The real reason you may be drinking more during self-isolation

Find yourself increasingly reaching for a glass of wine during the coronavirus lockdown? The reason could be more complex than you realise.

“If anything, quarantine has shown me that you don’t need to have fun to have alcohol.”

Does the above quote look a little familiar?

Over the past few weeks, many of us have become familiar with alcohol-related coronavirus memes and jokes doing the rounds on the internet.

Such as: “It’s COVID-19 coffee. It’s just like normal coffee but it has a margarita in it and also no coffee.”

How alcohol consumption has risen during coronavirus pandemic

But dig a little deeper and the facts and figures behind pandemic-related drinking are not quite as funny.

National polling by YouGov Galaxy, commissioned by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education, shows 20 per cent of Australians have bought more alcohol than usual during lockdown and 70 per cent are drinking than they usually would.

And 33 per cent of us are drinking alcohol daily.

The findings are not surprising, says Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Dr Erin Lalor.

“This country has a hard-drinking culture at the best of times and one of the greatest protectors against alcohol abuse is a sense of connection to our family, friends and greater community,” she says.

“We’re living in a period where we’re socially isolated, trying to connect with others in ways that don’t come naturally to us and the last thing we want is for this increased intake of alcohol to become embedded in our habits so that it continues after we come out of lockdown.”

With many social restrictions likely to remain in place for a while, it’s time for each of us to take stock of not only how much we’re drinking, but also why we might be reaching for that bottle in the first place.

Reasons you may be drinking more than usual during coronavirus lockdowns

If your recycling bins are starting to look as though a touring rock band is stationed at your house, it’s time to ask yourself why.

It may be that you are enjoying the alcoholic drinks you would normally consume socially at work functions, at the pub or on a date night – but without the usual social regulators, explains Dr Lalor.

“Usually there would be a concern that your boss would frown upon you ordering that second drink and a licensee would cut you off before you go into trouble, but obviously this doesn’t happen at home so it’s easier to drink to excess,” she says.

“What we have to remember is that our children are now being exposed to this strong home drinking culture – a pattern they themselves could repeat as adults.”

Another reason you may be drinking far more than you normally would is a little darker and requires careful self-examination, says psychologist Dr Amanda Ferguson.

“Collectively, we’ve never before experienced sitting with discomfort for an extended period of time and many of us are finding demons we thought we’d dealt with resurfacing,” she explains. “Everything we do is linked to our personal stories and the research shows many addictions are linked to our emotional belief systems.”

Got a childhood trauma or heartbreak you thought you’d successfully quashed? It’s likely your subconscious has begun unpacking them, leading many to reach for a drink to deal with the stress and anxiety linked to such feelings.

What to do if you are worried about your alcohol consumption

“People are trying to find ways to resettle their minds and relax their bodies so this is a great time to look at alternatives they could lean on instead,” says Dr Ferguson.

“I would recommend going for a stress walk, taking a power nap or calling a friend to bring that elevated state back down from ‘fight or flight’ mode.

“Of course, creativity is a big part of any addiction program so taking up a new pursuit such as writing, knitting or sewing can also help.”

Australia’s latest health guidelines recommend that both men and women consume no more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks a week – and no more than four standard drinks in any one day.

Dr Lalor encourages people to think about how much they’re drinking on a daily basis and to reach out for help if they’re concerned.

“Speak to family and friends openly, join health support services such as Hello Sunday Morning and Turning Point, which both offer online support and a community of people willing to support you,” she says.

“The idea is to get more information about what you can do to take steps before you need help.”

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation also has a comprehensive list of support services around the country. Call 1300 85 85 84 for more information.

More tips for coronavirus social distancing and self-isolation:

Written by Dilvin Yasa.