'Lockdown Has Forced Me To Rethink My Relationship With Alcohol'
Drinking during lockdown can be a slippery slope, says Jessica Carter, 31, from Bristol.
I don't think I've ever told the truth about my alcohol consumption on paper. In fact, I fibbed just a few weeks ago when filling out a form for an insurance quote. One pint of beer and two glasses of wine a week? Sure.
The truth is, while I regularly surpass the recommended weekly limit (14 measly units, folks), I barely even think about how much I drink, let alone feel embarrassed by it.
But when does that cheeky glass of wine become something a bit more problematic?
I'm going to try and outsource some of the blame for my excessive drinking to my collective peer group here (sorry). It's no secret us millennials love a drink, and it seems there's a 'safety in numbers' mentality at play. After all, it's inconceivable that so many people would knowingly partake in something so detrimental to their mental and physical wellbeing... right?
The problem is, along with chickpeas and flour, alcohol in some form or other has been on every shopping list I've made since lockdown began.
Right now, most nights - okay, and afternoons when I've got no work on - I'm knocking back two beers or a couple of glasses of wine. Kicked off with a gin, most often. And on a weekend I'm perhaps (read: most likely) doubling that. And yes, I'm drinking a beer as I write this.
Out of interest, I asked a local online wine shop if they'd noticed a shift in trade. It was a big fat 'yes'. They've seen sales - mostly of wine boxes - increase by 1,087 per cent compared to their previous highest month. And that's despite their biggest clients, bars and restaurants, remaining very much closed.
"The hoarding tendency has definitely spilled over into wine," Rich Hamblin, founder of More Wine, tells me.
"We put some of our 10L boxes, which were destined for bars and restaurants, up for sale on the basis we wanted to shift these to release capital for smaller, more consumer-friendly sizes. We have sold well over 250 of those now to consumers, each containing over 13 bottles' worth."
And it's definitely not just me enjoying daily doses: "Pouring a drink has become routine, like a celebration of making it through another day inside," a friend tells me.
"Because I'm at home all day, the easiest way to separate work from non-work is a glass of wine," another friend admits.
The utter weirdness of the situation we find ourselves in does seem to call for out-of-the-ordinary drinking behaviour, and there's a sense of rebellion there too; I don't have to get up early to commute anymore, and it would be rude not to exercise my newfound freedom.
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That said, I was working my way through a glass of wine a couple of nights ago when it dawned on me, mid-gulp, that I didn't even want it.
At some point over the last couple of weeks, my evening drinks had quietly morphed from 'treat' to 'desperate attempt to add structure to my day'. I wasn't drinking because I fancied it - it was just something to do. I was clutching at straws in trying to form some kind of routine.
Janey Lee Grace, health and wellbeing coach and founder of The Sober Club, totally gets the reasons why so many of us are getting through more booze than usual on these long lockdown nights.
"When we are feeling panicky and under stress, we often go to our default 'reward' setting," she explains. "So if in the past we have seen alcohol as the thing that relaxes us, calms us down, then it's understandable we turn to it."
It obviously doesn't calm us down in the long term, though - that's part of the issue. The different manifestations of a hangover are many, varied and hit right where it hurts (I'm looking at you, beer fear).
And that's at the best of times - these symptoms are magnified when you're locked indoors because a pandemic is currently sweeping the globe. Excessive boozing plus lockdown equals a veritable nightmare when it comes to our wellbeing.
So, it's time for me to set down some boundaries. I've started small (it's all about the baby steps) with two days a week booze-free. I also now have non-alcoholic spirit in the cupboard, which, mixed with tonic, is delicious and complex enough in flavour that I take my time sipping it.
I've also switched to low-ABV beer, which my local craft breweries luckily make really well (and deliver - hurrah!) As for routine, I'm trying to use exercise to loosen up after a day spent staring at my laptop.
I ask Janey, who used to hang out with Sav-Blanc daily, for some tips on cutting out the booze. She says it helps to immerse yourself in the sober world, to find your tribe.
"Try listening to podcasts (mine is called Alcohol Free Life), reading 'quit lit' books such as The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, making sure you have good snacks and a choice of alcohol-free drinks (there are masses now) and connecting with others."
Who knows? It might be easier than we think.
For help or support, visit drinkaware.co.uk
Featured Image Credit: Jessica Carter
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