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It’s black or white


In a recent and very brief interview on Studio 10 I qualified that I was not suffering from serious addiction when I decided to quit alcohol. I said that I was a grey area drinker, but I did not have the time to expand on what that means.  In this post I’ll tell you what it means for me, and more broadly how the experts define it.

My definition and story

I knew alcohol was bad for me for many, many years.  In 2002 I wrote in my diary that I HAD to stop drinking. It caused me anxiety, depression and created an apathy about my life. Basically it made me feel like crap, often.

I wrote ‘I don’t want to drink anymore’ in my diary for 20 years. The language was harsh, sometimes hateful, always judgemental

I did stop, on and off, during those years. Sometimes because I had to ( pregnancy), other times because I chose to. But every time there were a few common threads.

  • – I saw it as a sacrifice
  • – I felt I was missing out on something
  • – I was angry and judgemental about my lack of discipline when I thought about drinking.
  • – I couldn’t wait to drink again, and this time, I would tell myself, I would moderate

Despite experiencing all the benefits of not drinking I would look forward to my first drink at the end of a quit period. I would moderate for a while, and then I’d end up drinking as much as I did before I quit, and sometimes more. And every time the judgments would get harsher.

When I finally made the decision to quit for good I had pushed myself to the edge. During my dad’s illness I allowed myself to free-fall. After a while of letting myself drink whenever I wanted I noticed a dramatic increase in my self loathing.



I have done years of personal and professional development work, trained and worked as a life and mindset coach, counsellor, yoga teacher & mindfulness instructor. I’ve launched and run a 7 figure business, aligned my chakras, chanted OM 1000 times, sat in hours of meditation, and so on and so on, There was just one problem. I simply couldn’t like who I was if I drank and I finally needed to like myself enough to stop.


I wanted to get off the roller coaster


I didn’t enjoy being on this ride of seeking, and sometimes finding, love for myself, only to f*** it up with a drink or 7. I was incongruent. I was destroying the chance of a great life, a life that the person I was trying to love deserved.

My decision to stop drinking eventually came down to a decision to love myself unconditionally. There were no grey areas anymore.

Here is my definition of a grey area drinker.

  • – You know alcohol is holding you back from the person you want to be, and are capable of being.
  • – You can’t work out why you keep doing it, even though you know it’s so bad for you
  • – You tell yourself you’re not that bad when you drink, but your heart tells you something different.
  • – Mostly you like, even love yourself, but you don’t like yourself because of this
  • – And sadly, very often you don’t know who and what can help


For me there is no benchmark of alcohol intake for when you become a grey area drinker. For me, it was black or white. Either love myself wholey or not.


Here is Gray Area Drinking expert Jolene Park’s summary definition


This is gray area drinking, the space between the extremes of “rock bottom” and every-now-and-again drinking: a gray area that many, many people find an impossible space to occupy.


It’s the impossible space to occupy that is so important here.


I have taken the below from Jolene’s article here


Gray area drinkers usually don’t need to go into an alcohol detox program to stop drinking, and AA doesn’t resonate with many of us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t question or spend a lot of time—often years—thinking about our drinking and wrestling with the internal dilemmas and concerns surrounding our habits.’


 I was in that impossible space for way too many years.

Learn more


If you’d like to learn more about grey area drinking ( or gray area drinking if you’re in the US), check out Jolene’s amazing article here which gives more insight into GAD, how to know if you are one, and tips on what to do about it.


I am currently coach people worldwide in James Swanwicks 90 day program and am completing my GAD coach certification under Jolene Park.  I am combining my years of mindset coaching, training and experience with direct mentorship under James and Jolene in order to help people not only leave alcohol behind, but to move past it into a life full of freedom, joy, meaning and purpose.


If you are interested in updates on my coaching programs and one on one coaching please contact me here.


PLEASE NOTE: I am not a therapist or addiction counsellor. If you are struggling with addiction please visit the immediate help here for contacts that can assist you.


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Sarah Connelly

Sarah Connelly

Sarah is the Founder of Tapped In and has been writing and blogging about alcohol-free alternatives and lifestyle since October 2019. She's no pro, but she does her best.

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