5 signs of drinking too much during COVID-19

Yes, people are drinking more during the COVID-19 shut down.  A recent CBC article reported BC has seen a 153% increase in the sales of hard liquor and a 144% rise in the sale of boxed wine during March.  That’s a lot of alcohol.  The main reasons?  Boredom, stress and feelings of anxiety.  Apart from the many risk of health and social problems with drinking too much, alcohol also affects the immune system and makes one more vulnerable to illness.  Plus – alcohol can make feelings of anxiety and depression even worse.

5 Signs of Drinking Too Much

#1: You regularly drink over the recommended limits.

  • The Canadian Guidelines recommend women should not consume more than 10 drinks a week and no more than 2 drinks a day on most days.  Men should consume no more than 15 drinks a week and no more than 3 drinks a day on most days.  These guidelines are based on extensive research.  If  you go over these amounts on a regular basis, you increase your risk for injury and illnesses like cancer, stroke, liver and heart disease, and decreased memory.  Try to jot down how much you drink every day and look back after the week is done,  How did you do?

#2: You worry you might run out of alcohol.

  • We have been told to limit the trips outside for shopping – so does the prospect of running out and standing in a long lineup worry you?  Are you finding yourself stocking up on liquor so you don’t run out?  That can mean it has become too important in your life.  If that’s the case, take a deep breath and instead stock up on some non-alcoholic beer or a favourite food the next time you’re out grocery shopping.

#3: You are drinking on the job.

  • Transitioning to working from home can be stressful – but it can also be tempting to have that one glass or two of wine or beer at 3 pm or slip a bit of Baileys into your morning coffee.  Try to ask yourself – “Would I do this in the office?  Then I shouldn’t do it if I’m still on the clock.”

#4: Those around you are bugging you about how much you are drinking.

  • Even if it is the occasional sideways glance or joking remark – your drinking is being noticed by others.  And remember it’s not easy to talk to someone about their drinking.  So if your loved ones are commenting, then they are noticing a pattern that isn’t good.  If you are thinking you are drinking too much, then say it out loud.  “Yeah, I think I’m hitting the booze a bit too often.  I’m going to cut back”.  Hearing yourself say it out loud can be the first step to making a change.

#5: You feel crummy in the morning.

  • A hangover is your body’s way of saying there is a problem.  Starting the day with a headache, sensitivity to light, touchy stomach or dehydration is a sign your liver has had a tough time detoxifying the previous night’s booze.  Yes, many of us have had the occasional hangover, especially when younger.  But listen to your body; it is saying enough is enough.

Waypoint counsellor Amy Pinnell, MSW, has extensive experience helping people struggling with problematic substance or alcohol use.  She says, “While substance use can feel like an immediate fix to uncomfortable emotions like stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression, the long-term outcome is often an increase in distress, or a reliance on the substance to have any type of relief. While slowing down our routines can be challenging, it is also an opportunity to develop new skills and tools for dealing with stress and fear. Staying in the present moment through mindfulness and tackling life one day at a time are strategies that many people in recovery from problem drinking use to cope with uncertainty, stress or cravings.”  Worried about your drinking or that of a loved one?  A free consultation with Amy can be booked here.  

Some Ways to Reduce Drinking

  • Try not to purchase it – if it isn’t in your home, then you are not able to drink it.
  •  Buy non-alcoholic beverages to have on hand.
  •  Distract yourself with other things to do in place of drinking. Go for a walk, watching a movie, create art, phone a friend, or start a journal.
  •  Think about what you would gain in your life from not drinking instead of focusing on what you are giving up by laying off the alcohol.
  • Consider taking on a 30-day, 90-day, or year-long challenge of abstaining from alcohol. You might have heard of “Sober October” or “Dry January.” Consider “30 Day Cold Turkey Covid” or “Memorable May.”
And lastly, we need to remember that if a person has a serious alcohol use disorder, suddenly quitting is not an option and can instead result in serious withdrawal harm.  For more information, see this helpful brochure from the University of Victoria.
All of us at Waypoint Counselling Network wish you well during these very challenging times.  Remember, we are here for you.  Contact us if you have any questions or need help.
George Bielay, MSc
Director of Clinical Services
Call or Text: 778-677-1960