3 Essential Tips to Control Drinking During the Pandemic

All over the world, we are facing unprecedented restrictions in our daily lives. These might affect some people more than others. For some life might be going on as usual with just minor adjustments to their daily routine, for others, the economic or social effects might be alarming. Most of us are probably experiencing some level of anxiety about the situation – worry about jobs, bills and our family’s health.

Alcohol sales shot up dramatically over the first major lockdown in the spring of 2020. With bars and restaurants still closed in many places, it would appear we were spending our disposable income on booze in the supermarket or online. It’s almost inevitable – stress, worry, boredom, lack of routine, more flexible working arrangements and perhaps a sense of ‘what the hell’ are all classic triggers for overdoing the drinking.

Let’s look at some mind-shifts to help build up our protection against these triggering emotions or states of mind that can drag us down the track of excess drinking.

Tip #1. Let’s be compassionate with our loved ones and ourselves. We are going through a period of restriction, fear, confusion and uncertainty that most of us would never have imagined in the western, developed world. Accept and acknowledge that it is difficult. We do not have to be super-men or wonder-women; we just need to do what we can to get through this, maintaining our physical, emotional and mental health as best we can. Perhaps, now more than ever, we have the opportunity and the ‘excuse’ (not that we should need one) to practise a bit of self-care and compassion. To look at our loved ones and neighbours with a kind heart and see that they too are struggling and trying their best to get by in these challenging times.

Showing up for others - whether it is a Skype call, attending a zoom meeting, doing some essential shopping for a neighbour or cooking a delicious meal for our family - is an anti-dote to the self-pity or despair we could slip into in these dark days. Look out for yourself and others. Do what you can to help yourself, your family, and your community to stay well and thrive. Your compassionate actions might well give you a sense of purpose and direction you feel you are missing in your daily routine. Looking after others is a great way to boost your own happiness.

Tip #2.  Avoid black and white thinking. It's easy to focus on the dire situation we are in and order in that case of your favourite poison. Yes, you could drink your way through this lockdown, but let’s fast forward the video – if you drink to numb out the present reality, what will you remember from the pandemic experience? What insights or experiences will you be able to share with others? What will you learn about yourself? How will your self-esteem be? What shape will you be in physically?  What about your levels of anxiety or depression, how will heavy drinking affect them?

If you know one drink will lead to a major relapse, now is not the time to try moderate drinking. If you have an urge to drink that you know will not end well, you can practice techniques such as ‘urge surfing’ or ‘okay but not today’. These techniques and more are in The 10 Day Alcohol Detox Plan.

If you do drink against your better judgement, avoid black and white thinking, such as "I've started drinking now, so I might as well carry on, as I've blown it anyway". Draw a line under the drink or the evening or day of drinking and move on. All is not lost; use your recovery tools to stay well.

Tip #3. If you are in a full or partial lockdown, see it as an opportunity to do all those things you have put off for years. Now is the perfect time to learn that language, perfect that artistic skill, research your family tree, learn to bake bread or make your own soap – whatever inspires you, go for it.

In Winspress books, we refer to MAPs – Meaningfully Absorbing Projects. This is a project or task with a clear creative outcome, one that is absorbing and deeply engaging for you. Now is the perfect time to get on with your MAP. You will be so busy with it, that you forget about the booze.