gray area drinking

What Is Gray Area Drinking and How Does It Work?


When people think of an alcohol problem, they imagine the extreme stereotype that has lost it all. However, alcohol can impact your life negatively before you develop alcohol use disorder. Many people brush their drinking habits off. It’s not that bad. I still have a job. I only drink in the evenings. I only drink beer. You tell yourself these things to excuse your drinking and to minimize the problem.


When you are not a full-blown— alcohol controls your life drinker— but more than an occasional weekend warrior, you may be in the gray area of drinking. Unfortunately, gray area drinking can still negatively impact your life, work, and relationships.


Let’s explore what a gray area drinker is and some common signs to see if you have a problem.


What Is a Gray Area Drinker?

Gray area drinking is a relatively new term in mental health. Someone who suffers from alcohol use disorder has a physical dependence on alcohol. Someone who is considered a gray area drinker has a problem with alcohol but without dependency.


You may be a gray area drinker if you consume more alcohol a week than is regarded as healthy for your age and gender. Suppose you are using alcohol to numb any emotional or physical pain. In that case, you may be in the gray area of drinking. Or if your drinking is causing you other adverse side effects.


Some of these negative side effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • Relationship problems
  • Social problems
  • Work problems


Gray area drinking can often begin in college. It is common for students to drink in college. As a result, the same type of social drinking becomes acceptable in your professional life. You may be a gray area drinker if you constantly drink at social gatherings.


Women are increasingly becoming gray area drinkers. People, particularly women, have become more isolated and confined to their homes since the pandemic began. Work, family, and chores without much social support are causing women to drink more than they used to.

Let’s take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced some recent gray area drinking.


How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affects Gray Area Drinkers

The COVID-19 pandemic sprouted social distancing and working from home. Remote jobs are the norm, and a “hybrid” style of working doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. This forces people to take on more workloads and be around fewer people. It is as if we are all on call all the time.


The added stress and anxiety from social distancing and even losing loved ones leads to people drinking more often. In fact, alcohol sales increased around March 2020. The week after spring started that year, alcohol sales went up by 55%.


Some bars and restaurants began hosting online happy hours, and delivery services began. People worry about falling ill, losing their jobs, and frequently having to deal with a full house.


People have financial stress, too, because everything seems to be increasing in price at an alarming rate. So, it’s no surprise that people use alcohol to cope with everything that’s going on.

But when does it become “gray area drinking”?


What Are Some Warning Signs That You Are a Gray Area Drinker?

There are some warning signs that you can look out for. You may even have one or two of these signs of gray area drinking.

If you drink to cope with negative emotions.

At some point in your drinking, alcohol becomes the comfort you use to handle all emotions. You drink to celebrate. You drink when you have had a stressful day. You drink after a fight with your significant other.


Of course, you may not be consuming alone all the time and keeping it social. Still, alcohol has become a regular go-to for any emotion you feel. Once you reach this stage, you are in a gray area drinking period.


You engage in risky behavior almost every time you drink.

Maybe you’re blacking out and not remembering things from the night before. Perhaps you have started engaging in unprotected sex with strangers. Or maybe you get into physical altercations at the bar when you drink.


You wouldn’t be doing most of these things if you hadn’t been drinking. You may be in the gray drinking area if you have had legal issues from your drinking or any of these risky behaviors.


You feel guilt and shame from drinking or your behavior while drinking.

You may be a great area drinker when you are drinking heavily and feel guilty about it or the things you say. On the other hand, if you remember something you said or did and feel ashamed about your behavior, you may be in the gray area.


You need or want alcohol for every social activity that you do.

Another big warning sign that you are drinking in a gray area is that everything you do seems to revolve around having alcohol. If you go to a child’s birthday party and need to drink before or after you go, you may be a gray area drinker.


If drinking “enhances” all the activities you find yourself participating in, then you may be a gray area drinker. Maybe you find yourself drinking at work or leaving a bottle in your car just in case you need some throughout the day.


How Do You Get Out of the Gray Area?

If you are trying to get out of the gray area and want to stop drinking, then a sober companion may be a good choice. A sober companion can often be someone who has been a drinker before. They know some of the warning signs. A sober companion can be full-time, on-call, or just a sober escort who accompanies you to high-risk situations.


The severity of your gray area drinking will determine the level of care you need. Sober companions are specially trained in areas of addiction and recovery, and they may have their own addiction stories. If you hire a sober companion, they will help you stop drinking and stay sober while continuing your everyday routine.


A sober companion can provide ongoing care for as long as you need.

Find a Sober Companion With The Addictions Coach

If you believe you are a gray area drinker and want to get help, The Addictions Coach can help you find a sober companion. We have sober companions who have lived through addiction and can understand everything you’re going through. We provide any level of care you require for as long as you need to regain control of your drinking. Call The Addictions Coach at 800-706-0318 today, and we will find you a qualified sober companion. Let us assist you in getting out of the gray area before it becomes more severe.