2020 has been a year. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most stressful elections in recent history, and the racial tension in the country, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. Like many of you, I entered the year with high hopes and big dreams. Instead, more often than not, I ended up on my couch with a glass of pinot noir and Tiger King. With the year coming to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with alcohol. This year, my resolution isn’t to give it up. Instead, it’s to manage my expectations of alcohol and remedy the ways in which it fits into my life.
Before I explain how I plan to achieve my goal, I must say that I can’t complain too much. A lot of good things did happen for me this year, including landing my dream job. But all of the good that happened this year felt eclipsed by the bad things that went down in 2020. My great-grandmother died this year, and planning a funeral during a pandemic was no easy feat for my mom. And did I mention going to the store or running an errand has been an instant anxiety inducer?
It started with the weekly Zoom happy hours. Those got old pretty quickly, but drinking the wine didn’t.
Sometimes, doing anything during this pandemic felt reason enough to justify a glass of wine at the end of the day. And when those things weren’t enough of an excuse, being married to a first responder did just the trick. Knowing my husband was and still is at high risk of contracting the virus would often call for a glass or two of wine during a virtual happy hour with friends.
Drinking used to be a purely social thing. I like to think I lived by the “I never drink alone” adage. But when you’re not allowed to socialize because of a global pandemic, you have to get creative. It started with the weekly Zoom happy hours. Those got old pretty quickly, but drinking the wine didn’t. Ultimately, that habit of Zooming with friends turned into having a glass (sometimes a bottle) to take the pressure off.
In addition to the crippling feeling of impending doom that 2020 has brought to all of us, for many of us, the desire to drink alcohol is heavily influenced by pop culture cues. Many celebrities, movies, and television series depict alcohol as an omnipresent activity everyone is taking part in and seemingly unaffected by. At least, the media I’m consuming makes alcohol look like a key component in bonding, connection, and most importantly, relaxation.
I’ve always known alcohol wasn’t great for my body, but that was mostly in the fitness sense. Personally, I can’t lose weight without giving up the added calories in alcohol. And I always knew alcohol wasn’t helpful in terms of keeping anxiety or depression at bay, even though it might feel that way at first. But it wasn’t until I read an article entitled “The Year of Drinking Dangerously” that things really came into perspective for me. The piece highlights a mother’s perspective on drinking too much during the pandemic, but what resonated with me were the shocking statistics connecting excessive drinking with conditions including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. The American Cancer Society goes so far as to recommend that people avoid drinking altogether.
All of this inspired me to want to change my own relationship with alcohol. In 2021, I’d like to focus on achieving my fitness goals, which include completing the program I’m currently involved in. Instead of relying on alcohol to take away the stresses life, the pandemic, or anything else throws my way, I’ll limit the opportunities I allow myself to drink. Another big part of fixing my relationship with alcohol is going to be adjusting the reason I drink. I want to have a glass of wine because I enjoy it with a meal or during a bitch session with friends — not because I want to numb the stress I’m feeling.
If 2021 is anything like 2020, my goal might prove to be challenging. But I know with the right attitude, I can achieve anything I put my mind to — including cutting back on those stress pours.