EP #93

Gray Area Drinking

alcoholic minimalist podcast

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In this episode of the “Alcohol Minimalist” podcast, Molly shares insights into her personal journey, acknowledging the impact of her mother’s alcohol abuse on her relationship with drinking. She introduces the idea of “gray area drinking,” where individuals may not exhibit noticeable symptoms but still fall into a zone of concern. Molly highlights the difficulty in diagnosing gray area drinking and dispels the belief that individuals need a wake-up call or a traditional alcohol detox program to make positive changes. She discusses the liberating aspect of understanding gray area drinking and encourages listeners to educate themselves on the science of alcohol to reframe their drinking habits. Molly believes in the power of mindfulness, self-belief, and the human brain’s ability to break and change established pathways, ultimately guiding individuals toward a peaceful relationship with alcohol.

Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October, you can check it out and learn more at get that sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got grises I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from Yes, again, an absolutely beautiful Oregon right now. We are in a midst of I don’t know, like 20 plus days of beautiful weather. And looking out over my forecast. I don’t see rain on the horizon for another week and some, like 80 degree days here in the middle of October. Can you believe it? Can you stand it? It’s really amazing around Oregon right now. So my standard plug. If you have not visited the Great Pacific Northwest, this would be an optimal time to do it. Hurry because the rains are coming. All right on to this week’s show. I want to mention before I get going that right now, if you are listening to this in real time, this episode is dropping on October 12. And step one, my new hybrid online, one on one coaching program course is open for registration right now, for a October 15 Start, this will be the last time that this course is open for 2022. And at this price, it’s $199, which is an incredible value in my opinion. Because there are three things that make this course really different from other things that I’ve seen. First, you get a one on one coaching session with me, not another coach, it’s actually me. And the coaching session is structured and really geared toward you and your specific challenges. Number two, you have lifetime access to all the modules, lessons, pep talks and resources, including future upgrades to the curriculum and live trainings that I plan to provide. It’s almost like a one time fee for a membership that will only get more valuable over time. And number three, only students of step one or proof positive have access to one on one coaching with me. So if you’d like to take some meaningful action before the holidays before dry, you’re weary. This is your chance to take a step forward on the path to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Go to www dot Molly watts.com/step One that’s Ste p o n e all together to learn more and get registered today. Okay, on to this week’s show. So first off, I want to acknowledge that this isn’t the show I plan on doing this week. And for my listeners Susie who asked for an episode on alcohol and blood pressure. It is coming next week Susie so stay tuned. This week’s episode, I want to talk about gray area drinking. And one of the reasons I want to talk about this is because of some conversations I’ve had recently with coaching clients with people that are interested in working with me that I I just talked to, you know, one time. And I’m still amazed at the prevalence of this black and white. I’m either good or bad discussion that really revolves around alcohol. And it’s really driven by this narrative that has existed for so long through AAA. And then you’ve got this over and the sober curious folks that really make it sound as though their way is the only way in the right way. And it just, really, I’m just always struck by how much people are holding on to these ideals and the stories and it really drives something inside of them that makes them feel really bad themselves about whether or not they actually have the power to change their their relationship with alcohol. And I believe you absolutely do. And this gray area is something that I think needs to be understood a little bit better. And so I wanted to do this podcast episode. All right, so gray area drinking. Many people who drink alcohol think that their consumption falls within the acceptable range of alcohol use, but you could be in riskier territory than you realize. I know for me, I believe I was a moderate drinker. I It wasn’t until I got educated on the science of alcohol got educated on where the recommendations for alcohol use levels actually come from, and really got honest with myself about the impact my drinking was having on my life, that I understood that I was actually gray area drinker. Now, gray area drinking has been defined as that murky space somewhere between social and destructive drinking. And unfortunately, slipping into gray area drinking is much easier to do than most people think, especially when you consider that the NIA a defines heavy drinking for men, as any more than four drinks on any one day, or more than 14 standard drinks in a week. And for women that’s more than three drinks in any one day, or more than seven standard drinks in a week. And those low risk limits those low risks seven standard drinks for women and 14 standard drinks for men, these are always in my shownotes folks, so you can always look for more information from the NIH a there. But you can see how a couple of glasses of red white or Rosae in a single evening can quickly push you technically into the gray. The reality is