The novel coronavirus pandemic has upended every aspect of daily life, forcing people across the world to adjust habits and rethink routines. Parents are stepping into the roles of educators, at-home exercise is on the rise and video calls are often the sole visual lifelines to family and friends.
General anxiety about, well, everything, is pervasive in this new normal, and drinking has become an accepted method of stress relief. After all, it’s something many can do at home to take the edge off during a very difficult time.
It’s also one of the few outlets still available to us. Nearly every state that issued stay-at-home directives has categorized liquor stores as “essential businesses.” Now, alcohol sales are soaring. One wine shop in New York City saw sales jump threefold, and Winc, a direct-to-consumer delivery service, reported a 578% increase in new member signups. Such figures are expected to climb, according to Nielsen data.
But how does drinking more, or even drinking more than usual, affect our ability to stay well during quarantine? Can we maintain healthy habits while we adhere to social distancing?
First, evaluate your social media exposure. Scrolling through post after post of wine bottles, beautiful homemade cocktails or fully stocked bar carts can be challenging if you’re trying to curb or be mindful of your consumption.
“If seeing people on social media drinking is a trigger, block them and explain to them later why you did it,” says Kirk Estopinal, partner and bartender at Cure and Cane & Table in New Orleans. Cane & Table has created a GoFundMe for its furloughed and laid-off employees in the wake of the pandemic.
Estopinal, who’s been sober for several years, says that reassessing drinking habits is usually a good idea, regardless of circumstances.
“Not drinking is always thoughtful—thoughtful of your mind, mood and health,” he says. “I cherish the people I know that can have one glass of wine to relax. I cannot. Know your control limits.”
Find ways to make technology helpful in this time of isolation, says Shayla Martin, a travel, food and drinks journalist with more than seven years of sobriety.
Like Estopinal, she says to be judicious about who you follow on social media. If a person or business romanticizes binge-drinking and makes you feel uncomfortable, unfollow them. Swap them for other accounts with healthier relationships to alcohol.
“If you’re newly sober, phone and online 12-step meetings are your friend,” says Martin. “There are meetings all over the world held over Skype and Zoom. They personally have been a lifeline for me since I can’t attend meetings in person.”
She also advises to seek out digital communities that share your values.
“Addiction thrives in isolation, which is why this time is so scary,” says Martin. “In general, either pursuing sobriety or limiting your drinking is a smart decision right now.”
It’s important to stay mentally and physically fit, too, since so many other societal norms have been upended.
“People ideally want to be in the best health in the midst of a pandemic like what we’re experiencing with Covid-19,” says Dr. Dean Drosnes, medical director at Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.
“In Pennsylvania, liquor sales increased by more than 58% between March 1 and March 17, compared to the same period last year, [which] suggests people saw alcohol as an important component to their social distancing preparations,” says Drosnes.
This can be risky for those with dependence or immunity issues.
Holly Berrigan, a natural wine importer based in Barcelona, is moderating her alcohol consumption while in quarantine.
“No more beers outside in the squares in the sun since social distancing,” says Berrigan. “[There’s] still the wine with dinner, and maybe apéritif bubbles if we’re trying to have a nicer affair.”
During this period of isolation and uncertainty, it’s more critical than ever to have rituals that make us feel good, says Berrigan.
“Some of mine include making tea, journaling, and taking current songs and changing them to be about our dog to get him to dance with us,” she says. “[Some of] those are obviously silly, but they work for me to get myself in a positive mindset.”
So, feel free to indulge if you’re so inclined, but do so thoughtfully. Be sensitive to the ways those in your social circles may be feeling and make mindful consumption the new normal.