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7 Not-So-Subtle Signs a Friend is Struggling with Alcoholism

I have a girlfriend I’m worried about – let’s call her Candace. She chugs cocktails, can’t hold down a job and causes drunken scenes like it’s nobody’s business. She wears the pain on her face and you can feel anger wafting off of her from across the room.

Candace is an alcoholic and everyone knows it…everyone but her.

Pay Attention to the Signs

If you have a friend like this, then Candace’s story probably sounds all too familiar. But how do you really know if your friend is in trouble or drinking to the point of dependency? Luckily, there are some common red flags that accompany alcoholism and, if you know what to look for, these signs can help you determine whether or not your friend has a serious drinking problem.

Red flag behaviors include:

    • Numbing Emotions:Candace is in her late 30’s and constantly laments that her “life is in shambles” – the main reason being that she can’t find a boyfriend. To deal with this insecurity, she drinks until she doesn’t feel anymore. Whenever alcohol or drug use becomes a crutch to deal with painful feelings, it’s a telltale sign there’s a problem.
  • Withdrawing from Family and Friends:
    After one of her benders, Candace “goes into hiding,” embarrassed of what she said and did during one of her blackouts. After a couple of weeks laying low, Candace re-appears, thinking that it’s all under control and we’ve forgotten her past drunken antics. Unfortunately, she’s wrong on both accounts.
  • Problem with Limiting Alcohol:
    “I’m just going to have one.”This is a phrase we’re all familiar with…and one that Candace constantly announces. If someone tries to limit themselves to a certain number of drinks, only to find they repeatedly go over said self-defined limit, it’s a common sign of a drinking problem.
  • Unsuccessful Interventions:
    Others, including some of my close friends, tried sitting Candace down to express concern about her drinking. They recounted instances where her behavior was totally out of line. Despite having her best interests at heart, Candace quickly writes their concerns off, choosing to stay in denial rather than admit to herself that they’re right.
  • Personal Drinking Concerns:
    Waking up filled with shame is the worst way to start your day. Oftentimes, my friends receive I’m sorry texts and emails from Candace the morning after, promising never to act that way again. If deep-down you’re questioning your self-control and concerned about your own drinking habits, you may want to rethink your relationship with alcohol.
  • Frequent Mood Swings:
    Alcohol use can affect a person’s mood and thinking, with sudden outbursts, intense rage and sadness all being common side effects. I never know the Candace I’m going to get, but I do know she’s going to cause a scene. For instance, one time at a wedding, she punched my boyfriend when the bartender cut her off; another time, she cried into her dinner about how awful her life is.
  • Memory Loss and Blackouts:
    Consuming large quantities of alcohol can produce a blackout. Due to Candace’s small frame and affinity towards chugging drinks, she’s usually in a temporary state of amnesia. Forgetting certain events or facts – or completely failing to remember portions of time – is a serious red flag.


If you have a friend like Candace, chances are he or she has a problem with alcohol. However, admitting that they have a problem can be quite difficult. Regardless, speak up and express your concerns. Tackling the problem early gives them a greater chance to cut down and minimize the role alcohol plays in life.

Additional Reading: When Does a Moderate Drinker Turn into an Alcoholic?

Image Source: iStock

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