Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast

Secret Drinking Red Flag Alert: Sneaking a Cheeky Pour to Drinking Home Alone

February 04, 2024 Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb Season 3 Episode 67
Secret Drinking Red Flag Alert: Sneaking a Cheeky Pour to Drinking Home Alone
Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
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Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
Secret Drinking Red Flag Alert: Sneaking a Cheeky Pour to Drinking Home Alone
Feb 04, 2024 Season 3 Episode 67
Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb

It’s underground. It’s shameful. It’s dangerous and it is happening in households all around us. Many hiding their drinking look great on the outside (for a while, for years even) and many do not know why they are doing it. They want out, but it’s a really hard behaviour to fess up to. It’s very personal, runs deep and very confusing.

In this episode, we delve into the often-overlooked issue of secret drinking. We chat about the reasons behind this behaviour and its potential consequences. From using alcohol as a coping mechanism to feeling misunderstood, we uncover the triggers that contribute to hidden drinking at home. Join us as we explore the importance of self-expression and radical honesty, and learn the steps you can take to break free from the burden of secret drinking. Whether you're looking for guidance or simply seeking to understand this silent struggle, this episode offers hope and insight to help you on your journey towards living an authentic and fulfilling life.

Secret drinking… can be as ‘small’ as:

👉 Sneaking an extra cheeky glass without your partner knowing

👉 Drinking a glass or 2 before a party and denying it

👉 Hiding your glass (in the pantry? Behind the toaster?)

and it can turn into:

👉 Hiding a bottle (under the sink? in a drawer?)

👉 Hiding empties (and waiting until bin day)

👉 Drinking in a coffee cup to hide the alcohol

👉 Drinking home alone and denying it

Then grow into something quite serious, like

👉 Drinking in the morning when your partner and kids leave

The list goes on.

Hiding things, being dishonest about your drinking, no matter how small at first, can lead to feelings of emptiness (as no one truly knows who you are and what you are doing - even yourself) which contributes to the cycle.

Sneaky habits around alcohol are of course red flags. So, of course, best to catch this one early. 

Please send us any questions or topics you would like us to address,

Meg and Bella xo

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

It’s underground. It’s shameful. It’s dangerous and it is happening in households all around us. Many hiding their drinking look great on the outside (for a while, for years even) and many do not know why they are doing it. They want out, but it’s a really hard behaviour to fess up to. It’s very personal, runs deep and very confusing.

In this episode, we delve into the often-overlooked issue of secret drinking. We chat about the reasons behind this behaviour and its potential consequences. From using alcohol as a coping mechanism to feeling misunderstood, we uncover the triggers that contribute to hidden drinking at home. Join us as we explore the importance of self-expression and radical honesty, and learn the steps you can take to break free from the burden of secret drinking. Whether you're looking for guidance or simply seeking to understand this silent struggle, this episode offers hope and insight to help you on your journey towards living an authentic and fulfilling life.

Secret drinking… can be as ‘small’ as:

👉 Sneaking an extra cheeky glass without your partner knowing

👉 Drinking a glass or 2 before a party and denying it

👉 Hiding your glass (in the pantry? Behind the toaster?)

and it can turn into:

👉 Hiding a bottle (under the sink? in a drawer?)

👉 Hiding empties (and waiting until bin day)

👉 Drinking in a coffee cup to hide the alcohol

👉 Drinking home alone and denying it

Then grow into something quite serious, like

👉 Drinking in the morning when your partner and kids leave

The list goes on.

Hiding things, being dishonest about your drinking, no matter how small at first, can lead to feelings of emptiness (as no one truly knows who you are and what you are doing - even yourself) which contributes to the cycle.

Sneaky habits around alcohol are of course red flags. So, of course, best to catch this one early. 

Please send us any questions or topics you would like us to address,

Meg and Bella xo

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Speaker 1:

