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Gray Area Drinking: When the Stereotype Doesn’t Fit

gray area drinking

by Debi Talbert

Life appeared, to the outside world, to be going really well for me.

I traveled the world as a flight attendant. With expenses paid, I enjoyed dinners with my military child stationed overseas and sipped wine in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

I drank with coworkers on my layovers. At home, I enjoyed cocktails with friends and family. Weekends included brunch and mimosas. I attended networking events with free flowing alcohol. Date nights with my husband involved dinner and drinks. And of course, when I hosted family events, I proudly served a wide variety of alcoholic beverages.

Every event or gathering involved drinking. In my world this was “normal”.

I wasn’t the only one drinking this way; everyone I knew drank the same way. It was just part of life. I enjoyed this lifestyle for years, never wondering why I was always the one to finish the wine bottle or if other people went home from a party and helped themselves to another drink. On our flights back across the Atlantic, our crew laughed together as we tried to piece together the night. We had a great time filling in the blanks for each other.

Gray Area Drinking (GAD)

I didn’t learn until years later that my style of drinking is called Gray Area Drinking (GAD). GAD is the space between the extremes of rock-bottom drinking and every-now and again drinking. The Gray Area Drinker generally does not look like the stereotypical alcoholic or suffer the extreme consequences you might expect from a heavy drinker. I functioned quite well, easily fooling myself and others, as I gave the appearance that life was wonderful. The outside world assured me I was “not that bad” or that “it’s not like you have a problem or anything”. We were all in denial.

The truth is that most Gray Area Drinkers, myself included, surround themselves with people who drink similar amounts of alcohol. By doing so, we don’t have to acknowledge that the amounts consumed are, in fact, unhealthy. 

As alcohol is addictive, Gray Area Drinking can become a much bigger problem. Our bodies build up a tolerance for alcohol, and larger amounts of alcohol become necessary to bring you to your happy place. Deep down, during my Gray Area Drinking days, I knew something was wrong and that the amount of alcohol I consumed was not healthy for my body. If you start to question your drinking habits, you are very likely in the “gray area”.

Finding support and community

Awareness is the first step to change. You can choose to address your drinking while in the “gray area”, before your body becomes physically addicted. The good news is that help is available in many forms in today’s world. Online communities, blogs, podcasts, therapists and coaches are all good options to explore.  Find one that works for you and know you are not alone. Admitting you might have a problem can lead to feeling isolated because of the stigma associated with not being able to “drink normal”. 

How to start when you are ready to make a change  

  • Ask yourself the hard questions. Why do you turn to alcohol? What problem do you have that you think a drink will solve? Are you drinking to avoid dealing with stress? 
  •  Begin to incorporate healthy habits into your life to help you relax and have fun. Try to drink at least 64 oz of water and get 8 hours of sleep each night. Try to add exercise to your schedule, starting slowly. These simple steps help manage stress and will make you pause before picking up a drink.

Staying sober is in style

Alcohol isn’t going away, but the paradigm is definitely changing. In a world that embraces alcohol in abundance, it’s interesting that the “sober curious” movement is catching on. It’s trendy to take a break from alcohol these days. The benefits of not drinking are many; no hangovers, more clarity, better skin and weight loss, to name a few.



Debi TalbertDebi Talbert is a Certified Life Coach with The Life Coach School and This Naked Mind Institute.  She coaches the 50 plus individual who is exhausted trying to figure out how to end their dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. She helps people who struggle to stop drinking, but do not accept the labels of “alcoholic” or “powerless”.

Debi knows at a deeply personal level that Life Coaching is transformative. She helps clients rebuild their trust in themselves and change their beliefs about life. She is the creator of Exit The Drinking Life podcast and offers online programs which include training videos and weekly live coaching sessions.In addition, she offers a monthly membership to teach you to coach yourself, teach you how to feel better, teach you to take massive action and flourish in life beyond alcohol.  Find information about programs and resources at


6 thoughts on “Gray Area Drinking: When the Stereotype Doesn’t Fit

  1. Awesome content! All need to read. So many gray area drinkers out there. I was one of them.

  2. This was a very interesting enlightening article and would love to hear more from Debi

  3. Very enlightening article, Debi, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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