Over the course of your life, how many times have you found yourself saying, “I had a hard day, I deserve a glass of wine.” Or how about, “I feel like celebrating; let’s grab drinks!” For many women, having a drink is a tool used to decompress after a hard day and a necessary additive to any and all celebrations, but how many times does that one drink turn into two, three, four, or more? The scenarios outlined above are an example of something called gray area drinking (GAD), a drinking trend that’s on the rise and far more common than most people realize.
What Is Gray Area Drinking?
As the name implies, this kind of alcohol consumption is a pattern of drinking that lies in the gray area, or the in-between; in-between casual/moderate drinking and destructive/problematic drinking. It can also refer to people who might misuse alcohol or have problems controlling how much they consume when they drink but don’t fulfill the criteria for alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD). In fact, roughly 90% of people who drink heavily wouldn’t meet the clinical diagnosis for AUD.
Most people who are gray area drinkers experience little to no personal or professional problems as a result of their drinking, similar to high-functioning alcoholics, and they don’t consider their relationship with alcohol to be problematic because they haven’t experienced ‘rock bottom.’ However, the amount of alcohol they’re consuming is increasing, and consequences are starting to result from their drinking
Signs of Gray Area Drinking
Identifying gray area drinkers can be more challenging because there aren’t as many clear outward signs and warnings. It can also be hard to identify for the simple fact that extreme and problematic drinking is so normalized in our society. However, if you’ve ever experienced the following, you might be a gray area drinker:
- You’re able to stop drinking for long periods of time, but you can’t stay stopped.
You’ve taken many breaks from alcohol – sometimes, days, sometimes months – but you always eventually reward yourself for a job well done by starting to drink again.
- Those around you don’t think that the amount of alcohol you consume or how often you drink is problematic.
Those around you drink just as much as you do, if not more, and you don’t think they have a problem with drinking. Therefore, you must not either.
- You have two extremes when it comes to drinking.
You’re not a casual or every-so-often drinker. You’re either not drinking at all, or you’re drinking way too much, and there isn’t a consistent or happy medium
- You secretly worry about your drinking habits.
Sometimes you worry about how much you drink and if it’s problematic, especially after a night out. Maybe you haven’t been arrested, lost your job, ended a relationship, etc. as a result of your drinking, but you still wonder if the amount of alcohol you consume is appropriate.
- You commonly drink more than you intended to.
You tell your friends you’re only having one drink and then end up having several drinks. Frequently.
- You allow your alcohol use to interfere with your desire and ability to reach goals.
Your drinking hasn’t cost you your job or jeopardized any of your goals per se, but it has interfered with your drive and desire to accomplish all that you know you’re capable of.
Do Gray Area Drinkers Need Treatment?
The great thing about alcohol addiction treatment is that you don’t have to hit rock bottom to decide that it’s time to start living a better life. You can simply realize that your relationship with alcohol is no longer healthy or serving you and go from there. There are different levels of care for alcohol addiction treatment, and you can decide what option is best for you. A great place to start is to ask yourself some hard questions and be honest with yourself when you answer them.
What do I really want out of life?
Why do I drink the way that I do?
Are there any benefits of my drinking?
What would my life look like if I removed alcohol from it?
How has drinking affected my relationships?
Has drinking prevented me from reaching my goals?
What can I do to better connect with my emotions instead of drowning them with alcohol?
Find Support at Women’s Recovery
At Women’s Recovery, we offer support to women in Colorado who are ready to end their relationship with alcohol. If you or someone you know might be struggling with gray area drinking and you’d like to learn more about us, contact us today online or by calling us at 833.654.2454.