Hi, I'm glad you've tuned in. It's Isabella here, and today we're going to talk about, I guess, what is a controversial topic secret drinking or hidden drinking. It's underground, it's shameful, it's dangerous and it's happening in many households all around us. Many hide their drinking, look really great on the outside for a while, for even years, and many don't know why they're doing it. So it puts that extra layer of disappointment and shame, and it can be really, really confusing. Most people that engage in this behaviour one out, but it's a really hard behaviour to fess up to. It's very personal, very confusing. So I really think it's a great topic to tackle. I think men and women but women in particular really need to be reassured that they are not alone, that there are reasons for this behaviour that are not as obvious as they may first seem, that we're going to talk about today, and to have some hope, some inspiration that there are ways out of this horrible situation. And if you don't resonate with this, do stay tuned though, because secret or hidden drinking can start off quite innocuous. You might actually have some of these behaviours in your drinking style now, and it's worth just knowing because they can quickly snowball. So first up, if you're caught in a drinking cycle that is quite moderate and consistent and you're drinking at rates that worry you, you might be physically addicted. So please do reach out to your GP or the Clean Slate Clinic for advice on a safe, medically guided detox. It can be really dangerous to manage this by yourself, so please get expert advice. And just the second thing I would say upfront is that if you're noticing some secrecy around your drinking behaviours, it's really important just to say do treat this seriously, do treat it as a red flag. It's really associated with quite a high degree of dangerous drinking because you're really trying to drink quickly and in large quantities. So it can escalate and your tolerance can really get high quite suddenly. Okay, well, let's look at some examples here.

Speaker 1:

So secret or hidden drinking can be really as small or innocuous as just sneaking an extra cheeky glass without your partner knowing. Or you're pouring the glasses, you do an extra pour and knock it back, and then keep going Drinking a glass or two before a party, then denying it, hiding your glass, say, for example, in the pantry or behind the toaster. So then it can turn into well hiding a bottle that you've drunk alone might be under the sink, in a drawer or in your closet? Have you ever found a bottle, say, in the garage or somewhere in your house, that you've stashed, that you've forgotten about? And then you stumble across it months later and just go, oh, hiding empties, quite a lot of them, wrapping them up, putting them in your wardrobe, waiting until binda drinking in a coffee cup to hide the alcohol that you're drinking, drinking home alone and denying it. And then it can really grow into something really serious, like drinking in the morning when your partner and kids leave.

Speaker 1:

So you can see how it tracks, and I'd even include accidental drinking, so randomly, recklessly, knocking them back without keeping track, not wanting to know, not wanting to even engage in the topic of how many units of alcohol you're consuming at any one time. And I've even heard of people that have drunk through bottles at home that have been really special bottles, and so they've spent ages trying to source and replace those bottles. So it becomes a really confusing time where you're actually devoting so much of your energy and time to covering your tracks, replacing the bottles, looking sober when your partner comes home and you know what that does. It turns you into somebody that you never thought you would become. You're turning into somebody that's really unfamiliar to you. You might ordinarily value truth and honesty, authenticity in others and yourself, but yet there's this one thing, this substance that's turning you into somebody you don't even recognise anymore. That's a really lonely, disconnected place to be and it's quite dangerous because it perpetuates the cycle, because if you're not recognising who you are, then it feels almost inconsequential to hurt that person by drinking more and you kind of feel less value and disconnected from that person. So you just do it. You just do it.

Speaker 1:

So what I'd like to really do is talk about some of the reasons which might be behind this behaviour. Some might resonate with you, some might not, and you might know, from listening to my story in this podcast and various times that I've mentioned it, that at one point before I was had to stop drinking, I very much entered this flashing red zone and I started drinking home alone in secret. It actually started taking up quite a lot of my time and energy and turned me most definitely into a person I didn't recognise. I had left work with burnout. I was less accountable at home. I was lacking a bit of purpose there. I was craving connection. I was really trying to work out what I needed to do. I had lots of energy, didn't know where to put it and it just started very slowly. Oh, I'm going to do some painting. We'll have a glass of wine with that. Or I'm going to go out with my mates. I'll just have a few before I get there. I'll have some with my lunch. Oh, this makes the day home alone really interesting, until it didn't until it became made my life smaller and really whacked my confidence around and put me in a spot that was really hard to escape from. So, in hindsight, why was I doing that?

Speaker 1:

And I think there are some clear reasons that I'm going to talk about now. So the first one is about trying to tap into freedom, rebelliousness, adventure and independence. So drinking in secret, in defiance alone, can be an expression of autonomy, drawing on thoughts of adventure and rebelliousness. So if you're feeling quite good in the moment at home alone, you think well, I can enhance this feeling by this external substance and drink. Look, probably for most of us, when we were teenagers, we might have started with this style of drinking with our friends, our tribe, when we were younger. In our youth, drinking actually was very much anchored and attached to secrecy. Risk taking, spreading your wings and really expressing yourself as an autonomous person, separate from your parents, the patriarchy, society or the rest of it. So when you're craving that though, all those feelings, later on as an adult maybe your kids are a bit more independent you've got more time on your hands, like I did.

