What is Gray Area Drinking?
As a relatively new term, Gray Area Drinking has become a sobering reality that affects millions of people worldwide.
For far too long, society has placed alcoholism in a black or white box. One is either an alcoholic or they are not. With billions of people consuming this legal drug as a recreational choice, there are millions that fall in this “gray area” that may not realize it, or care to admit it.
What exactly does it mean to be in the gray area?
Gray area drinking is comprised of a wide spectrum of drinkers. It is someone that is between a social drinker and an alcoholic.
Typically, a gray area drinker has not experienced a “rock bottom” or a major life-altering impact. Most often, it is someone that is drinking moderately to a higher quantity than intended at an elevated frequency, and everything in between.
It is someone that appears to be living a very normal life from the outside, but internally, a gray area drinker might be experiencing shame, guilt, and embarrassment for their habits.
To give an example, a gray area drinker may have a few glasses of wine per day or perhaps binge drink on the weekends. Another example is someone that may be able to abstain several days in a row, or weeks to prove to themselves that they are “normal drinkers”.
What is a binge drinker?
When we think of the typical binge drinker, we may automatically think of the college student that is in a fraternity or sorority. They drink themselves into oblivion while downing massive amounts of beer through the “infamous” beer bong.
Binge drinkers are not just college students, of course. They can also include professionals, stay-at-home parents, or anyone for that matter.
By definition, they consume more than 4 drinks in one sitting (women) and more than 5 drinks (men) in under two hours. *
One in four adults binge drink on a regular basis. When binge drinking occurs in 5 or more days in a month’s time, this leads to heavy alcohol consumption. This is when the scale quickly turns to severe alcohol abuse disorder.
Let’s look at the typical four types of drinkers:
- The Non-Drinker -The Abstainer -A Teetotaler
- The Social Drinker. This person could easily have one drink on occasion and has no desire to consume alcohol on a regular basis. They are content at “just a few” from time to time.
- The Gray Area Drinker– This spectrum covers a wide range of drinkers and behaviors. There is not a “one size fits all”. They are in the space between socially drinking and being an alcoholic.*
- The Alcoholic – someone that is physically dependent on alcohol, their life has become unmanageable and their everyday routines are compromised. Also described as someone that has an elevated dependence on alcohol.
Most gray area drinkers would strongly like to be a take it or leave-it social drinker. They quickly realize that saying no to the 2nd or 3rd drink is hard to do. They also drink more often than they intend. This leads to more shame, negative self-talk, and embarrassment. It is the constant circle of mental torment and the true definition of cognitive dissonance. They realize the implications but continue to drink.
The bottom line is this – If you are quietly asking yourself if you have a problem with alcohol, you most likely have a problem. This is not something to run away from or bury your head in the sand. Alcohol is a sneaky and cunning drug. It will not slow down or get easier. It is progressive. These are facts. This doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic, you may be a gray area drinker. Either way, it’s important to get honest as you question the drink.
If you have the desire to explore what this means for your life, you have many options. You can start by talking to someone, working with a coach and/or joining a community to share your experiences. It is highly recommended to surround yourself with people that can guide you and provide support.
You’re not alone. There are more people in the gray area than those that identify as alcoholics. Nobody wants to claim a label or feel powerless.
Maybe that’s you.
Perhaps you are thinking, “I can’t be that bad.”. Friend, the fact that you’re reading this blog is a huge first step.
Join the free 7-Day D.E.C.I.D.E series to determine if now is the time to make the shift out of the gray area, or if you’re ready now, click the button below to schedule your discovery call today.
+The above information is the personal opinion of the author.