If the Pandemic Changed Your Drinking Habits, You’re Not Alone
However, you might completely avoid social situations involving alcohol if you’ve been drinking less for the past year, because it feels awkward being the only one who’s not drinking or having to explain to others why you’re not. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from having fun!
“You don’t want to think about it so much that you paralyze yourself and can’t go out and have a good time,” Alexander Hubbell, M.D., MPH,4 an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and program director of Addiction Medicine and Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Services at MHealth Fairview, tells SELF. If that sounds familiar, before going out with friends, try setting the boundary that you will not drink if you don’t want to. You may find it helpful to order seltzer water with lime or a mocktail so you’re holding something and sipping something along with others. Over time, you will hopefully feel more relaxed about it and feel less pressure to drink.
4. You might decide to stop drinking altogether.
If you cut back on drinking (or stopped entirely) when social events hit a halt, it may have come as a surprise that you really enjoy drinking less—or not at all. If you’ve been happier without the bar, then it could be the perfect time to create a new narrative for yourself, says Dr. Hubbell. That can be as simple as: “I can go out and enjoy my friends and not give in to the pressure to drink,” Dr. Hubbell says.
But how do you do that, exactly? “Start with small groups of people and bring it up beforehand,” Dr. Hubbell says. “Make not drinking an option that feels good.” You can suggest an activity that doesn’t involve alcohol, like going to a workout class or a museum. If you do go out in a situation where drinking might be involved, then you can say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that I feel better when I don’t drink, so I’m not going to order alcohol, but I don’t want that to stop you from getting a drink if you want one.”
Setting these small but clear boundaries can make you feel more confident in your decisions and help you socialize in a way that feels genuinely satisfying to you.
5. Your drinking could become a more serious problem.
Alcohol can get in the way of daily life sometimes, even if we don’t mean for it to. For example, maybe you’re going out so much now that you finally have the option, and you’re suddenly dealing with severe hangovers that prevent you from getting important errands done. Or maybe your drinking habits are causing you to miss work deadlines or putting stress on your relationships.
These behaviors can signal alcohol use disorder (AUD), which many people find surprising since they assume problematic drinking needs to be severe, says Dr. Hubbell. Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition whereby you might crave alcohol or feel like you don’t have control over how much you’re drinking. Health professionals use a set of guidelines to determine AUD and its severity, which can be mild, moderate, or severe, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).5