Can Using Cleaning Chemicals Exhibit the Same Signs as Drinking?

My wife continues to battle with alcoholism. Last night she exhibited all the signs of someone who had been drinking. She swears she did not consume any alcohol. She had been cleaning the house all day using Clorox and some other chemicals. Is it possible these chemicals could lead to her showing signs of drinking, including the inability to write her name and recite the ABC’s?

Just trying to find out if I’m being lied to again…


Thank you for asking that hard question. It sounds like you are still unsure about your wife’s commitment to recovery. That is one of the hardest parts in the recovery process, earning the trust back of family members. This can be a long and sometimes difficult road to go down, but with time, consistency and care, it is possible to regain your trust and faith in your wife.

Now let’s look at the question you asked. You wrote, “Is it possible these chemicals could lead to her showing signs of drinking..?” It’s hard to answer that question precisely without knowing more about the chemicals used and how she used them.

Looking specifically at the effects of bleach on the individual, some of the common symptoms of too much exposure to bleach fumes include blurred vision, burning in the eyes and nose, lightheadedness, coughing, shortness of breath and watery eyes. Could it be possible that she was experiencing this, which is what lead her to be unable to write her name or recite the ABC’s? Well, obviously yes it is possible. Is it likely? Well, that is a harder question to answer.

The truth of the matter is that no one will be able to know the answer. That is where the difficulty in trusting your wife comes in to play. The addiction she has to alcohol has made her do things that she would not normally do, and likely, all of those are things she regrets. Now is the long process of rebuilding trust. She has to be consistent and demonstrate her continued commitment to sobriety and recovery. That means a lot of work.

For your end, you need to be open to the possibility that she may be telling the truth, but also willing to confront her when she is not. These kinds of situations are really common in recovery and will happen most often in the early stages of sobriety. It may be useful to have an agreed-upon plan for what steps will be taken if there is a suspicion she is drinking again. This could include seeking further treatment, taking a breathalyzer test, or anything else that seems like it would help you with your concerns.

One thing that may be most helpful to you is to work with a counselor or therapist of your own. Having someone apart from the situation to talk to, can provide a great amount of relief and understanding for you. It may also be useful to work in counseling together to strengthen your marriage. Working with a marriage and family therapist can provide you new ways to communicate openly, plan for ways to handle conflicts, which will happen, and to start to open up and trust one another again.

Trust is a hard thing to earn back once it’s lost. It looks like your trust in your wife is still a work in progress. I can see you are trying and want her to be healthier. Those are great starting points. Now you need to work with her and plan out how to handle these situations so when they come up, you both will know what to expect. Your trust can only grow from there.

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