I went to AA last night then came home and sobbed. I feel a fraud, the stories are so much more serious than my level of drinking ever was. But I do know absolutely that I have a problem. Do you think I just caught it earlier? I am so confused. I really want to talk but just clam up.Me – to a sober group 4 years ago
I have recently found some old posts from a sober website that I have been a member of for around five years. It has been fascinating reading back through them. I found the one above and it really hit home how much I wish I had known about grey area drinking back then.
I was a grey area drinker because I had never hit rock bottom. We have all heard the saying over and over that someone won’t get help until they reach rock bottom. But what is rock bottom? It’s defined as being at the ‘very lowest level’. Where life is so unbearable that your situation can’t get any worse.
What if we never hit that stage? What if you realise that you need help before it gets to that point? Are we denying help to so many people, by propagating the belief that you can keep going until you hit rock bottom?
Going back to my post above, that is exactly how I was feeling. I felt that because my drinking was not at the level where it was ruining my life. I was a fraud and taking the place in AA of someone who was at rock bottom and really needed their help.
Grey area drinking
Let me make this clear, being a grey area drinker does not mitigate you from any of the health risks (mentally and physically) of drinking alcohol. If anything, in some ways it is just as dangerous as we are drinking in a way that is perhaps more sustainable and for a longer period.
What is grey area drinking?
- Have you ever googled ‘ am I an alcoholic’? – I did this often, mostly after a heavy night and when I was full of remorse. I almost wanted it to scream, “YES, YES YOU ARE, GET HELP NOW”. I was a grey area drinker, but I wanted someone to tell me how to stop.
- Setting rules – such as only drinking alcohol from Thursday until Sunday or only two drinks allowed per night (I always failed this one, one drink and off I go!!)
- Promising yourself every morning that you will not drink today – then breaking that promise, yup, that was me, often
- You haven’t lost your job, got a DUI or lost friends or family due to alcohol- In AA a lovely man added the word ‘yet’ to those sentences and it resonated with me. We aren’t there,’yet’.
- You are able to stop for periods of time, sometimes for months, but you don’t stay stopped – then immediatley you go back to old drinking habits (often worse than before) and you regret starting again.
- No-one thinks you have a problem – this was perhaps the biggest obstacle to me getting sober. I felt that I had to argue my case for stopping, which actually is ridiculous.
- You go between thinking you have a massive issue with alcohol to thinking you are being over dramatic and of course, you don’t have a problem.
- Thinking about alcohol way more than is healthy – alcohol took up way too much of my thinking time.
Grey area drinking is still problem drinking
We’ve established that I didn’t reach the traditional ‘rock bottom’. However, I was at the end of my tether with my drinking. It’s actually exhausting when your mind is constantly questioning your drinking habits, dealing with your drinking habits, thinking about your drinking habits. Wondering, if you are an alcoholic or if you are not an alcoholic. It’s all very time consuming and soul-destroying.
I was regularly going over the suggested drinking limits, sometimes in one go. I was putting my life at risk, so although I wasn’t what is considered at ‘rock bottom’. I was still in the danger zone of drinking far too much.
When is too much?
If you are worried about your intake, then it is too much. If you are uncomfortable with your drinking, then it is too much. You have to take control and if you feel you should stop, then you should stop. I was always worried that my drinking wasn’t dreadful enough for me to need to stop. And that was my mistake, I am much happier without it. Therefore, it was impacting my life so greatly, that by not continuing on that path, I improved my life. Surely that is a good enough reason to stop?
In conclusion, now I have a name for my type of drinking, it does help a little but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if you are worried about your drinking, reach out and get help. I am sure those that do reach rock bottom, very much wish that they’d had the clarity and impetus to ask for help before it reached that stage. There is absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain.