This article was first published in January 2016, but we thought it would be helpful to update it. We’ll be publishing more articles over the coming months to support you in these strange and difficult times. If there’s a topic related to coronavirus and drinking that you’d like us to cover, please get in touch.
This is a difficult time for so many of us within the Club Soda community – both in the UK and globally – as we learn to cope with the ever-changing coronavirus outbreak. Many of our routines will have changed: working from home or not working at all, self-isolating, supporting family, friends and neighbours.
At times of major upheaval, some of us may find ourselves drinking more often or more heavily to try and cope with the stress and uncertainty. If we’re alcohol-free or successfully moderating under normal circumstances, we might find our plans more difficult to stick to. If we’re stuck at home and have time to fill, how can we avoid drinking more than we want to?
If you’ve been a social drinker who has struggled in pubs, their recent closure might feel like a bit of a relief (though spare a thought for the thousands of bar staff facing a very uncertain future). But the fact is that most of us drink more at home anyway. Not having a pub to go to could just displace the problem to your living room.
The pitfalls of drinking at home can be quite different from those you experience if you’re on a night out. You might not have to deal with social pressure from friends and colleagues, but you can find yourself struggling with routines, coping mechanisms and your closest relationships.
Your motivations for drinking will also be different at home. Instead of drinking to be social, you might be drinking to relax, to try and control anxiety, to take your mind off things or simply out of boredom, because it’s something to do. It’s useful to pay attention to the reasons why you “need” a drink now, and tackle that issue head-on.
As always, it helps to have a plan. Try and figure out what triggers your desire for a drink. Think about where, when, who with and what you drink. Do you tend to have a glass of wine at the end of the working day? Or when you start cooking? Do you help yourself to a G&T after the kids go to bed? Or will you have a beer if your partner offers you one? All of the triggers you notice are opportunities to change your drinking by making solid plans to act differently.
Once you’ve paid attention to your triggers, you can take steps to disrupt the routines that lead you to drinking more than you want to.
One easy way to shake up your routines is to focus on the feeling that your habits give you. Would you normally have a drink to relax, to feel happy or to have some time for yourself? Find alternative activities that give you those same feelings. It might be a good idea to try something completely new, like going for short walks, dancing around the house, signing up for an online course or downloading some books to read. And keeping busy by giving yourself some new interests can keep your mind off the alcohol anyway!
It also helps to notice what’s going on in your body at the moment when you feel the need for a drink. Are you actually hungry, thirsty or tired? Take a moment to pay attention and then do something to meet your physical needs. Whether it’s eating a snack, drinking a glass of water or just going to bed early, it’s important that you listen to your body. Make time to take care of yourself in order to achieve your drinking goals.
The great thing about being at home is that you actually have a lot of control over the situation. If you don’t want to drink then try and make sure there isn’t any alcohol in the house, or stash it somewhere difficult to get to, like the loft or underneath a pile of more productive stuff you could be doing. You could consider doing your shopping online so you’re less likely to be tempted (and then use a click and collect service if there are issues with deliveries).
If your partner drinks, you could ask them to drink something that you don’t enjoy so you’re less likely to want to share. Or enlist their support, and request that they under no circumstances let you join them. Remember that this is a chance to talk about you, not them, and ask for their help. So, use ‘I’ sentences and explain the importance of your personal challenge to you, to avoid the impression that you are judging their drinking. Try saying: “I am cutting down my drinking and I really hope you will support me. You could really help me by…”
The quickest way to avoid drinking alcohol at home is obviously to stop buying alcohol. But rather than thinking about alcohol as a thing to avoid, focus on what you want to drink instead so you won’t feel like you are depriving yourself. Good habits are easier to stick to if you enjoy them, so stock up on some alcohol-free drinks you will love.
Having some great alcohol-free alternatives in the fridge will make it easier to stick to your plans. The Club Soda Guide is a great place to look for new drinks as it lists over a thousand different low and no alcohol options, including alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits, plus craft sodas, kombuchas and shrubs. Your local pub might have had a limited selection of alcohol-free drinks, but at home, you don’t have to stick to sugary soft drinks for children. If your supermarket has a limited range of alcohol-free drinks, try specialist alcohol-free online retailers like our friends at Wise Bartender.
Not going out actually means you have an incredible amount of choice, so start experimenting and find some things you really enjoy.
It’s normal to feel cravings when you change your drinking. A craving is just your body’s response to the absence of something you’ve taught it to expect. Cravings will get better with time as you practise new habits and routines. And in the meantime, they won’t kill you – you might just want to distract yourself for a while until they pass!
When the cravings do hit, try and think calmly and clearly about what would happen if you did give in and have a drink? Would it be just one? And would you feel better or would you actually feel worse?
Alternatively, what will happen if you don’t drink? What can you do to enjoy the evening without a drink? And how much better will you feel tomorrow if you say no to a drink now?
You may also find that you are craving sugar, especially if you’ve given up alcohol completely. This is very common and it’s OK to get in a few treats. If you can stick to nuts or good quality dark chocolate that’s great, but don’t feel bad about reaching for the Haribo. Just think of all the calories you’re not drinking!
If you plan ahead and have a clear intention in mind, you can avoid drinking at home. And you’re not alone in wanting to change your drinking. Thousands of other people like you have cut down or stopped drinking with Club Soda’s support. If you need more tips, advice or drink recommendations, just subscribe to our weekly newsletter or sign up for one of our courses.
And remember, even if you are self-isolating, you’re not alone! Come to one of Club Soda’s online socials and connect with other people who are changing their drinking.
Now might be exactly the right time to take the leap and change your drinking, your way.