Gray area drinking (GAD) refers to drinking habits that fall between moderate consumption and excessive use. Slipping into gray area drinking is actually quite easy. You might start by drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day, or getting drunk with friends on the weekends.
Even though you may not suffer from an alcohol use disorder, your drinking habits are still unhealthy and can push you into an unmanageable zone. Fortunately, by recognizing the signs early and cutting back on alcohol, you can avoid more serious problems.
Let’s learn more about GAD, the signs that you may have unhealthy drinking habits, and how to approach the matter.
What is Gray Area Drinking, Exactly?
Gray area drinking is the space between social drinking and overconsumption. GADs are not physically dependent on alcohol. Instead, they drink because they want to. They also don’t exhibit the same symptoms as someone with an alcohol use disorder. In fact, they usually don’t have any symptoms at all.
Unlike individuals with alcoholism, GADs can stop drinking when they want. But, since alcohol isn’t causing problems in their life, they often question why they want to stop. After all, it can feel good to drink. However, this type of drinking has its consequences, and it’s important to be aware of the potential for bad habits.
No Amount of Alcohol is ‘Safe’
No amount of alcohol is considered safe – period. To illustrate, this study looked at people from 195 countries between 1990 and 2016. Researchers found that alcohol, even in moderate amounts, is a leading risk factor for acute and chronic diseases, cancer, diabetes, and other adverse effects on the tissues and organs.
And, while you may have heard that drinking red wine can improve your cardiovascular health, these benefits are not enough to justify the risks. Therefore, if you fall into the gray area of drinking, you may want to rethink things. Alcohol has very few health benefits, and if you want a healthy heart, you can achieve it in other ways.
Furthermore, gray area drinking can cause you to develop an alcohol use disorder. If you’re drinking to cope with stress, for example, it could take one unfortunate event to push you over the edge. Instead of dealing with your problems head on, you may now turn to alcohol, which can lead to dependence and alcoholism.
Could You Be a Gray Area Drinker?
Since there are no specific symptoms associated with gray area drinking, it’s not always easy to tell when there’s a problem. However, you can get a feel for your drinking habits by answering these questions:
- Do you drink to cope with stress or anxiety?
- Do you stop drinking for a while, but always pick it back up?
- Do you ever feel conflicted about your drinking? For example, one voice tells you to ‘live a little’ and the other tells you to stop drinking.
- Do you silently question your drinking habits? Maybe you feel like you drink too much or too often.
- Do you feel anxious about your drinking? As an example, you might regret your last drink or anticipate your next one.
If you answered yes to these questions, there’s a good chance that you’re a gray area drinker. It’s important to be aware of this state, as prolonged bouts of stress can put you at risk for more excessive drinking.
What is the Solution for GAD?
The most important thing to ask yourself is what you are hoping to achieve by drinking booze. Is it to relax? Open up around others? Have a good time? By identifying your reasons for drinking, you can work to develop healthier coping skills. You may also benefit from talking to a therapist, as GADs often lack neurotransmitters like GABA, dopamine and serotonin.
Here are some ways to address gray area drinking:
Consider the circumstances
Take an honest look at things. Ask yourself why you’re drinking, how your drinking habits have changed over time, and what may contribute to alcohol use, such as losing a loved one or experiencing financial stress.
Make a list of why you want to change
The fact that you are questioning your drinking tells you that there may be a problem. Keep in mind that no amount of alcohol is considered safe. Write down your motivations for drinking less, such as more restful sleep, a healthier body and improved relationships.
Be mindful when you drink
Just as individuals with eating disorders must be mindful of their eating habits, you must be mindful of your drinking habits. Being conscious about your alcohol use can help you make better decisions, plus understand what triggers you to drink.
Take time off from drinking
You should have sober days each week, or days when you don’t drink alcohol. Also, refrain from keeping alcohol in the house, as having it on hand makes it harder to fight the urge. Fill your time with other activities like music, art or reading.
Seek support for Gray Area Drinking
You do not need to be at a certain level to receive help. Many people join support groups, participate in therapy, or even attend AA meetings for support and motivation. Even if your drinking isn’t out of hand, therapy can help you understand your reasons for drinking and healthier ways to cope.
Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Rehab in Agoura Hills
Many people fall under the ‘gray area drinker’ category. While this type of drinking is not the same as an alcohol use disorder, it can lead to further problems down the line. This is why it’s important to understand why you drink and how you can cut back or eliminate alcohol altogether.
If your problem is more advanced than you thought, Awakenings Treatment Center is here for you. We have flexible outpatient programs that allow you to live at home and resume your normal schedule, while getting built-in support from counselors, therapists and other addiction specialists.
Reach out to us today for individualized support.