There is a saying in the addiction recovery community that goes something like this, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” The meaning, of course, depends on who said it and in what context, but generally, we take it to mean that honesty is the best approach to facing addiction and seeking help.
Are you concerned about your own drinking habits and that you’ve lied about how much you drink? Do you keep alcohol hidden from friends and family? Or are you worried that someone else’s secret drinking is a sign that he or she is an alcoholic?
Underestimating Versus Lying About Drinking
A Canadian survey looked at “yesterday consumption” of alcohol to test the theory that adults tend to stretch the truth or underestimate how much they drink. They surveyed more than 43,000 Canadians and asked them about their daily drinking habits. They then asked how much alcohol they drank the day prior to the survey. Their theory was that if the respondent was honest about how much they drank the day prior, and it was significantly more than their average daily consumption, it’s likely that they underestimate how much they drink.
Before you hit “print” with the intent to show it to someone as proof that they’re lying or underestimating, let’s take a closer look at what secret drinking and hidden alcohol might mean.
What is Secret Drinking?
Secret drinking is a common practice among alcoholics who have a high tolerance for alcohol. Because they have to drink more to get the desired effect from alcohol, they might secretly drink before an event; some even have a name for this — pregaming.
If someone drinks alone, are they secretly drinking? No. The key differentiator here is intent. The secret drinker is hiding his drinking as part of a game plan. She’s hiding alcohol from friends, family, and others so it appears as if he or she had no more to drink than anyone else.
If someone close to you seems to drink in secret or habitually lie about how much they drink, that is a warning side that they have a problem. If you or someone you know hides alcohol or empty bottles in the trash, that too could be a sign of alcoholism.
How to Recognise Hidden Alcoholism
There are a few ways you can recognise signs of hidden alcoholism and secret drinking.
Some alcoholics prefer to drink vodka because it is clear and looks like water, and it doesn’t have the strong odours that other alcoholic beverages have. Just because someone prefers vodka doesn’t mean they’re an alcoholic. But someone who is hiding their vodka, filling water bottles with vodka, or appears to be pouring clear liquids into other nonalcoholic drinks (coffee, soft drinks or tea, for example) may have hidden alcoholism.
Another way alcoholics hide their drinking is by using secret flasks or vessels that are disguised as something else, such as a soda pop can, electronic devices, handbags, perfume and lotion bottles. Again, just because someone has these devices doesn’t mean they are alcoholics; these products are actually marketed to consumers as ways to sneak alcohol into events (which we would never advocate). However, if you see someone using one regularly or in an inappropriate way (at school, while driving a car, or in the lunchroom at work), it could be an indication that they have a drinking problem.
Alcoholics might also hide their drinking by tucking empty bottles and cans deep into their rubbish bins. They might also hide bottles in closets, deep in cabinets, or under and behind furniture. If you find bottles tucked away in these not-so-secret places, this could be a sure sign your loved one has a drinking problem.
Is Hiding Alcohol a Sign of Alcoholism?
A survey among Brits suggests that 27% of us have lied about our drinking habits, and the person we lie to the most is our healthcare providers.
- 59% have lied to their healthcare providers
- 43% have lied to their parents
- 40% have lied to friends
- 37% have lied to partners
- 32% have lied to colleagues
- 31% have lied to their children
Lying, however, does not suggest that someone is an alcoholic or problem drinker. Nor does it mean that every person who stretches the truth about how much they drink has a problem. It could be that it’s simply none of your business.
It’s important to understand the common characteristics of alcoholics and consider other factors when you think you or someone you care about has a drinking problem. Continue to explore the resources on this website and, when you are ready, reach out to one of our residential treatment programme specialists. We have successfully treated thousands of people who’ve struggled with alcoholism, as well as other types of addiction.
If you’re concerned about depression and quitting drinking, reach out to our 24-hour help-line specialists at +44 844 740 1394 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, or concerns.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | June 14, 2021