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Lockdown has changed our relationship with alcohol

As restrictions lift and the weather improves, we shouldn't forget to look critically at what, how — and why — we drink.

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Timothy Dykes (Unsplash)

A lot of people cut loose with a drink on a Friday night to ease the stress of the working week and put a full stop at the end of it.

But what about when every day feels the same as the last? Has the balance between work and home life tilted so acutely that a quick drink here and there has crept into otherwise dry parts of the day?

Covid has created a perfect storm of isolation, job insecurity, health fears and a blurring of the lines between previously distinct areas of life. It should come as no surprise that some people have been using alcohol to deal with these pressures.

I lost my job early this year due to Covid. It’s also been over 20 years since I got sober. Even with the pandemic, the stress and trauma of the last 12 months, I haven’t thought about booze until now.

A sharp shock like losing a job could be the catalyst for some people to head to drinking as a way of dealing with upset and disappointment. Being made redundant can be the beginning of not knowing your place in the world or not knowing who you are.

For me, the job loss hasn’t been that dramatic. It has impacted my confidence, sense of purpose and routine, but not enough that I’d turn back to alcohol. I haven’t done it and I won’t do it, but there’s always the danger.

But what about those people who haven’t had an issue with alcohol?

I’ve been thinking about those people, the ones for whom drinking doesn’t usually hold any power over. What if they’ve lost their job, or have become so stressed with juggling home schooling and home working that a beer in the evening has turned into three in the afternoon?

When I was drinking problematically, I never knew what the catalyst was. A lot of people drink to deal with problems like stress, bereavement or money concerns. Unemployment is at a record high, which can’t be helping. I’ve picked up where I left off and continued freelance writing and editing, but many people are stuck with few job prospects in a county that is one of the poorest regions in Northern Europe.

Has drinking crept up on you, nudged its way into areas of your life where it wasn’t before? Now that we can see what looks like a glimmer of hope that things are getting back to normal, maybe you’re considering your relationship with alcohol and how it should fit into your life.

Now that you can sit in a beer garden and have a pint, should that be the first thing you do?

Many people will feel the draw of heading straight to the pub to socialise with their friends, as that’s one of the things that’s been sorely missing. But think about whether you really want to, and whether you could opt for a hot drink in a beer garden instead.

On the other hand, you might see this as an opportunity to ditch the daytime drinking, stock the fridge with soft drinks and relegate alcohol to socialising instead of something that comforts at home. If we’re getting back to normal then that means our habits can re-adjust to the healthier ones we had before lockdown, or even better ones.

For me, the easing of restrictions is an encouraging sign and the fact it coincides with the weather improving gives me a boost of positivity and motivation. I’ll keep writing, looking for work opportunities and staying sober, because that’s what works for me.

Let’s see this summer as the start of something good, put our lockdown habits firmly in the past and look to a happier, healthier future.

Learn more

Andy's first book, Drowning, a memoir of addiction and recovery, is available now.

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