“Gray area drinking” is a fairly recent addition to our cultural lexicon. Like anything else described as being in the gray area, gray area drinking occupies that middle ground. Are you wondering what gray area drinking is? Keep reading to learn more.
What is Gray Area Drinking?
Those who refer to themselves as gray area drinkers understand they are neither an occasional drinker nor an alcoholic. This type of drinking behavior is sometimes referred to as drinking in moderation.
Gray area drinkers are those who have a daily habit of drinking in social settings or when at home alone. Even so, they may not show the usual signs of alcohol abuse, appearing to have a grip on their drinking.
Gray area drinkers are not yet dependent on or addicted to alcohol in a clinical sense. Taking stock of being in this gray area can provide the person with an opportunity to rethink their drinking habits. They may not have reached the point of a serious alcohol use disorder yet, but they are far from being just an occasional drinker.
5 Signs of Gray Area Drinking
From the outside, you may appear to be fine with no overt signs of having a drinking problem. While this may be the case at the moment, it changes as the drinking escalates. Get to know the signs of gray area drinking:
- You secretly worry. Even though you don’t acknowledge that you might have a drinking problem, on some level you are concerned about it. You may begin to worry about how others perceive your drinking behavior, or that you could be slipping into alcoholism.
- On and off drinking. Every so often you say you’ve had enough and swear off alcohol. You truly intend to stop drinking and even make plans for a healthy new diet and fitness routine. But you find you don’t stay sober for long. As soon as a new challenge arises, such as a relationship problem or money troubles, you pick up your drinking again.
- You use alcohol as a tool. You may rely on the effects of alcohol to help you relax in social situations. Maybe you reward yourself with alcohol after a long day at work. Perhaps you use alcohol to numb the feelings of depression. You are using alcohol as a tool to fix something in your life.
- You break your own rules. On some level, you realize you need to impose some restrictions on your drinking habits. You may restrict your drinking to weekends, or you may set a limit of having only one drink, for instance. While this is a noble attempt to control drinking, you usually find yourself breaking these rules.
- You experience adverse effects. You worry about the effects of your drinking, things that others may not be aware of. These might include binge drinking sessions, hangovers, sleepless nights, or waking up with regrets about the night before.
As with any ongoing substance use, the gray area drinker will see their tolerance increase at some point. Chronic exposure to alcohol always has this effect on the brain. Someone engaged in gray area drinking has an opportunity to make needed changes before the disease of addiction develops.
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
For someone who ignores the warning signs and continues gray area drinking, an alcohol use disorder may result. What may have started as a simple glass of wine to help you fall asleep at night morphed into two glasses, and then three. As consumption increases, the brain makes adjustments, and dependency often develops.
Gray area drinkers will recognize the warning signs of an alcohol use disorder, which include:
- Ended up drinking more or for longer than you intended.
- Wanted to stop or cut back on drinking, but couldn’t.
- Spent a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking.
- Obsessing over alcohol and looking forward to drinking.
- Found your drinking interfered with family or work obligations.
- Kept drinking even though it was causing adverse effects in your life.
- Traded of your prior hobbies and interests to drink instead.
- Your drinking led to high-risk behaviors.
- Found yourself needing to drink ever more alcohol to achieve desired effects.
- Had withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wore off.
The more of these signs you identify with, the more severe your alcohol problem is.
How to Avoid Alcohol Use Disorder
If you are becoming aware of the dangers ahead, you can take certain actions to rein in the drinking. Realize that gray area drinking is risky, and the earlier you take steps to curb it, the better. Here are some actions to take:
- Take out “sober curious” for a trial run. The sober curious movement is a recent trend where someone who might be at risk of an alcohol use disorder gives up drinking. This allows them to try out life without alcohol and then compare it with their drinking life.
- Get to the bottom of the “why.” Be intentional in your drinking and ask yourself what it is that the drinking is doing for you. Ask if you can find other ways to induce sleep or boost mood or relax after work. Simply adding exercise and learning relaxation techniques may achieve the same result as drinking.
- List the pros and cons. Sometimes it is easier to quit drinking when you list the pros and cons. Write down the cons, such as hangovers and weight gain, and the pros, such as feeling better and thinking clearly. Listing these can make it easier to choose sobriety.
If you find yourself unable to control your drinking, you will benefit from a structured addiction treatment program. Do not hesitate to seek professional support if needed.
Journey Hillside Alcohol Addiction and Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Journey Hillside provides comprehensive treatment for alcohol use disorder and dual diagnosis. Do you fall into the camp of gray area drinking and see the signs of a worsening problem with alcohol? If so, reach out today at (877) 414-1024.