program to their clients.

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