Speaker 1:

Well, is it any wonder that drinking automatically pops in your mind as something you might need to have with you to tap into those feelings? So if this resonates with you, can it really be worth asking what are you rebelling from? Why are you feeling that you don't have that already in your life? Are you feeling like your life's lacking a bit of freedom, a bit of fun? Are you missing that in some way? So the question needs to be there. Well, how can you find those things in your life without alcohol? And I think just being aware of craving rebelliousness and freedom is the first step. And then looking at your life and thinking, yeah, well, I probably haven't done anything that has allowed my inner child to express itself and to be playful, spontaneous and fun. And here are some ideas that often pop up in the course of my work Go to a comedy night, organise to see a concert I mean, why not even find a night from a band that was around in your youth and take a group of friends and see them singing, dancing, music, all those things that really ignite that inner play?

Speaker 1:

And one thing in hindsight that I know and it was quite a game changer for me in reframing all that I was doing is that drinking, in fact, when you are home alone, really makes your life a bit smaller and boring. You don't achieve anything. You think you might, but you don't, and that in itself is an act of compliance and you've been controlled by alcohol when really you're seeking the opposite. And it's really the path of breaking free from alcohol and engaging in activities outside and beyond it. That is the path to feeling free and independent and adventurous. But of course, this knowledge comes later, all right. So another reason why people exhibit this behaviour of drinking secretly, maybe in their house, behind their partner's, back home alone, is that I like to call this and I laugh with my clients about this as a bit of a middle finger up to the world where you were just saying bugger, you, I'm going to drink because I am doing my best. Life is hard, you don't get me, you don't understand me, so I'm going to do something for myself. Now.

Speaker 1:

You might recognise this behaviour if you're feeling in your house, frustrated Things you've been trying to articulate and not being received and heard. You're wanting to make changes or get help around the house to be recognised and validated and acknowledged in the very place that you live by your nearest dearest, and it's just not happening for you. You're feeling a bit like a doormat. You're finding it all a bit lacklustre, difficult, maybe tense at home. That can be a reason and if this resonates with you again, it's really good to be aware of it. Start asking yourself what is it that you want to say, what do you need and want? And a really good starting point is to write it all out in a journal. Get it all out, write it in the first person. This is what frustrates me, this is what you're not doing, this is what I need, and then perhaps think about when you feel safe, starting small and communicating it.

Speaker 1:

Another reason can be if you actually do feel emotionally unsafe in your home and it's kind of connection with what I said previously but if your boundaries are not being respected, if you're feeling, and if you're feeling a bit emotionally on edge or there's high tension, there's a lot of friction between you and your kids or you and your partner, and it really just activates your nervous system, puts you on edge and you feel emotionally unsafe. Well, you could be seeking alcohol in those hidden moments to soothe that frustration, to deactivate your nervous system, and if this is the case, it can be really helpful to talk to somebody about that and try and work out how it's manageable for you to put in place some boundaries that allow you to communicate what you need, to get the space and the support that you need to try and put you in an emotionally safe place so that you don't feel in survival mode. And I really think this is part of it. For some people, you can feel like you are in survival mode at home and so alcohol becomes that quick fix in quotes to help you get through. Another reason and it's also then connected to the one I was talking about previously is to self soothe.

Speaker 1:

A lot of introverts do this. Introverts that want to be extroverts which I think is me often drink two calm and activated nervous system, and this can happen pre-party or post-party and you're trying to activate an immediate relief. Anxiety, stress, things like that can really overwhelm you, and your coping mechanism for dealing with this has always been to reach for alcohol, and doing it alone in a quiet space can be something that's just a habit that you formed, that you do. One of the things I'd like to really underscore here is that this style of drinking creates a false self because nobody knows that you are doing it, so nobody can help you, nobody can relate to you. You are even disconnected from yourself because, in a way, you're drinking home alone without addressing what it is that you really need, and there are various reasons why people end up doing this, and it can very much be associated with a disconnect with the person that you are representing to the world.

Speaker 1:

On the outside might be someone that's got quite perfectionistic tendencies, or a people pleasing, a yes person. You're quite a bliging. Out there. In the external world, you're portraying yourself as quite successful and happy, an awesome mum, a great career person. There's a sense of imposter syndrome out there that you might even not necessarily have tapped into, but you're trying your hardest out there to be somebody that's really hard to live up to and it's exhausting, it's unattainable and it's pushing you away from really living your life in accordance with who you are. And a way of dealing with this is when the door shut and you're not having to present yourself in a certain way to other people is that you can let go of all that tension, that disconnection. And you do that by drinking. And, of course, when this happens, it can make you feel even more isolated and more alone because you're not tapping into who you really are and living your life authentically with purpose, and that then just creates more of a separation between who you are and who you're portraying in the world. And if we're not necessarily real, we don't know who we are, then numbing, abandoning ourselves, burying ourselves in our coal, it can actually feel quite inconsequential. What does it matter if I'm drinking large amounts or poisoning myself? Because I don't really, because this existence in my home of drinking home alone is not necessarily a real one that anybody knows or talks to.

