From the initial reports of panic buying of loo rolls and alcohol at the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, lockdown drinking is a phrase that most of us are familiar with. While some people jokingly talk of get togethers over Zoom with wine, there is a worry that the increased alcohol consumption, drinking in isolation and the new trend of lockdown drinking at home will result in longer term health issues for many people.
People tend to drink more in times of stress, worry and uncertainty so it is no wonder that alcohol sales increased by 67% in the UK just prior to lockdown being imposed. Furthermore there is no sign that this increase shows any signs of slowing down.
I can relate, if I wasn’t already sober, I would have been the first in the queue at my local Spar to stock up on beer and wine to ‘see me through’ after all, what else is there to do?
That is the problem. Boredom is one of the main reasons why people have increased their alcohol consumption. With nowhere to go, nobody to see and being, essentially, under house arrest, drinking is seen as a way to get through the day, add a little bit of joy and escape from all the terrible news on TV, and well, it’s just something to do.
Furthermore, it is ‘easy’ to drink at home with nobody to judge us. We don’t have to worry about how we’ll get back from the pub, all of the usual responsibilities and commitments have gone out of the window and if you don’t have to get up for the school run or go to work, then it is easy to convince yourself that ‘one more’ won’t hurt since you’re not doing anything the next day anyway. We have been living in a sort of limbo, a bit like the Christmas period without the sparkle or, an unexpected holiday but in scary circumstances.
Many shops and supermarkets too have used the increase in lockdown drinking and demand for alcohol to their advantage. A friend of mine in the UK told me her local shop has just put all the alcohol at the front of the store. The owner said,
‘There is no point in putting it at the back, people just come in looking for it anyway and this display I have here will all be gone by the end of the day”
With easing of restrictions, there is a sense of celebration in the air, another reason we drink. Thoughts of barbecues in the garden with a few beers have seen alcohol sales both online and in stores continue to rise.
There is a danger though that more people are using alcohol to cope with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression which can lead to a dependency on alcohol, even after restrictions have been lifted and we are allowed out into ‘the real world’ again.
Alcohol is an addictive substance and it doesn’t take long after regular, daily drinking to find that you actually might find that you ‘need’ it, which is a scary feeling. Just recently The Duchess of Cambridge encouraged people who were feeling anxious or worried about their lockdown drinking to reach out for help and not suffer in isolation.
This rise in lockdown drinking doesn’t just apply to addicts or people who already have dependency issues and are struggling with the lack of face to face support.
Speaking to friends and members of my own social networking groups, many people have told me that their relationship with alcohol has changed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and that their usual wine at the weekend had become an every day affair and some women who only drank in the evening have admitted to starting earlier in the day. Many have seen their one or two glasses increase to a bottle or more a night.
Signs lockdown drinking may be something to worry about
Thinking about alcohol more and more
If alcohol is at the forefront of your mind and you design your days around when and what you can drink, even to the point of not planning anything in the mornings anymore then it is a sign that your relationship with alcohol might be changing for the worst.
Feeling panic if the alcohol is running out
While things have settled down in terms of supermarket supply and we are allowed to go out more often, if you look in the fridge and see your supply of wine dwindling and make it a priority to go shopping for alcohol or feel a sense of panic if can’t get to the shops to restock, then this is a worrying sign that your lockdown drinking is taking a hold on your life.
You have become anxious about your recycling
Over flowing recycling bins of bottles and cans, and not just after the weekend, is a general sign that you are no longer drinking in moderation, but that alcohol is taking over your life. A feature on the BBC news with refuse collectors highlighted this when they commented on a nationwide rise in the amount of wine bottles and empty beer cans being left on the doorstep.
You may have noticed that your own recycling is getting out of control and making you anxious or embarrassed, which is a sign that you are drinking too much.
Feeling uncomfortable about going out into the real world where you will have to moderate
Unfortunately, one of the signs of alcohol dependence is feeling good that you can be alone to drink with nobody around to make you try and control your drinking or comment on how much you are drinking. You may have an issue if the thought of going to bars or restaurants again or spending time in the company of other people, means controlling how much you drink and that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Your lockdown drinking is getting in the way of your daily life
If you find that you are waking up more and more with a hangover, you are spending less and less time on your normal responsibilities or you can’t face the home schooling duties and even your daily walk seems like too much effort then this is a sign that your drinking is getting in the way of your day to day life.
Now, you might be forgiven for not putting on your makeup every day or spending more time in your pyjamas, but if the simple daily tasks are becoming a problem for you, then this is a worrying sign.
Drinking more to cope
We tend to think that alcohol helps us cope with stress and difficult emotions, and let’s face it we have experienced extreme stress and difficulties over the past few months. Financial worry, grief, loneliness and isolation are all things we have unfortunately had to deal with.
But, if you turn more and more to alcohol to numb out and escape, instead of your usual healthier ways of coping then it is a sign you are becoming emotionally dependant on alcohol.
“That totally freaked me out,”
However, some people who became worried about their lockdown drinking have decided to take a break, or at least cut down on their drinking which is encouraging.
One lady I spoke to said she saw a ‘funny’ meme stating that the pandemic will breed a generation of children of alcoholic parents. “That totally freaked me out,” she said, “and I didn’t want my child to think of his Mum as an alcoholic, so I made the decision to cut right down on my drinking. While it hasn’t been easy, I do feel far more at ease with myself.”
A recent survey by Alcohol Change explains that lockdown drinking is not just about people drinking more, but our behavior in general is changing, some of this change is encouraging. One in three of the people surveyed said that they had cut down on their drinking and 6% had decided to quit altogether.
Many addiction services and centers have also seen an increase in the number of people reaching out for help and support and personally, I am taking on more one to one clients and am receiving more and more messages from women seeking support and coaching to help them to change their own drinking behavior.
This is really good news and it is encouraging that people are becoming more aware of how their drinking has changed over the past few months and want to do something about it. The dangers of alcohol are very clear and in these worrying times of distress, it is even more important to look after ourselves, both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
What can you do if you are worried about your drinking.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that actually, now, yes, now even in the midst of a pandemic, it is a good time to rethink the way you drink and even make a commitment to have a break from drinking.
Here are some practical tips to help you if you want to change your lockdown drinking.
Look at how much you are drinking, when you drink and, perhaps most importantly, how it is making you feel. If you are worried or unhappy with your current drinking, then make a promise to yourself to start to put some changes in place now. Try my Ten Steps to Sober Bliss for practical things you can do right now to get out of your lockdown drinking in a gentle way.
Change your routine
Often, we are drinking out of boredom and it has become a habit. Look for other things you can do instead of automatically reaching for the bottle, my free guide to beating wine ‘clock is a good place to start. Look at alcohol free alternatives to drink, there is so much choice available now that you can treat yourself to a nice drink without the repercussions of too much alcohol.
See it as a healthy lifestyle choice
Quitting drinking doesn’t have to mean feeling bad, guilty, or shameful, in fact it is the best, most positive thing you can do for yourself and your family. Embracing this change with a positive mindset will really help you. Look for healthy ways to deal with your feelings and emotions such as spending time outdoors, walking, meditation, exercise and upping your self-care will make you feel good about yourself and your choices.
Reach out for help
If you are struggling and find that it is too difficult or scary to stop drinking, then come and join me for three months of transformational one to one coaching.
What are your experiences of lockdown drinking? How has your relationship with alcohol changed? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.