Signs of an Alcoholic: Recognizing Alcohol Abuse

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 03,
| 4 Sources

Catching an alcohol problem early can save a lot of heartache later

We should all be aware of the signs of an alcoholic, because alcoholism can strike anyone today. Parents are now actively searching for the signs of an alcoholic in their teenagers, however, it is largely adults that develop problems and that are often well into their addiction before it is noticed by anyone else.

Rather than just watching over teens, people should be paying more attention to the drinking habits of adult family membersIn fact, over 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol use issues, according to a 2012 research. It helps to identify the signs of alcohol use disorder early, as alcohol dependency that is caught in its infancy is far easier to treat than that in more advanced stages.

"If you're unsure whether alcohol may be a problem, speak with one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience they understand the struggle. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

It may be surprising to find that a grandfather, aunt, or the favorite uncle in the family may have a drinking problem, but current alcoholism statistics illustrate that such occurrences are far from rare.

The following are three signs that a member of your family might be alcohol dependent. Use them to determine if a particular family member really does have a problem or use them to analyze your family as a whole for potential problems.

3 Signs of An Alcoholic

#1: Family events are often disrupted with unusual or inappropriate behavior.

There are two things that can cause disruptive behavior when at a social gathering. The person may be drunk and unaware of the inappropriateness of their actions or they may be suffering from the beginning of alcohol withdrawal if they have not been able to drink before or during the social gathering.

It's easy to spot a sloppy drunk falling down all over the place or passing out with their faces in their food. Unfortunately, most alcoholics don't present themselves in that manner. Rather, they may say inappropriate things and do things that seem off or even abusive to others. They may have a temper and explode for seemingly no reason.

Any type of abrupt and out-of-the-ordinary behavior may be a sign of an alcoholic in your family. You may just notice that someone seems like an entirely different person than they used to be. Change in behavior and personality is common with alcoholism.

#2: The absence of someone who used to come around all the time.

One thing an alcoholic will do is start to withdraw from family members and friends who will not support their addiction. They may stop showing up for family dinners and may make themselves unavailable for things they used to enjoy doing.

There are many other things that could cause someone to stop showing up for family events or to stop giving you phone calls and text messages. This is just one of the many potential signs of an alcoholic in the family.

This is especially likely to happen when the addiction is first beginning and they start to enjoy spending time alone with the bottle rather than spending time with others. Later on in the addiction, this may change as they need others to continue the addiction (e.g. to supply them with the money to drink or the drink itself).

#3: Drinking is affecting someone's life in a negative manner yet they continue to drink.

There are many functional alcoholics that go on for some time without anyone noticing they are drinking too much, but eventually the addiction will start to take over. They will start to drink more and more and at very inappropriate times as they need it to get through the day. This leads to a multiple of problems:

  • Trouble at work or loss of employment
  • Evictions and home foreclosures
  • Turmoil in marriage and/or personal relationships
  • Inability to take care of children physically or financially
  • DUI convictions
  • Arrests for underage drinking
  • Trouble at school or with sports teams
Many alcoholics will eventually lose their homes if they don't have someone else to pay the bills. This often happens when they fail a drug test or get caught drinking at work and lose their jobs. It can also happen in extreme cases where the alcoholic buys the drinks rather than paying bills or paying the mortgage/rent.

The real signs of an alcoholic in the family is the continuation of drinking after these negative consequences start to take place. Alcoholism is characterized by an impaired ability to control or stop alcohol use in spite of negative social, health, or occupational consequences. This is a sign that they are unable to stop on their own, even as they watch everything fall apart around them.

In many cases today, alcoholics can continue drinking daily without anyone noticing or saying anything then suddenly they get caught driving drunk. That first DUI is often the real eye-opener for family members. The early stage of alcoholism is actually difficult to detect. Hence, in all too many cases those who love the addict will even miss this sign. They believe it was a one-time occurrence, the result of a rare party, or believe other lies spun by the addict.

This final sign of an alcoholic is the big one that should open your eyes. The first two are signs that may be harder to spot and which are often signs of an alcoholic 'only' in the first phases. If you can catch it then, maybe you can help the family member before it snowballs and rally impacts on their life and those around them.

love an addict
Is your loved one showing signs of alcoholism? Loving an alcoholic is one of the most painful things you will ever have to cope with. Yet, it doesn't need to be, C.P.Lehman in his book, Help Me! I'm In Love With An Addict gives you the strategies that will enable you to find happiness and get your life back on well as other skills that are crucial when attempting to cope with an alcohol dependent.

"If you're unsure whether alcohol may be a problem, speak with one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience they understand the struggle. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Rethinking Drinking. What are symptoms of alcohol use disorder?.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. October 2020.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. 2020.

Office of Personnel Management. Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors.

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