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How The Pandemic Caused Me To Reevaluate My Relationship With Alcohol

Delish logo Delish 9/23/2021 Angel Madison
a woman sitting at a table with a plate of food: Prioe to the lockdown, I really never felt like I had a problem with alcohol. Now, I focus on the things that made me feel like I needed to drink rather than just not drinking. © Angel Madison Prioe to the lockdown, I really never felt like I had a problem with alcohol. Now, I focus on the things that made me feel like I needed to drink rather than just not drinking.

I’ve been mindful about my alcohol intake for as long as I can remember. There are a number of people in my family that have struggled with alcoholism, and I always saw how it affected them and their relationships with others. Even in college, I was much more cautious about my drinking than some of my peers. But over the last decade or two, somehow, booze became a big part of my life.

Before I got divorced, I used it as an escape when I was out with my friends, like a taste of freedom. After I got divorced, it was a way for me to loosen up on the days my daughter was with her father. And when I started dating again, most potential suitors wanted to meet for a drink. Sure, I could have said no, but with first date anxiety on high, drinks always helped to calm my nerves.

Prior to the lockdown, I really never felt like I had a problem with alcohol; I was always up for a fun cocktail and I ran an Instagram entirely devoted to my love of craft beer. And while much of my social media feed was filled with me laughing with my friends with a drink in my hand, I was mostly drinking out with friends, or unwinding with an occasional beer at home on a weeknight.

...Or I was. Until the pandemic arrived. Forced into lockdown alone with my daughter, stressed about the world and finances like everyone else, I dove into my beer stash. And when that dwindled, I started emptying the long neglected liquor cabinet. Trapped at home with just my thoughts and, I guess, with Zoom happy hours with my friends, I drank…a lot. Once my cabinet was emptied, I started visiting my local liquor store, where they’d fill up my trunk with my contactless order. I’d supplement that by visiting some different breweries and stocking up on cases of beers. It doesn’t seem so bad—if you were seeing all the memes around about moms drinking wine, it just kind of felt like the thing everyone was doing.

a woman smiling for the camera: At home in quarantine with a margarita © Angel Madison At home in quarantine with a margarita

And then—some time last fall, I was taking out the recycling and noticed that instead of one small bag of bottles, there were two larger bags filled with two vodka bottles, mixed in among at least two dozen beer cans. Even the rum of questionable origin had been emptied. All that alcohol was consumed entirely by me in the course of a week. Somehow, I’d gone from casual, social drinking, to drinking at least four-to-five drinks a day. So I went cold turkey for a few months. Around the holidays, I wanted to unwind from the absolute non-stop stress of 2020 and I started drinking again.

When I woke up hungover on January 1, I decided that simply not drinking for a while wasn’t the issue—it was really what was behind the drinking for me. I did Dry January, and over the course of the month, I focused on the things that made me feel like I needed to drink rather than just not drinking. To this day, this has been much harder than just not drinking. Looking at relationships with friends and realizing that what we have in common is really going out for drinks has been tough. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about how much they drink, but I also have definitely realized that I’ve used alcohol in the past as a way to make it through a lot of social situations. That awkward conversation with my aunt? Solved magically by Bacardi. My awkward shyness when meeting new people? Solved by Tito’s. My way to navigate a party? I don’t even like wine, but I’ll drink whatever the host hands me. My disappointment over yet another terrible date? Nothing a solid amount of beer can’t fix.

Since then, I've done a lot of meditation and journaling and I've realized that while I thought a lot of my issues were easily solved by drinking, the alcohol was just masking underlying issues. Instead of having conversations or cutting toxic people out of life, I would instead just drink copious amounts of alcohol to be around them. Those bad dates? I could have just walked out. In journaling, I remembered a time a few years ago when I was training to do a marathon. I had cut out alcohol for calorie reasons and a friend jokingly told me I was a lot more fun when I was drinking. It stuck with me. I’m definitely more spontaneous and relaxed when I’m intoxicated: Would not drinking make me boring? Maybe. But my takeaway is that maybe I need friends who like spending time with me, regardless of how many shots I can put down in an evening.

That said, I also just feel so much better. I function better at work and my creativity has been off the charts. I 'm writing and creating art and buzzing with ideas in ways I wasn't under the influence. I've also noticed I am sleeping better and have more energy during the day. Instead of dozing off on the couch and waking up at 2 a.m., I am going to bed and getting up before my alarm clock.

With this time for reflection, I realized that my problem wasn’t the alcohol itself. I can still enjoy a cocktail or a beer here and there. The problem is when I am drinking to mask pain or tension, using it as an avoidance tool, or looking for a social lubricant.

a person posing for the camera: One of the few drinks I © Angel Madison One of the few drinks I

As we muddle back into the Real World, I am aware of how this will be more challenging. It will challenge relationships with some of those aforementioned friends—particularly the ones who told me I was boring without booze. So far, I’ve told my closest friends that I’ve scaled back on drinking and while some were extremely surprised, they all seem fine with it. I’ve gone out a few times now, dipping my toe back into reality, and each time it gets easier to tell people that I’ve cut back. I navigated a recent brewery trip by sipping slowly and enjoying my beer instead of gulping it down like I would have in the past. Plus, even though I was nervous and meeting new people for the first time, I was far more present in the conversations that were happening.

I do wonder if I can survive bad dates without a drink. I think I can. If I can’t have a conversation with someone without turning to the bottle, I should politely excuse myself. I’m a people-pleaser by nature and I dread confrontation, so I’m a little nervous about this path with more resistance. But in a year when I can count the amount of alcoholic beverages I’ve had on one hand, I feel more confident than ever before.

Going forward, if you see me out sipping on a cocktail, or you see a post on social media with a new beer I’m trying, you can be sure it is because I really want to enjoy every sip of that beautifully made craft-cocktail, or taste the different flavors in that odd sour beer. And instead of drinking six, I’ll be drinking one.


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