Lockdown is a curious contradiction. On the one hand, we’re all following a strict set of new rules; but on the other, life is strangely rule-free. How we’re choosing to cope in lockdown is changing as the pandemic progresses.
There is no dressing for the office, no commute, no real schedule at all. And in the spring, some of us filled those newly flexible days by relaxing personal rules around drinking, too. ‘Wine o’clock’ got earlier and earlier. First it was 6pm; then 5pm; then 4pm after the departmental Zoom; then 2pm … then, oh, let’s have a glass of wine with lunch.
Reasons to drink
Some of us were lonely, many were anxious. A global trauma such as a pandemic is bound to have that effect. And women in particular were run ragged by extra domestic responsibility until that 30 minutes of numbing escapism between making dinner and tidying up seemed like the only time we had to ourselves. No wonder we reached for the bottle.
How we’re choosing to cope in lockdown
Figures released last week by the industry monitor Drinkaware reflect all those drinking memes and Facebook anecdotes we shared, showing 26 per cent of people in the UK drank more during the first lockdown, with most of the increase in consumption driven by women.
Midlife, middle-class drinkers in particular were more likely to have drunk more than pre-lockdown.
The reasons most often given were ‘having more time available’ and having ‘less structure to my day’, although stress, anxiety and boredom played big roles, too.
And yet, this time around, many of us don’t want to drink like that.
Freedom from Alcohol
I run a freedom from alcohol movement called This Naked Mind, named after my best-selling book, which offers people strategies and support to cut back on or give up alcohol altogether.
For many, lockdown was a period of reckoning. Perhaps for the first time, they saw in stark outline how much they drank, how easily it could get out of hand and how exhausted it was making them feel. Living in thrall to the bottle is not how they want to spend the second lockdown, let alone the rest of their lives.