I'm not worried about my drinking this Christmas, but I'm more aware of it now 9 months ago

I'm not worried about my drinking this Christmas, but I'm more aware of it now

Look for help and they'll tell you to take things day by day.

And they're right. When the entire world is crumbling, as it has often seemed to be, we do little good looking to the future. Staying in the present is where it's safe, where we can manage, where we're in control. It's also where the half bottle of wine sits idle in the fridge.

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During the first lockdown, I relied on alcohol as a coping mechanism. My drinking wasn't excessive; a glass of wine here, a Zoom beer there. If I was alone, I wouldn't have more than two a night every second day. If I was on a call with my friends, I could stretch to four or five.

The days were all the same so I measured them in differences. On Monday I'd do an online pilates class. On Wednesday there was the virtual pub quiz. On Friday I'd see my friends over Zoom, waiting to be admitted to the room, drink in hand, already two gin tins deep from the virtual after-work drinks we'd had the hour before.

I saw no problem problem with my drinking. I wasn't aggressive, I wasn't blacking out. I was barely drinking enough to give myself a substantial hangover the next day. I wasn't drinking a lot, but I was drinking frequently.

The late evening sunshine required a cider, despite the fact that I was home alone. The crisp glass of white was there to go with my Italian takeaway, even though I am no connoisseur. The first date Zoom call needed an entire bottle of red, even though we were not in a bar.

It was something to do, a way to break up the day, a marker of time that wasn't just moving the five metres from the kitchen table to the couch after an exhausting day of work. In some ways, it was repetitive, but it felt like the opposite.

This time around, things are different. Lockdown 2 has brought with it a familiarity, an awareness that things are just as shit, but they've been just as shit before. This time I'm not spending sober evenings surprised that I haven't cracked open a can. This time I haven't really wanted to.

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But Christmas is coming - and although I'm not worried about my drinking habits resuming to early pandemic levels, I am aware that they very well might do.

A new report released by Drinkaware this week showed that more and more people are relying on alcohol to relax and, more concerningly, to "cheer up". Over half of people in Ireland report turning to alcohol "when in a bad mood or stressed" - a 12% increase since 2018.

Having barely given a second thought to my planned casual drink every other night back in spring, I saw myself in the statistics - drinking for something to do, drinking to feel okay.

The festive season can be a difficult time for a lot of people. I don't struggle because I've got an aversion to Christmas, I struggle because I get bored. And when I get bored I tend to dive into a new TV show, pour a glass of wine, and try my best to chill out.

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I'm not worried about my alcohol consumption. It's been years since I've felt out of control while drinking. My moods afterwards are always stable. I never feel like I can't stop, and I am likely drinking significantly less than I would be if I was going out, enjoying dinners, and attending parties.

But still, I am more aware of it now.