signs of an alcoholic

9 Signs Your Loved One Struggles with Alcoholism

If you have ever watched the television show Intervention, you know that alcoholism and drug addiction can be ugly. Alcoholics neglect or reject their loved ones. They get in trouble with the law. They disregard their own personal appearance, health, and cleanliness. They might also resort to crime and violence to get their fix, rather than holding down an honest job.

Yet a person doesn’t have to fulfill all — or even any — of those criteria to be an alcoholic. Believe it or not there, are plenty of people who look successful and well-adjusted who nevertheless struggle with addiction. What are the signs of an alcoholic, if they aren’t obvious? Read on to learn the subtle signs that addiction has taken hold of your friend or loved one.

9 Signs of an Alcoholic To Watch Out For

One of the most frightening aspects of alcoholism and drug addiction is that the addict learns, over time, how to alter or conceal her behavior. So don’t blame yourself if you don’t notice your loved one’s alcoholism until someone else calls your attention to it. She’s gone to great pains to keep it under wraps.

1. Her Health Isn’t Good

Of course, alcohol abuse leads to a whole host of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, stroke, and many more. But in the early stages of alcoholism, the alcoholic may cite not feeling well when she is, in fact, simply drunk or hungover.

Does your friend have frequent headaches or stomachaches? Does she often call in sick to work with a “24-hour bug” or cancels plans because she’s just not feeling up to it? These could be excuses intended to hide heavy drinking or a bad hangover. 

2. Her Life Revolves Around Alcohol

She’s the first one to the bar after work or admits to “pregaming” before going out. You can always count on her to have a flask in her purse or an extra bottle of wine in the fridge. If someone suggests an alcohol-free activity or destination, she is quick to counter with a different suggestion, one that includes booze.

Most people don’t care that much if a restaurant serves beer and wine or not. A seeming preoccupation with whether or not alcohol will be readily available is a sign of an unhealthy relationship with drinking.

3. She Blames Others for Her Drinking

People who aren’t alcoholics have no reason to shift blame. They drink because they want to, and make no bones about it. But if a person is addicted, she might blame others. 

It’s her boss’s fault for making the job so stressful. Her husband is a jerk, and she has to drink to get along with him. Or it could be a roommate who is always partying, and your friend is only trying to keep up and fit in. Perhaps her dad was an alcoholic, so it’s her destiny — or so she says.

4. There’s Always an Excuse

Similarly, alcoholics will use any excuse to explain their drinking. It’s Friday and the end of the work week; it’s Sunday and therefore back to work tomorrow.

Eating chicken wings isn’t the same without a glass of beer to wash them down.

It’s her dead mother’s birthday, the anniversary of her divorce, or the wine will turn sour if it’s not drunk up.

5. Her Finances Are Suffering

Sure, there are ways to cut costs when it comes to drinking — doing so at home, buying liquor and beer when it’s on sale, taking advantage of happy hour, trying to get others to buy them a drink. But dependency on alcohol will add up. 

And while everyone goes through lean times now and again, financial troubles could be an indication that your friend is spending too much on booze. If she has ever asked you for a loan so that she can buy herself a bottle, be wary.

6. She Acts Recklessly

There aren’t many adults in the world who haven’t acted irresponsibly or recklessly a few times in their lives. We all do stupid stuff.

But you might get concerned if your friend or relative seems to be continually getting into scrapes.

Some examples of dangerous behavior that could indicate an addiction to alcohol include:

  • Going home with strangers
  • Promiscuity or practicing unsafe sex
  • Blowing off responsibilities
  • Showing up to work or classes while intoxicated
  • Engaging in criminal activity

7. She Gets a DUI or Other Charges

Again, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes even colossal ones like drinking and driving. Being charged with a DUI doesn’t automatically mean that someone is an alcoholic.

But it is an opportunity to take a good, long look at one’s behavior and lifestyle, and potentially make some changes.

If you have a friend or relative who continues drinking even after a DUI or accident, she might have a problem. Other criminal charges could also be warning signs, especially if she is committing crimes while drunk or in order to finance her drinking.

8. Her Priorities Are Upside Down

Alcoholics will sometimes neglect their children, ignore their work responsibilities or other obligations, cut classes, or generally stop caring about the things that ought to be important to them.

As their addiction progresses, alcohol becomes the most important aspect of their life.

It can be difficult to break through when someone has reached that point. However, it’s still well worth trying.

9. She Admits She Can’t Control Her Drinking

Maybe, in a moment of weakness, your loved one has admitted to you that her drinking is out of control. She’s scared by it, or she can’t help herself. Especially in combination with any of these other warning signs, this is a clear cry for help. 

If someone confides in you about their problem drinking, help them get sober.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know what signs of an alcoholic to look out for, you should be better equipped to help a friend or relative who is struggling. You might talk to them one on one, or gather together with others to conduct an intervention.

Not sure where to start? Contact us to schedule a confidential call, and we can help get the ball rolling.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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