Alcoholism: Signs and Symptoms of Denial

Stiff ArmLike all other addictions alcoholism can cause people to have a problem, yet deny that they have a problem. There are even some people that are really good at hiding their problems so that they can function in the real world and convince themselves that they do not have a problem with alcohol. Adults with an alcoholic condition will normally deny a problem truly exists until they reach rock bottom, but their friends and families will notice some warning signs that might lead them to believe there is a problem even before the person with the condition will admit it.

When you are a family member, friend, or even a coworker of someone that might have a problem with alcohol there are a few warning signs or symptoms you can look for. Denial is one symptom of alcoholics. Like most people they do not want to admit there is a problem or even consider the fact that they might be out of control.

When someone begins to drink socially or on occasion this is not a warning sign of alcoholism it only begins to become a potential problem when a person feels they need to have a drink in order to change their mood, because they have had a bad day, or because they think it makes them more fun.

Close family members might be the first to notice there is a problem when they see their loved ones drinking more often. This might bring them to begin asking questions about the amount of alcohol the person drinks maybe making the person defend themselves and their ability to control how much they drink and when. The defensive behavior can be seen as a sign and symptom of denial. Experts have studied alcoholism, the causes, and even why some are more prone to having a drinking problem leading them to believe people that feel guilty or ashamed about their drinking may have a problem. The guilt and the shame that they feel ends up coming out as denial and defensiveness instead of a cry for help.

Experts have even been so bold as to state you have a drinking problem if you have friends and family that worry about your drinking. Having people like friends and family worried about you and your drinking habits should lead people to believe that they have a drinking problem, but this normally leads them into another sign of drinking, which is lying and hiding the amount of alcohol that they drink and how often. A lot of times the person will lie so well that they will believe the lie themselves leaving yet another sign and symptom of denial.

Some alcoholics that are exhibiting signs and symptoms of denial will even lie about why they drink. They will tell their friends, family, and coworkers that they only drink to allow themselves to relax after a hard day at work, but this type of reaction is yet another sign there is a problem. People should be able to relax and feel better without a drink. In some people’s eyes this type of behavior might even be seen as a way to self medicate. If this is truly the case then the person with the drinking problem should really seek the help of a professional that will help get to the bottom of their troubles through therapy and maybe prescribed medication.

The signs and symptoms of denial to alcohol abuse listed above are really the beginning signs of abuse. There are many other signs of alcoholism that will indicate an even stronger problem. For example a person with an alcohol abuse problem will start to neglect their chores at home and their responsibilities at work. Family members will be the first to notice their loved one has not been cleaning up after themselves or maybe they are no longer willing to play with the kids. Coworkers will be the people that notice more sick days being used or deadlines not being met. All of these types of behaviors will prompt people to ask questions about drinking habits leaving the struggling person to lie and deny a problem truly exists.

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19 comments to Alcoholism: Signs and Symptoms of Denial

  • Dean

    I am going thru this right now. The hardest part is letting it go because there is no way you can ever convince them that they have a problem. They are also extremely good at turning it around and making it your problem, not theirs. Once you are past your codependency issues and stop trying to control it you just have to let it go. Then there is nothing to do but sit back and wait till they hit their bottom. You can only pray that they don’t hurt themselves or someone else on their way there. I have found that nothing irritates a alcoholic more than if the codependant in their life gets their life together. They will try twice as hard after that to get a reaction from you when they drink. The alcoholic in my life would always try to get that reaction so that she could justify the drinking.

  • C

    Actually, alcoholics blame everyone around them for anything and everything. We, sober and hard working, get yelled at and are told we are the problem – even when we are cleaning and cooking, etc. Mine sits and expects everything to be done – vacuuming, cooking cleaning – I am going to leave for hours to get away from the 24/7 drinking.

  • JC

    C, you are so right. Alcoholics are constantly blaming others for many things.

    One of the things I learned early on is that I was blaming the alcoholic for my unhappiness. When the reality of life is that we are responsible for our own happiness. I learned that happiness is a choice we make on a daily basis. A good friend of mine always says; “have a nice day unless you have made other plans.”

    The crazy thing about denial is that we suffer from it as well. We act like our lives are fine when living with an alcoholic, when really, things are all messed up.

    You have the right idea, getting away for a while. That’s taking care of yourself and working to find happiness apart from the alcoholic.

    Thanks for participating on the site.

  • Pat

    Dean, I love what you shared. When we get educated and start to understand the alcoholic’s personality then we no longer live in denial.