Speaker 1:

There is a really great concept that I think ties in really nicely here and I stumbled across this with, of course, dr Anna Lemke's book Dopamine Nation, and it's all about radical honesty. It's an important tool to overcome our emotional addiction to alcohol and offers a way out of this hidden drinking cycle. And this means not just radical honesty about drinking, but all things in our life. Radical honesty telling the truth about things, large and small, especially when doing so exposes our foibles and entails consequences is essential not just to recovery from addiction but for all of us trying to live a more balanced life in our reward saturated ecosystem. First, radical honesty promotes awareness of our actions. Second, it fosters intimate human connections. Third, it leads to a truthful autobiography which holds us accountable not just to our present but also to our future selves. Further, telling the truth is contagious and might even prevent the development of future existence. So it's page 176 of this amazing book. So truth telling is integral, even when it feels uncomfortable, and it forces us to confront the imperfect reality of our lives about who we really are.

Speaker 1:

So a really important step in dealing with combating a drinking style that might have taken a secret or hidden turn is to start using radical honesty in your life on all levels, when it comes to voicing your opinions, telling people what you need and what you're drinking, and expressing that at least to somebody that you feel really safe about. And by all means you know, book a discovery, call in with Meg or I and just practice saying it to us because saying it out loud is the first step to that awareness and being radically honest. But there's more to it than this. So when we're honest with ourselves and to others, it's taking us out of survival mode. It's about needing the world around us to be safe, predictable and orderly. So, in this style, we're also expecting others around us to be radically honest with us. And when people around us are telling the truth, even if it feels less glamorous and shiny, we feel safer and more comfortable about our place in the world. It's also connected with our need to express what we need and want and to have some really good boundaries. That is going to help us deal with our frustration, our middle fingers, our need for rebellion. It's all really quite connected. Look, radical honesty it offers a way out of this survival mode and danger. If we tell the truth, we're more authentic, alive, brave, we're speaking our truth. And finally, I think it can be really helpful to just to do some work around your own personal value systems. Getting in touch with who we are, knowing what we value and trying to live in alignment with those values can really help us get out of this cycle of frustration and unhappiness in our own personal lives. So how does this look like for you?

Speaker 1:

If you've noticed that alcohol has taken a bit of a secret turn, have a ponder on just the various topics that we've spoken about here in this podcast. It's related to the frustrations that you have with the world. Is it a middle finger up to somebody in your household? Are you trying to self-soothe? Are you frustrated because you feel like you're doing the lion's share in the home, that you're exhausted, potentially from people pleasing, from saying yes, but nobody's seeing you, helping you, supporting you? Or are you needing to be validated externally? Is there a sense of purpose and validation that could come from something outside of the home? Are you career, a new course, volunteer work? Are you trying to tap into something that is rebellious and free and youthful? And you can do this without alcohol?

Speaker 1:

Again, one thing I don't want anyone to consider is that this is a sign of weakness or personal failing of some sort.

Speaker 1:

It's not, but drinking in secret can really be a sign that it's an act that you're numbing, allowed roaring noise, that all is not right in the world and that you need to make some changes to bring your life into alignment with how you really want to live who you really are, how the external world sees you, and this can be something that could lead to a much better existence.

Speaker 1:

So it can actually be exciting. It can be exciting to recognise that you want more and you deserve more, and you just got to slowly take some baby steps, by yourself or with the help of somebody else, to help find your way out. So I really hope this was helpful to one or several of you out there. You know it's a bit of a I guess, a more serious chat about alcohol and it can be very real, very disturbing and confusing for many people out there. So, if this is, you know that you're not alone, know that you can make some changes and find a way of being free, being free from alcohol, so that you can live the life that you want to lead. I hope you have a great day and, yeah, look forward to any emails you might have on this topic. Let me know if it resonates with you and I will see you next week.

Understanding Hidden Drinking and Finding Alternatives
Hidden Drinking Behaviors, Path to Authenticity
Recognizing and Addressing Secret Drinking