Grey Area Drinking

by Clear Head Drinks

This month we have been collaborating with the accredited Grey Area Drinking Coach, Sarah Rusbatch.  Being an ex-grey area drinker herself, Sarah is on a mission to support as many women as possible to change their relationship with alcohol, reconnect to themselves and create a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life”.  Sarah runs quarterly online alcohol-free challenges, wellness workshops and provides both group and individual coaching to help women change their relationship with alcohol.  You can find out more about her work and the support she provides by visiting her website

Since we’re collaborating with Sarah this month, we thought it would be a good opportunity to write a bit about grey area drinking and raise some awareness around this very common category of drinkers.

Despite popular belief, you don’t need to experience a major, rock bottom moment, have some sort of alcohol-related crisis, or identify as an ‘alcoholic’ to consider changing your relationship with alcohol. You also don’t need to have a ‘drinking problem’ to experience problems with your drinking… This is where grey area drinking comes in.

What is Grey Area Drinking?

Think of a continuum or linear scale where on one end we have the now and then, take it or leave it, light social drinkers, and at the other end we have drinkers with serious alcohol use disorders who are physically dependent on alcohol.  Grey area drinkers can fall anywhere in between – and that covers a lot of us!

Grey area drinking is extremely common, and often overlooked. The drinking culture in New Zealand effectively normalises (if not encourages) unhealthy drinking, and this makes it very difficult for individuals to recognise they might actually have a problem. It’s hard to consider you may have a problem with alcohol when you’re drinking the same or even less than your friends 😜

Common signs of grey area drinking

If you're questioning your relationship with alcohol, even if people around you are assuring you you’re fine, even when you’re a perfectly normal, fully functional adult, the simple act of questioning your drinking is a good indicator that you may be in this grey area.  As listed on Sarah’s website, here are some of the common signs you may be a grey area drinker:

  • You make 'rules' about your drinking, but you often break them
  • You secretly worry about your drinking and often regret what you said or did when you drank
  • You take breaks from alcohol, you may not drink every day, but you find it hard to stay 'stopped' and keep returning to old habits
  • You aren't always honest about how much you drink
  • On the outside, no one questions your drinking, and it certainly doesn't appear you have a 'problem', but for YOU, it's becoming a problem and something you worry about more and more
  • You live with a constant internal ‘chatter’ about alcohol, always negotiating with yourself of when you will drink next
  • You’re a long way from rock bottom but alcohol feels like it’s robbing you of life. You're starting to feel like it's taking more than it's giving.

If any of these points resonate with you, then you may be a grey area drinker and could benefit from changing your drinking habits.  Reducing your alcohol consumption can be a bit tough at first, but the benefits are so worth it! 

Getting help with grey area drinking

Sarah Rusbatch using her laptop to provide online support for Grey Area Drinking

As with any major change, it’s harder to go at it alone.  If you want some help to change your relationship with alcohol, check out Sarah’s website and sign up for one of her challenges or coaching sessions. 

Sarah is also a guest speaker on many podcasts so search for her on your favourite podcast platform and you’ll find a list of great chats to listen to.  There are also other alcohol-related challenges and support groups that can be found online, so get Googling!


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