Is your loneliness and worry about death fuelling an unhealthy drinking habit?
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As isolation is forced upon us, people might be looking for ways to feel better, but research shows that there is a strong link between drinking and feeling sad and disconnected.
St Albans-based counsellor and psychotherapist Kathleen Gherardi has a private practice and works in alcohol rehabiliation.
She says that for people generally there is a discomfort triggered by the coronavirus shutdown, not just the isolation but a questioning of their own existence and mortality that we can usually avoid through “being busy”.
The activities we took part in pre-coronavirus shutdown enabled a sense of denial about things that are concerning to people, she says.
Some people are not isolated on their own and might have a big family around them but they are missing out on physical contact, wider social connections such as workplace banter and being able to make decisions about where to go.
Kathleen said: “There are many things going on at the moment which might lead people to drink more. Studies that have been carried out on rats show that people in confined situations get angry and that being cooped up is very stressful. People are the same. How do they try and moderate that?
“People have historically turned to alcohol to reduce stress - only in the modern age it is so accessible. Currently, the world is a wash in a sea of alcohol.”
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The counsellor describes alcohol as “creating a non-reality” and therefore giving people a “false sense of soothing”.
The Herts Ad spoke to some addicts in recovery about their thinking around drinking. They all agreed that difficult times took them to a place where they needed help and can empathise with anyone who sees drinking as a solution.
One St Albans woman who wants to remain anonymous said: “I used to think because I didn’t drink in the morning I didn’t really have a problem. Because I was only in my twenties and I had a good job and dressed nicely, I just couldn’t identify with what I thought an alcoholic was.”
She said that other people she knows in recovery say they thought that having ‘days off’ drinking means they were not an alcoholic.
The 26-year-old added: “I also believed that I had to be much older to access help for my drinking.”
‘Mike’, a 42-year-old businessman, said he found the only thing to take away his loneliness after his wife and children left was to drink beer: “Alcohol honestly was my best friend and I was grateful for it. I didn’t realise it was actually adding to my troubles in the long run.”
‘Gemma’ of Hatfield Road said she worries for people in these times of difficulty and isolation: “I always enjoyed a drink like any other woman in their 30s. Not sure when I went through the gates of no return but I found myself desperate for that 5pm drink.
“Looking back I am shocked at how quickly my drinking progressed after I had had children and spent so long on my own at home.
“I have been sober for three years now and would like people to know there is freedom from alcohol - and just because you have a job and don’t drink in the daytime doesn’t mean you can’t access support or that you might not be happier living sober.
“I thought I could not go one week without a glass of wine and that I would be boring without it. I can see how this forced isolation might bring stuff up for people. For me, keeping in touch with others is critical to my well-being so I make sure I do that every day.”
Kathlees agrees that the key to addressing drinking issues is connection: “Alcohol is not a healthy way to moderate loneliness and disconnection.”
If you would like some support with your drinking habits or think you might have an addiction to alcohol, support is available at www.changegrowlive.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0ay3i6qf6QIV0u7tCh07WgiZEAAYASAAEgIwYvD_BwE and www.livingroomherts.org/
or you can call the free helpline of Alcoholics Anonymous on 0800 9177650 or visit their website.