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As if the pandemic hasn’t been bad enough by itself, for many people its side effects add an additional layer of trouble. Aside from flippant references to the “Covid 15” weight gain (which is sadly real), the data on increased alcohol consumption is also frightening.
According to researchers at Boston University, “Before COVID-19, more than 25 percent of American adults admitted binge drinking, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In the first few weeks of lockdowns, alcohol sales jumped 54 percent over the previous year.”
If you’ve quite understandably increased your alcohol consumption but figure it might be a good idea to get things back under control, you’re not alone. Writing for Healthline, Irina Gonzalez notes that “With the recent popularization of 30-day challenges like Dry January and Sober October, people are beginning to recognize that there can be benefits to cutting out alcohol for a period of time. But if you’re new to sober curiosity, you may not know where to begin thinking about your relationship with alcohol.”
There is a structured way to think about decreasing or eliminating your alcohol consumption, says Gonzalez. Try this approach:
Assess your relationship with alcohol: “Is alcohol interfering with the way you want live or the things you want to do?” In particular, “Are you getting into more arguments with friends and family when drinking? Is your hangover keeping you from enjoying a sunny day outside? Is how much you drank the night before impacting your productivity at work or at school?”
Define the benefits of drinking: “If you look at the impact alcohol is having on your life and decide that there are still some benefits even among the consequences, that’s an important step in recognizing how your relationship with alcohol is working overall.”
Consider the risks of drinking: Be realistic about the risks, which include: “Impaired judgment, emotional vulnerability, problems sleeping, acting out of character.” Aside from the behavioral effects, there are health risks, including “cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.”
Take the first step: If you assess the risks and decide it’s time to stop drinking altogether, consider group support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Smart Recovery. Or consider an online recovery program such as Tempest.
Build your support system: This will actually take some careful thought. “When you begin to rethink your relationship with alcohol,” says Gonzalez, “your friends and family may not be on board — especially if those are some of the people that you used to drink with.” Consequently, start by setting boundaries with the people you used to drink with. Then try to connect more with friends who are committed to being sober.
Read up on the subject: Check out This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker or The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray. Or do a Google search on the subject and browse through a variety of books on quitting.
Remember that professionals can help: If you’re trying to quit drinking on your own, please consider reaching out for professional help. “If you’ve attempted to cut back on alcohol but were unable to do so,” says Gonzalez, “it’s possible that you need professional help to help you stop drinking.”
Finally, be gentle with yourself: In our society, there can be a degree of shame associated with the label alcoholic. Consequently, says Gonzalez, “It’s important to remember that labeling yourself is not necessary to take a step back and reconsider alcohol’s role in your life.”
For a full discussion of the topic and links to further resources, see the full Healthline article here.