One writer chronicles her changing relationship with alcohol, and what adopting a more mindful approach to drinking has taught her about herself and her habits…
Sixteen months ago, I’d never really given much thought to my drinking habits. Like many people, alcohol was woven into my life: a glass of wine with dinner, drinks at the pub on a Friday night, and come the weekend, multiple margaritas in the sun with friends. Drinking provided comfort, familiarity, and connection – and if I arrived at a bar during happy hour, so much the better.
Ask me exactly why I was drinking, though, and I probably would have struggled to give a straight answer. Although I’d define myself as a social drinker, my life also had plenty of occasions where I seemed to be drinking just for the sake of it.
Take the nights out clubbing where I took a shot even though I didn’t like the taste. The second and third G&T’s on date night. And the glasses of wine consumed on a weeknight watching Netflix, lest that half a bottle of rosé in the fridge go to waste.
Following the UK’s coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, however, all that changed. Alongside setting up a makeshift WFH desk and navigating the world of Zoom, the rapidly changing nature of my daily routine inspired me to take better care of my health and wellbeing.
I took up Pilates, started journaling, and made my own lunches for the first time in years; and as I developed healthier lifestyle practices, I couldn’t help but take a closer look at my drinking habits. Eventually, I realised that very often, I’d been drinking even when I didn’t truly want to. It was then that I decided to be more mindful in the way I approached alcohol.
According to recent research exploring the UK’s drinking habits during the pandemic, plenty of other people had the same idea. A report conducted by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group earlier this year found that alcohol consumption fell overall in England and Scotland during the first stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, while increased drinking at home didn’t offset the reduction in drinking in pubs and restaurants.
Research from Alcohol Change UK, meanwhile, found that one in three drinkers had either stopped drinking or reduced how often they drink since lockdown, with 6% stopping drinking entirely.
That’s not to say that cutting back my alcohol consumption was easy, especially with an absence of clear ways to demarcate home and work life during lockdown.
I wanted to celebrate 5.30pm by cracking a bottle open, especially given the added layer of boredom and anxiety generated by the pandemic. But as the first rocky weeks of lockdown gave way to familiarity with my new way of life, I became more aware of when I actually wanted a drink, as opposed to thinking that I should have one just because I’d clocked off.
Becoming more mindful
Once I made the conscious decision to be more mindful with my drinking, I developed practices to help me control it in a positive way. Instead of verbally committing to the idea of cutting back my alcohol intake, I decided to be more intentional by making a rule with myself that I’d only drink one day a week.
This usually turned out to be Friday as a way of breaking up the working week, but if there was a midweek Zoom quiz or I was catching up with a friend over Facetime, I’d take the opportunity to catch up with a glass of wine. By reducing my alcohol consumption, I also discovered that taking a long bath or curling up with a book and a mug of herbal tea could be just as restorative as pouring myself a drink.
Perhaps the biggest shift in my drinking habits, though, was introducing non-alcoholic alternatives. Although I’ve never felt pressured to drink more in a social setting, I found I finally had the time and inclination to reduce my alcohol consumption.
As a G&T lover, my go-to became Ceder’s distilled non-alcoholic spirit, which has all the botanicals of gin (and some extra boujee ones) but none of the booze impact. My favourite is Ceder’s Pink Rose – infused with delicate notes of juniper, rose and sweet hibiscus and mixed with two parts tonic, it makes for the perfect midweek summer tipple.
Enjoying non-alcoholic cocktails confirmed that I don’t need alcohol to unwind or feel good, and strengthened my resolve to properly examine whether I wanted to participate in situations where alcohol was being consumed – or opt out and feel completely happy in my choices.
A new approach
Now that restrictions have eased and my diary is once more filling up with brunches, birthday parties and long-postponed summer weddings, I feel more confident about returning to post-lockdown living.
Not only did the pandemic provide me with an opportunity to adjust my outlook on drinking, but it also gave me time and space to practice moderation.
The best part is that when I do raise a glass now, I’m fully aware of the reason why I’m choosing to drink, and I know that cultivating that ability to evaluate my relationship with alcohol will stay with me as life returns to normal.
Ceder’s is a distilled non-alcoholic drink made from classic gin botanicals and exotic plants, blended in small batches with crystal water for a sophisticated drinking experience - helping you incorporate moderation into everyday life. Calorie and sugar free, it comes in four delicious varieties:
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.