What is Gray Area Drinking?
As a relatively new term, Gray Area Drinking has become a sobering reality that affects millions of people worldwide (pun intended).
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?
To give a firm and finite answer, it doesn’t exist. We can generalize as the following:
Gray area drinking is comprised of a wide spectrum of drinkers. Typically, a gray area drinker (GAD) has not experienced a “rock bottom” or a major life-altering impact. Most often, it is someone that is drinking a higher quantity than intended at an elevated frequency.
It is someone that appears to be living a very normal life from the outside looking in, but internally, a GAD might be experiencing shame, guilt, and embarrassment for their habits.
A Gray Area Drinker can also be categorized as having Alcohol Use Disorder.*
To give a brief example, a GAD 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 to prove to themselves that they are “normal drinkers”.
The spectrum is vast and covers a number of examples and scenarios; too many to give a clear definition.
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 “Take it” or “Leave it” 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”. A GAD is also someone that has Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AUD) from mild, moderate to severe cases.*
- 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. The label, alcoholic, is being replaced by someone that has Alcohol Abuse Disorder, typcially in the moderate to severe categories.
Most gray area drinkers would strongly like to be a “take it” or “leave-it” drinker. They quickly realize that saying no to the 3rd or 4th 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 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.
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 you with support.
You are not alone. There are more people in the gray area than there are alcoholics. You have the ability and the strength to gain control of your life. Will it be easy? No, but anything worthwhile takes work.
It may be time to course-correct, but only if you are willing and ready.
If this resonates with you and would like to know more, click here to schedule a complimentary 45-minute Discovery Call. By taking action, you will discover your truth. It’s time to stop hiding and start living!
+The above information is the personal opinion of the author.