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Three signs someone could be abusing alcohol

By Tim Woodley

You’re worried. You think your friend or loved one has a problem with alcohol, but you’re not sure. Are the things you’re seeing normal? Are you blowing things out of proportion? What do alcoholism and alcohol abuse even look like?

Today, the Help Me Stop team wanted to go over three common things people abusing alcohol will do. Although every picture of problematic alcohol use and addiction is unique, these actions are very common amongst people who are battling a growing or established dependency on alcohol.

Here’s what to look for – and what it can mean.


They laugh it off

Humour is a wholesome and powerful thing. Laughter stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, both of which can positively regulate our mood and make us feel good.

It’s telling, however, what we make jokes about to those we trust and are close to. Take the current pandemic as an example; how many times have you heard colleagues and friends crack a joke about waking up late and taking calls in their dressing gowns? While these can appear harmless and are often made in good nature, they often have a sadder reality behind them.

The person who laughs about oversleeping and waking up late could be genuinely struggling with a host of things. Similarly, a person who jokes often about having ‘one too many’ might be indirectly expressing the fact they’re actually finding it hard to control their alcohol intake. This is particularly true in present days; addiction thrives in isolation and the radical shakeup of our lives and routines is psychologically taxing. Many adults are turning to substances for comfort – and alcohol is no exception.


They hide their drinking

Nobody is proud of their problematic alcohol use and addiction. It is a disease that compels individuals towards doing things they know will cause harm to themselves and others. People struggling with alcohol have a conscience just like any other adult, and their desire to avoid both harm and the stigma of alcoholism can drive them to hide their drinking.

Practically speaking, this can show in a friend or loved one as a suspicious change in behaviour. They may change their routines socially and at home and can appear eager to avoid discussions on their daily activities. In many cases, a person hiding their escalating alcohol use will do so behind a mask of good cheer and mood; behind that mask lies a person in pain.

It is, of course, important to be careful if you’re suspicious about a loved one hiding things from you. A person hiding growing alcoholism and alcohol abuse will likely demonstrate other symptoms that indicate their issue more clearly. Always remember that as problematic alcohol use and addiction grow, other obligations in life shrink to make space for it; declines in career, social activity, reliability, and self-care are often first to go.


They minimise and manipulate

One of the more insidious ways in which a person can hide their alcohol problem is by minimising it. Often referred to as ‘gaslighting’, this false assurance that everything is in control causes real harm and confusion amongst families and social circles.

In many cases, it starts believably; your friend or partner goes too far. They get too drunk at a social event or even at home. You’re worried, they apologise. Life continues as normal – or so it seems. A week later, they’re too drunk again. This time, they convince you they’ve got it all under control. You trust them, after all? Isn’t that what great relationships are built on? Trust?

This manipulative behaviour is abusive in nature, and it’s an unfortunately common aspect of someone who is falling further into alcoholism and dependency on drinking. While not every person struggling with alcohol will do it, it’s extremely common in some form. Convincing friends, family and partners that you’re under control might even come from a good place emotionally; you don’t want to hurt their feelings, after all.

Unfortunately, the harm looks the same once it’s been done. Trust is broken, precedents are set and it’s hard to recover from a breach of that trust. If you’re worried about someone manipulating you or minimising the impact of their alcohol use, it’s important to set firm boundaries sooner rather than later. By doing so, you can catch the issue before it worsens, helping you to establish a strong and concise discourse that can force them to open up to you about the extent of their issues – and how you could help.


Things can get better

We thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this important article. If you’re still worried about the behaviour of a loved one, take heart; by arming yourself with the right knowledge on alcohol abuse you take an important first step in supporting them in recovery from it.

We encourage you to get in touch with our team directly for more advice and support at no obligation. Our enquiry team and therapists are certified professionals who have all personally battled and won against addiction before themselves. They’re kind, supportive and available today. To talk to them now, please call us on 0208 191 8920 or use our contact form.