that many people exist in the gray area. And because they don’t experience major negative consequences. Aside from of course the progressive health risks associated with any degree of alcohol intake. They don’t see themselves as gray area drinkers. Now, how would you know if you are a gray area drinker? I know for myself because I was an adult child of an alcoholic. I lived with an ever present anxiety about my drinking, which seemed natural and logical to me. I just accepted it as the consequence of living with my mother’s alcohol abuse and drinking more than I believed was healthy. But in reality, my constant worry about my drinking was exactly why I could classify myself as a gray area drinker. Jolene Park, who is a health coach, functional nutritionist and founder of the gray area drinking resource hub says I define gray area drinking as the space between the extremes of rock bottom and every now and again drinking. I’m not sure there’s something similar to compare the spectrum to because there’s no safe or recommended healthy intake level of alcohol she says. Now, what makes great area drinking difficult to quote unquote diagnose is that most people in this zone don’t often exhibit symptoms. Right? So you don’t know it. That was certainly true for me. No one knew how much I struggled internally with my drinking. I had a very successful career a strong group of friends and family and I was someone who rarely drank to the point where I was really altered. From the outside. I did not look like someone who struggled with their drinking. And to most people. Gray Area drinkers appear like normal social drinkers. Gray Area drinkers usually don’t need to go into some sort of alcohol detox program to start drinking and AAA would never resonate with them. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t question or spend a lot of time often years thinking about drinking and wrestling with their internal dilemmas and concerns surrounding their drinking habits. Definitely was me for sure. Like decades. Nothing truly can Strophic happened as a result of my drinking. I never got a DUI, I didn’t lose my job didn’t even you know not go to work because I was hungover and I never suffered like a physical injury from my drinking. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a problem. And I think that’s what I believe most about gray area drinking. You can consider yourself a gray area drinker. Even if there’s nothing happening terrible happening because of your drinking, if it just doesn’t feel good. Looking back on my my own drinking, I was a gray area drinker for years, decades. Hey, all just a quick break in the show to talk with you for a minute about sunny side. It’s fall and it’s time for tailgaters and holiday parties on the horizon. There is never a better time than right now, to put a mindful plan into place. And Sunnyside is my recommendation for how you can really use a tool that provides a way to track your drinks, measure your progress, and really uses proven behavior change techniques to create lasting habit change. The thing is, you can reduce your drinking by 30% in the first 30 days with Sunnyside and you can save over $50 a month, cut out 2500 calories out of your diet. And these are just based on average results. I know that people that I talk to and people that I work with are using sunny side and getting great results. If you’d like to find out if it will work for you go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started on a free 15 day trial today. Now here are some of the characteristics of gray area drinking I want you to listen to see if you hear yourself in any of these I know I did. Number one you silently worry regret or fret about your drinking. Now, while I didn’t have prototypical wake up hangover, and regret my decisions kind of anxiety, I did silently worry about my drinking every day. I worried because I believed that my genetics made me more risk to become an alcoholic like my mother. And I worried because I saw no other option than to keep on drinking like I was or to stop drinking altogether. I didn’t believe that I was capable of becoming someone who just drank occasionally. Now maybe you’re someone like me who does the other stuff in life that you’re supposed to you get your workout in, you eat a balanced diet, you exhibit other healthy lifestyle choices. What goes on internally, regarding your drinking is different from what you present externally. And that is very characteristic of a gray area drinker. Number two, you drink between two extremes, right? So you’re a long way from rock bottom, like like the old me I never had one of those wake up call moments where it was clear to me that something needed to change. And you don’t feel compelled to change because things aren’t, quote unquote that bad. But you’re also not an every now and again drinker either. Where you could just have a glass of champagne or at a wedding a couple of times a year or someone who has multiple alcohol free days in each week. And so most people don’t fall into either one of these black or white drinking, you know categories. Most people land somewhere in between, which is where I was the then the gray area. Number three, you can stop drinking and you have stopped drinking for periods of time, even weeks or months. But you don’t find it possible to stay stopped. And maybe you’ve taken a break at different times you rely for various reasons. Obviously I said before, I have four grown sons and I was alcohol free during those pregnancies. So obviously, I was quite capable of taking those breaks. And maybe you’ve done a nutrition or fitness challenge. You’ve swore off alcohol as a New Year’s resolution. But then of course, something comes up a holiday, a work event or a stressful time. And it feels just too hard to not drink forever. Unfortunately, without understanding