Josh Chandler | March 21, 2022

Are You A Gray Area Drinker? 9 Things to Consider

What is Gray Area Drinking?

Many people who engage in alcohol use will judge their drinking patterns based on whether or not it’s causing problems in their personal, social, or professional life. When your life has not seemingly been impacted by your drinking, you may be under the impression that your drinking is under control and that the need for alcohol rehab is not a reality. However, if you are concerned about your alcohol consumption and whether it’s time to address it, then you may fall somewhere in the category of gray area drinking.

Gray area drinking can be difficult to recognize within oneself because it can look different in different people. Gray area drinking is drinking that falls somewhere between moderate drinking and alcohol addiction.  It often entails patterns of alcohol misuse like heavy drinking and binge drinking. If you are someone that goes out for drinks every now and again or engages in binge drinking behaviors with your friends several times a month but finds that there are no significant impacts on your day-to-day functioning, then you may fall under the category of gray area drinking. This often describes those individuals that are in between being a mild, social drinker to a binge drinker or alcoholic.

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Common Signs of Gray Area Drinking

To identify gray area drinking, the following signs and indicators can help establish whether it’s time to seek therapeutic support to address problematic drinking behaviors.

  1. You turn to alcohol to deal with or manage your emotions. If you find yourself turning to a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage at the end of a long stressful day rather than using another method of decompressing, your alcohol use could be within the gray area
  2. Alcohol consumption has become a regular part of your social life. Imagining getting together with friends or social events without the use of alcohol seems unimaginable.
  3. Questioning your alcohol use and if it is appropriate for the situation or for your health
  4. Frequently drinking more alcohol than you originally set out or intended to have
  5. Experiencing negative consequences from drinking alcohol but not life-changing consequences, therefore, reducing the idea that your drinking has become problematic
  6. You express concern to yourself or others about your alcohol use but find that you are still turning to alcohol against your best discretion.
  7. Your alcohol consumption has begun to lessen the importance of your goals and desires for life.
  8. Motivation to follow through on these goals becomes dulled and reduced.
  9. Ask yourself reflective questions about your alcohol use such as examining if you drink too much alcohol, if your alcohol use has progressed to alcoholism, and if you are experiencing signs of alcohol abuse. If you have to ask yourself these questions, chances are you are within a gray area drinking habit.

The Difference Between Gray Area and Binge Drinking

Gray area drinking and binge drinking are separate terms but can often have overlapping behaviors depending on the person. Binge drinking is defined as consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time which brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. For men, this looks like 5 drinks or more within a span of 2 hours and, for women, 4 drinks or more within a 2 hour period. While some people may engage in binge drinking behaviors over the weekends and then return to their regular routine of work and home life without having to consume alcohol, this would constitute a gray area drinking habit. The premise of gray area drinking is that the person is in a risky middle ground somewhere between moderation and addiction.

Does Gray Area Drinking Make You An Alcoholic?

Gray area drinking does not always mean that you are an alcoholic. It is entirely dependent on your history and pattern of alcohol consumption. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified that one-third of Americans will engage in excessive alcohol consumption but only 10 percent of those Americans would be classified as living with an alcohol dependency.

There is a possibility that if someone finds themselves drinking alcohol within the gray area they may not meet the criteria of having an alcohol use disorder. However, the more you engage in regular, excessive consumption of alcohol, the more you are putting your mind and body at risk for developing alcohol addiction. This often blindsides gray area drinkers as the progression of alcohol use disorder can creep up or quickly develop into full alcohol addiction.

If you are concerned that your alcohol consumption might be characterized as gray area drinking, there are some helpful steps that you can take to ensure that your alcohol consumption does not develop into alcohol addiction.  Consider taking the following steps to reduce the amount of alcohol that you are consuming.

Practice Mindful Drinking

Before engaging in alcohol use, take the time to check in with yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take the time to reflect on why you are wanting to drink. Are you attempting to cope with negative emotions? Are you wanting to connect with others or find a way to feel relaxed and decompress? Think about the quantity of alcohol you’re drinking. Why are you drinking an excessive amount of alcohol? What is your ultimate goal of drinking at that rate? Gaining an understanding of your reasons for drinking alcohol will help you identify problematic behaviors and whether it might be time to reach out for support.

Become Sober Curious

Being sober-curious invites individuals to begin to look a bit deeper at what their motivation is for drinking and become curious about how life would look if they did not engage in alcohol use. People are encouraged to consider and explore what their life would be like and the opportunities that could present themselves if they were sober.

Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse

If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption and worry if you are engaging in gray area drinking, there are steps you can take to address your drinking and get started on the path to alcohol abuse support. If you are concerned about your gray area drinking the following are some tactics to use to attempt to reduce your alcohol consumption and lessen the risk of developing alcohol addiction.

  • Make a list of your personal goals and identify how alcohol may be impeding your chances of obtaining your goals
  • Identify what it is that you are looking for by having a drink. If you are looking for a way to manage troubling emotions or de-stress after a long, hard day, assess if there is another way for you to handle those emotions without having to turn to alcohol use.
  • If you find yourself having an alcohol craving, wait 15 minutes and attempt to find another activity to engage in. Most times, cravings will subside within 15 minutes.
  • Make yourself a fancy non-alcoholic drink that feels like you are having a special treat without having to consume alcohol

For those that are concerned that their alcohol consumption has progressed into an alcohol dependency, there are steps you can take to tackle the problem head-on while it is still in its early stages through an alcohol rehab program. First, take the time to contact an addiction treatment center to ask any questions you may have and find out more about the individualized treatment program that is offered and the type of addiction therapy methods that are offered.

Alcohol Rehab Programs

Alcohol rehab is offered within a residential inpatient addiction treatment program where patients can reside within the rehab facility with 24/7 access to counselors and support staff that will help them move through the early stages of recovery with the levels of support and care that they need. Inpatient alcohol rehab can be anywhere from 30-90 days usually within 30-day increments.

For those individuals that are unable to attend an inpatient rehab program, there are options of outpatient alcohol rehab that provide patients with the flexibility to choose when they attend the addiction recovery center to participate in therapeutic sessions while allowing space to attend work, school, and family commitments.

Regardless of the method of alcohol rehab program you choose, you will have access to evidence-based therapy methods that help to gain an understanding of the underlying causes of your alcohol addiction while developing tools for relapse prevention and healthy life skills for a fulfilling life in sober living. Common addiction therapy methods offered are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Addiction support groups including 12 steps groups

Why Choose Muse For Alcohol Rehab in Los Angeles

Muse is the top choice for Los Angeles residents that are ready to address their alcohol abuse. We provide patients with an inviting environment that fosters healthy self-discovery and self-improvement with the support of our dedicated team who empower patients to reach their overarching goals of obtaining and maintaining sobriety. Through our individualized treatment approaches, your rehab program will be specifically designed to address your root causes of addiction while empowering you to develop a healthy, happy life in sober living.

Contact Muse today to hear more about the comprehensive addiction therapy methods offered and get started on the healing journey of a lifetime.

Alcohol Addiction,Alcohol Detox,Alcohol Rehab,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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