The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to hunker down inside of our homes for months on end, which gave some people the opportunity to slow down and evaluate some of their habits—and whether those habits were serving them well. One habit that might still be evolving (as the pandemic itself evolves) is your relationship with alcohol.
You may have read that some people have cut back on drinking during the pandemic (or know someone who personally made a change) and be thinking about doing the same. Or maybe you’re realizing that your drinking habits don’t make you feel all that great the next day and are looking for ways to help cut back on your alcohol consumption.
So we asked real people who either stopped drinking completely or cut back on their booze intake during the pandemic to share how they changed their habits and what motivates them to keep going.
An important note before we get into that: If you’re worried about how drinking may be affecting your life, then it’s worth reaching out to a doctor, a therapist if you have one, or resources like the Anxiety & Depression Association of America and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, both of which can offer guidance about finding the kind of support that you might find helpful.
Now, here are five tips that you may find insightful for cutting back if you want to.
1. “I started attending online alcohol support group meetings.”
During the pandemic, alcohol became like a life raft floating in the middle of a day that stretched on forever. I am a single mom to a five-year-old, and I was trying to manage work, my own stress and loneliness, plus be my son’s playmate and teacher. On Monday morning, August 3, 2020, I decided to take a week off from drinking, and I haven’t had a drink since.
The cravings at night were very intense. In the first difficult days of taking a break from alcohol, I feverishly googled for articles on the benefits of quitting drinking to help me from giving in and just pouring a glass of wine. I came upon sobriety memoirist Laura McKowen’s name. I started listening to her old recovery podcast Home and signed up for The Luckiest Club (TLC), an online sobriety group, a few days later. I started attending TLC meetings in mid-August, about 10 days after I had quit drinking. The meetings are a place where everyone is free to bring their deepest, darkest shame and be met with nothing but grace and compassion. I have never experienced anything like it. Having other people to walk the path with and who are sharing the same struggles makes the process bearable.
The number one benefit of giving up alcohol that keeps me going is my connection to my son. I hadn’t realized the wall alcohol had put up between us. Eight weeks after I quit drinking, he said, “Mommy, why is it so fun now?” He didn’t know what wine was or that I had quit, but he felt the shift. Mentally, I had come home to him and to myself. When sobriety gets hard, I think of the last year with him and I bite down, recommit. He and I are worth it. I have been sober over a year now and still regularly attend meetings. —Megan R., 38
2. “Nonalcoholic beverages were a game changer.”
In the early days of the pandemic, everyone seemed to have a “why not?” attitude about drinking, my wife and I included. As we were both fortunate enough to work remotely, we quickly filled our commuteless days with evening wine tastings, cocktail making, and pizza-and-beer nights. But we realized that these alcohol-fueled nights only added to our stress and anxiety. So we decided in the summer of 2020 to try and go at least one month without drinking. Knowing that replacing our evening rituals would be a significant challenge, we decided to keep the wine tastings and pizza nights the same, but swapped our drinks for nonalcoholic beverages.