    I tried so many times to convince the alcoholic that they have a problem. Like you, I finally let go of the losing battle. The thing is though, I didn’t realize I was hitting a brick wall every time I confronted about their drinking problem. Once I started attending Al-anon I began to see that I had been doing the same things over and over, yet nothing was making the alcoholic change. They continued to deny that they had a problem.

    The key to finding serenity in this circle of denial is letting go of the alcoholic. Every article on this site that I have read has something valuable within that has helped me understand the situation that I am living in. The more I learn the less I am in denial of how dysfunctional this relationship with the alcoholic really is.

  • Karen

    This is great to read. I’ve recently come to accept that I am with an alcoholic. I’ve been blamed for his increased drinking – because his anxiety is up. I’ve been blamed for all of the problems. He even went to go see a counselor & told me they were addressing his drinking, but she wanted to wait to focus on that until his anxiety went down. I went with him to his counseling appt last week only to find out that she wasn’t aware of his drinking problem… He had only mentioned once that he drinks a few beers. The denial part is really hard to accept… I’m learning as I go. I’m trying to find a way to let go and move on with my life – it’s so hard.

  • Sandy

    I am 58 yrs old. I have been in denial, or “the dark” for my entire life due to Alcoholism. My father was an Alcoholic, and we didn’t know it until I was in my early 20′s, and he went to a treatment center. Damage to my soul had been done by that time, though I never connected my unhappiness/maladjustments to my father’s drinking. I went on to have many many (most) of my relationships with Alcoholic men. The last man in my life was someone that actively drank, but also has a criminal side to him. He survives according to his own special rules. A real master. One night when he was drunk God sent me a sign! A rock your denial sign. It came in the form of a red neon sign above his head that flashed… Danger Danger. I kid you not. I ignored it!! — (I was in the middle of trying to save him.) I went on a few more yrs with him. Walked away from that relationship as if I needed an emotional cane. I do not exagerate. Now by the grace of my Higher Power I’m in recovery. This disease has tentacles! Take care/beware.

  • Dean

    Ive been there too Karen. She used to go see many counselors. I thought it was for her drinking. At some point they would drag me in and attack me because I had been treating her so bad. Alcoholics can manipulate anyone, including counselors. We are no longer together, I filed for divorce. She recently told me that since I am out of the picture she no longer craves alcohol. Thats funny cause she drinks even more now than when we were together. She also told me she has never been a alcoholic, that was only my perception. If shes not a alcoholic she sure is awful good at faking it lol.

  • Betty Peters

    My son has a huge drinking problem. He comes home from work, goes straight to the bar and drinks til @ 9 p.m. during the wk and if you try to talk to him, he bites your head off. His wife left him because things got too violent with hitting & verbal abuse (usually started by her). He does nothing at home. Daughter, son & bf live with him. BF does not work, daughter does. Son paying too many of their bills – lots of verbal abuse. The only thing he lives for is to go out drinking. He keeps his job so he can do that. His job is the only thing he is proud of currently. However, he speaks to people like they are idiots no matter what their station in life. He needs help and won’t get it. Do we just let him fall flat on his face? He drives drunk sometimes. So afraid he will kill somebody or himself. Usually tried to find a ride and leaves his car where ever. How do we help him? He is 52.

  • JC

    Sandy, I love the GOD story. He has a way of leading us if we will heed to the voice. The beautiful thing about God is that even though we take a wrong turn, He still uses it all for good when we get back on the right path.

    Thanks for participating in the conversation!

  • JC

    Dean, your comment: “She recently told me that since I am out of the picture she no longer craves alcohol.” Wow, she is still trying to push your buttons. The trap I used to get caught in was wanting to prove that the alcoholic was lying. It took me a long time to learn how to not react to the alcoholic.

    Don’t buy into the blame game. One of the first things I learned about alcoholism is that I didn’t cause the alcoholic to drink.

    There are several dynamics happening in the short comment you made. I can see that you are still keeping tabs on how much she is drinking and perhaps there is a compulsion to confront the lies. Once I learned how to cope with alcoholism, my life was filled with serenity. Since you are divorcing you will have a lot more peace in your life as long as you don’t allow her to rent space in your head…that’s where the real battle is fought.

    Anyway within the context of the article, she is in denial about her present state and you are not!

    Thanks of participating and offering your experience, strength and hope!

  • JC

    Betty, I’d like to offer a little guidance in regard to a couple of your questions.

    1-Do we just let him fall flat on his face?

    At age 15 or 52, we should let the alcoholic suffer the consequences of their actions. You will find some great tips here: How To Stop Enabling An Alcoholic.

