EP 59: Gray Area Drinking with Carolyn Robistow, LPC

Between the extremes of Clinical Substance Abuse and Teetotaller is the much larger category of Gray Area Drinking. Here today to discuss the topic is therapist, gray area drinking coach, and board member at Mosaics of Mercy, Carolyn Robistow. Join us today to hear Carolyn’s hard-earned perspective on what she calls ‘Groundhog Day Drinking’ and what to do about it. You’ll hear what Carolyn does when she realizes that someone needs support for Clinical Substance Abuse, and why she believes that people’s response to your changed relationship with drinking says absolutely nothing about you. We talk about resolving points of disconnection within your value structure, and she shares what she thinks of as the trifecta of change: making fully informed decisions, finding daily support, and being a subcortical change maker. We touch on Brainspotting, the influence of the pandemic, and Carolyn shares an inspiring story of hope from her own life. Thanks for joining us!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Defining Clinical Substance Abuse, Gray Area Drinking, and Teetotaller.
  • How many people are dealing in this area: approximately 30% of people.
  • An introduction to therapist and gray area drinking coach, Carolyn Robistow.
  • Why she refers to ‘Gray Drinking’ as Groundhog Day Drinking.
  • Three subdivisions of category: White Knuckling Avoiders, Rule Creating Moderators, and Special Occasion Slippers.
  • What she calls the Groundhog Day Drinker’s Circle of Shame.
  • The telltale sign of Groundhog Day Drinking: the mental energy dedicated to alcohol.
  • How Carolyn identifies, based on the initial consultation if someone needs more support.
  • Common things people say if they are in the Groundhog Day Drinking culture.
  • Why people’s response to you no longer drinking says nothing about you.
  • Assessing your value structure and where the points of disconnection are.
  • The trifecta of change: the fully informed decision-maker, daily support, and the subcortical change maker.
  • Why Brainspotting is one of her preferred methods.
  • The importance of researching groups to make sure they are having the conversations you want to be part of. 
  • How the pandemic has impacted Gray Area Drinking.
  • Navigating social situations where we would usually be drinking: confidence!
  • Realizing that you are not on people’s radar the way that you might think.
  • Carolyn’s story of hope: the feeling of hopefulness, freedom, and happiness she feels on the other side.
  • Sherry’s joy at having a front-row seat to people’s healing and happiness.


“People are encouraged to take a break, and then build it back in, but just moderate it this go-round. And then eventually, you magically don’t want it anymore. And I  thought, where else in the world are we telling people to take something away, and then add it back in so that then you can take it away?” — Carolyn Robistow [0:07:25]

“The one thing that makes it Groundhog Day Drinking is the mental energy dedicated to alcohol, whether that is, I’m drinking it, or I’m not drinking it, that is the telltale sign.” — Carolyn Robistow [0:12:39]

“One of the questions I get really frequently in my group is, why do people care if I’m not drinking? And that just says a lot about them and how they connect with people. It says absolutely nothing about you.” — Carolyn Robistow [0:19:39]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Carolyn Robistow

Carolyn Robistow on Instagram
Hope Pieced Together
Mosaics of Mercy
Sherry Burkhard on LinkedIn


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