…and why is it such a problem?
Gray area drinking as “the space between the extremes of rock bottom and every-now-and-again drinking.” (as defined by my teacher, Jolene Park in her TEDx talk on the topic).
The reality is, most drinkers drink in this “gray area”…not quite crossing the line into addiction, yet still drinking heavily or regularly.
A few years ago, I found myself fumbling through the gray area, not quite sure why I was doing all-the-things, yet unable to get the results I wanted in my life. From the outside, it looked like I had it all together. I was an intelligent, successful, attractive, fit, high-achieving woman. I had a good job, car, house…you know the story. But, on the inside, I was feeling incredibly lost and secretly questioning my relationship with alcohol. Maybe you’ve found yourself in the gray area too…do any of these sound familiar?:
- You’ve tried moderation and are sometimes successful, but more often than not, “just a few” turns into “a few too many.”
- You’ve asked yourself if you have a problem, but you don’t resonate with the language around addiction.
- You’ve stopped drinking for extended periods of time, but you’re lured back in with the plan to moderate, only to find yourself back on the same hamster wheel.
- You often drink more than you want, but you’ve never suffered “rock bottom” consequences from your drinking.
If so, my friend, you might be a gray area drinker.
Gray Area Drinking Is The Norm
If you’ve experienced any of the above, you’re not alone. In fact, according to research performed by the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration, the majority of drinkers in the US fall into the gray area. It’s easy to see how excessive social drinking has become the norm.
However, as we’ve normalized drinking in excess, we’ve also sent some silent, yet extremely potent messages…let’s see if you’ve ever been a victim of one of them:
- Drinking is completely normal, if you don’t do it, you’ll be a social outcast.
- Only people who can’t control themselves quit drinking.
- Everything, including drinking, is acceptable in moderation.
- People who don’t drink much or very often are boring.
- You deserve a drink after a long day, a tough week, a challenging circumstance, etc.
- You need a drink to make a first date or an overwhelming social situation, etc. tolerable.
- Drinking makes you more fun, a better conversationalist, a better flirt, less uptight, etc.
- Drinking helps you relax, sleep, take the edge off, etc.
Sound familiar? Yes, we’ve all been fed these messages for most of our lives. We’ve received them through media, interactions with our family, friendships, and society as a whole. So much so, that they’re subconsciously ingrained in our belief system. This is why, as gray area drinkers, it feels so intimidating to consider making a change. You wouldn’t want to…
- Become a social outcast
- Be boring
- Feel left out
- Look like a goody-goody
- Go to weddings, on first dates, vacations, fancy dinners, holiday parties, etc. and not drink
Of course, our subconscious conditioning has made all of these experiences sound terribly unappealing. We have been taught that our behavior is completely normal and requires no alteration. Moreover, we’ve been told that having a rock bottom breakdown is the prerequisite for change. Most of us will avoid that at any cost. We can summon our willpower just enough to ensure that never happens, thus enabling us to go along living out our slightly dulled-down — yet comfortable and predictable — version of reality.
But, growth doesn’t happen in the zone of comfortable and predictable. Continuing down that path is the definition of mediocrity. Yet, many of us settle for it because we are too afraid or gluttonous to make a change.
Why Are We Trapped in the Gray Area?
A surefire path out of the murky gray is to find someone who mirrors our past experiences and future desires. However, we lack powerful exemplars and mentors to show us the way. While there are is an abundance of teachers who can model that it is possible to live a life without alcohol, most of them fall into the black or white spectrum which gray area drinkers have a hard time resonating with.
For example, it is unlikely for us to find our own inspiration in someone who has escaped alcohol via addiction or rock bottom. Their message does not resonate with us. In fact, our absence of a rock bottom gives us all-the-more reason to stay stuck in our ways (though let’s be clear, it is always a possibility).
Similarly, we cannot become inspired by someone who has never had much of a taste for alcohol. Our experiences are too dissimilar. While it is idealistic that we could transform ourselves into a take-it-or-leave-type, the result is unlikely and typically only causes frustration and a sense of failure.
A New Role Model
In order to confidently escape the gray area, we need mentors who we can see ourselves in. We need role models who can show our subconscious mind what is possible. We need to see other gray area drinkers who mirror our story, someone who has blazed a path before us and is willing to show us the way. While this tribe is growing in numbers, it is still a small portion of the population.
I know this first-hand because I went out looking for mentors in this space just 3.5 years ago. When I did, I failed to find a young, successful, ambitious woman who had simply given up alcohol because she felt like it was no longer serving her in her life. This lack of a role model led me to believe it couldn’t/shouldn’t be done. But this void is precisely why I am writing this right now.
I did make the visionary decision to stop drinking…even though I didn’t have a problem; even though it might have been possible for me to live a life of moderation. Why? Because I realized you don’t have to have a problem with alcohol for it to be a problem in your life. You don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to make a change. You don’t have to glorify moderation for the fear that you will be a social outcast if you don’t drink at all.
I realized you don’t have to have a problem with alcohol for it to be a problem in your life. You don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to make a change. You don’t have to glorify moderation for the fear that you will be a social outcast if you don’t drink at all.
I’m writing this to tell you that, yes, gray area drinking is normal. But, if you’ve read this far, mark my word, dear: You are not meant to settle for “normal.” You are meant to live a life beyond your wildest dreams. A life where your ability to manifest all that you desire is absolutely possible. A life where you are able to show up fully for your dreams, your relationships, and yourself. A life where happiness and joy are abundant and anxiety and sadness are manageable. You deserve that. It is my mission to help you make it so.
If you’ve been lingering in the gray area (or perhaps you’ve escaped it for the moment) and this message resonates with you, I invite you to become further curious about the magnificence which I believe is available to you.
It involves more than simply giving up alcohol; it requires a lot of personal inquiry and subconscious reprogramming…and if you’re curious about what type of life is waiting for you after you find true freedom from alcohol, I’m glad you’re here. It is my honor to serve as your teacher in any capacity on this journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about alcohol-free living & pursuing your authentic truth, connect with me on Instagram or download my Guide to Finding Your Authentic Self here.