Before the quarantine started last year, I was a moderate to heavy drinker. A weekend warrior, you could say. A “party animal,” at best. A “blackout artist,” at worst.
But what happens when there are no more weekends and no more parties?
I used to use social events as excuses to get pretty drunk, usually, and outright hammered, occasionally. I didn’t see that as any kind of problem at all. I worked hard, I said. I deserved fun, I said. It’s hilarious, my friends said. And honestly, it worked for me.
Until March 2020 happened, and suddenly it didn’t.
Like many people, suddenly not having any obligations to be anywhere was a rollercoaster of emotions. It felt like something out of a sci-fi movie, a government-sanctioned indefinite summer vacation, but with horrific implications. No errands to do, no meetings to make. Everything was uncertain. But I’m not allowed to work. YES! Cough, cough. Wait– am I dying?
It was so intense that that first stay-at-home order, within days, felt like an emotional death sentence. Wait, emotions? I hadn’t felt those in a long time. Before, I’d use being the “life of the party” to stave them off. But always socially. I looked down on drinking alone; it was where I drew the line pre-Covid, the one thing that separated me from maybe having some kind of “problem.”
But desperate times called for desperate measures. While others baked bread, I decided my home project would be learning how to make fancy cocktails for one. It felt classy, like I was hacking the whole “drinking alone at home” thing by elevating my drinks of choice; at bars, I had been a Bud Light and shots kind of guy. Now I was muddling berries. I was frothing egg whites.I was practically a chemist. Or at least, a 2009-style “mixologist.” Yes, the drinks were pretty, and Instagram-ready. But as the night wore on, the scene was anything but: me, passing out with the TV on after sending weird texts to people while chainsmoking.
What at first felt like a novelty quickly became a nightly thing, and as the pandemic showed no signs of ending, the “nights” started getting earlier and earlier. Some started at 2pm. I mean, there was nothing to do, right? (Reading, watching TV, learning a language or instrument, taking a distanced walk, cooking, spring cleaning, home projects, at-home workouts, etc. notwithstanding, of course.) After a month of endless, aimless days and one long never-ending hangover, I was forced to take stock of the situation.
I realized that while I thought I was just “bored,” I was actually incapable of sitting with myself. “Raging” with co-workers after work and filling my weekends with social activities had ensured, essentially, that I was never alone. I thought that was normal. Who would want to be alone? I didn’t realize I was taking it to the extreme. My entire life revolved around socializing, and for me that was interchangeable with getting wasted. I didn’t even know what I liked doing other than that.
My party animal friends, it turned out, were worried about me too. I had no idea– I thought they too, considered me funnier, warmer, and just more likable in general when I was drunk. When I hinted about quitting drinking, the evidence to the contrary was in their eyes. Even on Facetime, I could see the relief. It was all, well… sobering.
And daunting as hell. With drinking as my main crutch, how was I really going to leave it behind while quarantining? I decided I’d try for 30 days and consider a few different approaches: Zoom AA meetings, high-rated books about stopping drinking on your own on Amazon, and introducing a bunch of healthy habits to my life — cooking, yoga, and taking walks were the only three I could stomach at first.
I’m not going to say it was easy, but the absence of social situations meant there were a LOT less triggers and temptations to avoid. I could still talk to my friends, I realized– I didn’t have to drink to do that. They were largely supportive of my experiment and some of them were even embarking on self-care journeys of their own. The people I met in AA were also really open to talking me through the hard days, which I found incredible, even though I didn’t totally understand the program at that point.
I felt so good after 30 days that I decided to keep going, and haven’t had a drink since. I feel like Covid, as devastating as it was, actually shone such a spotlight on issues I would have never seen otherwise, and for that I’m grateful. With the world opening back up, I’m slowly acclimating to socializing sober, but I had a solid foundation: a year of really focusing on myself, without feeling constant FOMO or having opportunities to say “Fuck it” at a bar. It really could have gone either way for me. And I’m STILL the life of the party. :D