how the habit works without a mindful decision to change your relationship with alcohol, what’s going to happen is you’re just going to go back to your old drinking patterns, right? So that’s very typical again, of gray area drinking you stop but then you go back and start and you just kind of fall back into the same old pattern. Number four, your drinking often doesn’t look different than other people around you. Now this was definitely true for me. I drank like most people in my social and business circles, my neighborhood parties, friends gets together as girls night out work events. I, in fact, did know people and still know people who drank more than I did. And if you talk about if you know this is true, too, if you talk about your drinking with other people, they might say, you don’t have a problem. Why are you worrying so much about this? And that, again, just goes back to you telling yourself Oh, yeah, right. It’s not that bad, right? Even though you have the worry yourself, doesn’t matter what other people think. But regardless, that’s what you see, or what you feel is that you’re drinking doesn’t often look much different than the other people around you. Again, very typical of gray area drinkers. And last year kind of bounce between ignoring that little voice inside of you telling you that you’re drinking too much. And deciding that you’re overthinking and you need to just live a little right, you kind of go from one to the other. Because alcohol is your reward. At the end of the day. It’s how you have fun, relax, unwind, connect and fall asleep at night, it seems inconceivable to never drink again. But you also don’t know how to change what you’re doing, because the habit seems unbreakable. So if you hear yourself in any of those kind of descriptors, then you might consider yourself a gray area drinking. And I never really had this language for my my drinking back when it was happening. It’s become more prominent in recent years. And I am really glad as a relatively new term gray area drinking is just getting on the lexical map. But according to American addictions centers, it’s affecting over 75 million Americans. And I’m happy about this language, because I think many people are stuck like I was in black and white thinking when it came to when it comes to drinking, right? I wasn’t an alcoholic, like my mother, the black. And I didn’t want need or align with sober living. The white what I saw as the only white solution, by all also didn’t realize that my gray area drinking could be addressed improved and changed into a peaceful relationship with alcohol. And that the way to achieve that peace was completely within my own power. The reason I didn’t believe that is because the conversation around alcohol has always been so absolut, you’re either a normal drinker, or you’ve got a problem. And it seemed like I was just stuck in some no man’s land. Understanding that being a gray area drinker simply means that any level of drinking that affects your personal or work life, your health in a negative way. When I think about it that way, it’s very liberating in my mind, for some people, they might may find that that no amount of alcohol in their lives is worth the anxiety. Maybe they have worries no matter what they do. And that for them being alcohol free is the level of drinking that will work. For me, I happily follow low risk drinking limits, and I no longer am a gray area drinker because alcohol does not negatively impact my life in any way. And it’s a total non factor I have no more anxieties or worries about it. Now, here’s three things to consider if you believe you are gray area drinker. Number one, get really honest with yourself about what you’re looking for when you drink and figure out if alcohol is really delivering it. I had a lot of beliefs about why I needed to drink. I had a lot of misconceptions about alcohol, being something that helped me relax. I educated myself on what was really true about the amounts of alcohol I was drinking. And what I believed I was getting from alcohol was actually not true at all. You need to educate yourself on the science of alcohol to help reframe your drinking habits. Number two, get honest, technical and specific about how much you’re actually drinking. Learn what a standard drink is, measure your pores, learn the alcohol by volume of your favorite drinks and plug it into the NIA A’s standard drink calculator. This is data for you to really evaluate. And I will link it in the show notes and I encourage you to use this information to mindfully include alcohol in your plans if you do. Number three, believe in your ability to add the benefit in changing your relationship with alcohol. You have created your habits with alcohol. It’s not because alcohol is different because it’s an addictive substance. The same habit patterns exist for people with food Shopping, gambling, exercise, smoking, or any outside agent that people turn to repeatedly to try to change how they’re feeling. Over time that use becomes a habit. And it can also become a habit that doesn’t serve you. And that’s what your gray area drinking is. It’s a habit that doesn’t serve you. It is a well worn pathway in your brain that with time, intention and understanding of the reasons that you develop habit in the first place can be broken can be changed. I want you to to change from being a gray area drinker to someone that has a peaceful relationship with alcohol, it is completely possible. And it is just a matter of educating yourself, making changes and using your beautiful, brilliant human brain to figure out how the habit is working in your life. All right, that is all I have for you this week, my friends. If you want to learn more about step one, please come visit me at www dot Molly watts.com. Choose peace my friends. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com