    2-How do we help him?

    This article is good: Helping The Defiant Alcoholic.

    Thanks for posting Betty!

  • Ashley

    My husband drinks behind my back all the time. I can smell the beer on him when he gets home from work. It drives me crazy when he says he is going to make a run to the grocery store for something and then returns smelling like a Budwiser.

    I tried to talk to him a couple of months ago in a loving way but he just got angry with me. I’m afraid for our relationship. If he continues to do this I don’t think I can live here anymore.

    I love him very much but at the same time I see the reality of his drinking problem. I am capable of supporting myself and not fearful of leaving him if I have to. I just love him so much and want things to work out with us.

    When I tried to talk to him he said that he didn’t have a problem. He said he could quit drinking at anytime. He is in major denial because he drinks everyday and I clearly see this as a problem.

  • Dean

    Thanks for the comments JC. Your dead on. It has only been a month since I filed so shes still in my head. Getting better every day. I wish I didn’t have to keep tabs on her drinking but she does it where I know everybody so I have to hear about it if I want to or not. Since she had no friends there I know she is doing it to get in my head. As long as she can make me the sick one she can convince herself that she is ok. Thats not working for her so good anymore, I no longer react to it.

  • C

    The real sad part of an alcoholic relationship is that all the sober partner wants is a loving relationship, and the alcoholic cannot be actively involved with anyone. I didn’t know about the drinking when I started dating the last guy – neighbors never mentioned it when we met at their house.

    Thank heaven for honest people who post their comments here – I am learning how to get over the abuse that the alcoholic uses to make us look like we are mistreating them! Mine has not hit bottom but he is drinking 24/7 – only a matter of time

  • Bart

    The thing I remember the most was the alcoholic lying all of the time. Constantly denying the truth of many situations. It wasn’t just about how much she drank, she would deny that she had been at the bar down the street all day, when my neighbor told me he was talking to her there. I saw her car there and she made up some lame story about how she went to a friends house and decide to not drive over and instead rode with her friend…

    She lived in a world consumed with lies and denial. So sad that things didn’t work out with us, but she just got too addicted to way too many things. When she started staying out all night hanging out with a guy down the street 15 years older than her, she denied having an attraction to him Funny, when we broke up three weeks later they were living together.

  • Sally

    A picture is worth well more than a thousand words. I have a picture I took when my ex- and his son made a night of it, and both were falling-down drunk. Son comes up from the basement where they were attempting to play pool and heads into the kitchen. I head a loud ‘thump!’ and when I get up to look, he’s passed out in front of the refrigerator. Ex- comes up a few minutes later, says he’s hungry and gets a case of the huffs when I don’t volunteer to fix him something to eat. He heads into the kitchen and I hear him stumbling around trying to fix himself a bowl of beans. I hear a couple of loud thumps, but for a while heard him still moving around. Then, silence. When I walk around the corner, he’s passed out in the middle of the kitchen floor, bowl of beans spilled everywhere, flat on his back, lying there next to his son. I grabbed the camera and made plenty of pictures, then stashed them on my computer and emailed them to myself. Next day, when they asked me what happened, I pulled out the camera. They deleted the pictures, of course. Pictures don’t lie. If the drunk any of you are dealing with doesn’t believe what they hear, they can’t deny what they see. If I ever feel myself pining for the ex-, and I did for a while after I left, I’d pull up my good times/bad times list and those pictures, and the feeling would evaporate like the sun burns off the morning mist. Blessedly, I’m a strong enough personality that the ex- has left me in peace and no one would think about trying to update me on his activities. Here’s to the good life, drunk free!

  • Mary

    Sally, I don’t have any pictures like yours, but I do have journal entries that I refer to occasionally. They paint a really good image of what my life was like when I was with my ex alcoholic husband. When I start slipping into denial of how the relationship really was all I have to do is read a couple of the pages…all of the sings are there. He treated me like trash. It’s weird though, sometimes I really miss him.

  • Sally

    Mary, I understand how you feel. That’s when I re-read the good times/bad times list I made. That always snaps me right out of it!
    Then I call a friend or get outdoors for a short while. Over the past 7 months, the times when I miss him have become few and far between, and getting more so. Stay strong. You’re in my thoughts.

  • Bella

    I am agree with the absolute denial of a husband’s drinking. It has been 3 years of binge drinking. Cannot stop until he is completely drunk; each and every time. Does an injunction usually take about all their guns? And, does it charge them with domestic violence? Will pictures attached to the injunction help with the approval from the judge?

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