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8 Signs Your Pandemic Drinking Has Become a Problem

Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Cocktail porn has been popping up everywhere on Instagram and Facebook in this past year of COVID-19. Just search the hashtag #quarantini. During quarantine, amateur mixologists invented clever “Quarantinis” or fancy craft cocktails with top-shelf liquor and different combinations of exotic juices, aromatic bitters, cordials, liqueurs, simple syrup and fresh muddled herbs. It was fun at first, a creative project to help pass the time. It started out as once in a while. But for some, it evolved into drinking heavily every night.

“We’re seeing pictures of Quarantinis and jokes about stockpiling vodka or beer,” Nicole Arzt, an addiction therapist, told The Mighty last spring. “People are isolating; they’re drinking alone, and they feel anxious, ashamed or depressed. They don’t have anyone ‘watching’ their drinking, and so it’s easy to keep going.” The trend has only gotten worse.

Are you getting drunk or buzzed every night? Keep in mind the following signs you may be overdoing it.

1. You struggle to go a day or two without drinking.

When you drink every day, your body gets used to it. It begins to expect alcohol to come coursing through your veins and reverberating throughout your body. You crave it. If you don’t have it one night after a long stretch of drinking every day, you may have trouble sleeping.

Alcohol is a depressant and it causes your brain activity to slow down. For me, as a recovering alcoholic who has written a memoir about my journey to sobriety, it’s a soft-core lullaby, but it also causes severe episodes of depression. When I first got sober, I battled terrible insomnia. And haunting nightmares. But the depression slowly started going away once the alcohol in my body began to dissipate and I began to recover.

2. You find yourself drinking earlier in the day.

It’s a cliché you often hear on vacation: “It’s happy hour somewhere!” I used to wait until 5 p.m. to start drinking. I figured it was acceptable because it was officially happy hour. And while I mostly stuck to my guns save for day-drinking with friends on the weekends, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing your drinking by what time of day it is.

Who cares how much you drink? If you’re drinking during “socially acceptable” “happy hour” timeframes, you think you’re good. But if you’re doing it every day and in excess, you’re probably not OK.

3. Your sleep is bad and you wake up feeling tired.

Insomnia sucks. Poor sleep is worse. You wake up feeling like you didn’t sleep. This is because you don’t reach the point of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, the most restful kind of sleep. Weaning yourself off drinking every day will improve your sleep so you can catch some quality ZZZs.

4. You’re going to the bathroom often in the middle of the night, or you’re wetting the bed.

If you’re binge drinking — five or more drinks in one sitting for men, or four or more for women — that’s a hell of a lot of liquid. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic. In other words, it increases the amount of urine in your system. There’s a reason you have to pee all the time; it’s your drinking.

5. You’ve experienced alcohol-related weight gain.

In the peak of my alcoholism, I used to “drink my dinner” but with how much I was drinking, I did indeed put on some weight.

6. You’re having “blackouts” and “brownouts.”

“Blackouts” — completely forgetting things that happened or things you did while you were drunk — are a major problem. “Brownouts” happen when you remember bits and pieces but everything is fuzzy. Either way, they are not only a nuisance but also a quagmire to be avoided at all costs.

7. You aren’t telling anyone how much you’re drinking.

Alcoholics are really fantastic liars. In fact, they are particularly good at lying to themselves. “I don’t have a problem because… I’m only doing it at night.” “I’m not an alcoholic because…” “I’m only drinking beer and wine, not vodka.” “I can stop at any time.” “I can still do a satisfactory job at my place of work.” “All is hunky-dory.” But problem drinking is like quicksand; you sink to the bottom gradually and it gets worse and worse over time.

8. You think you can get away with day-drinking during office hours.

No one is at your home in-person to supervise you. On that Zoom call, you can easily fill your coffee mug with booze and pretend you are drinking coffee. And in-between Zoom meetings or even during them, it’s easy for you to drink a little tipple without anyone noticing.

To wrap things up, if any of these points resonates with your behavior, it might be time to chill out. Consider cutting down or abstaining. Alcohol can cause severe depression. It has no nutritional value whatsoever. And it kills brain cells. Give yourself a respite from alcohol before it becomes a worse habit. Your liver, physique and brain will thank you.

Lead image courtesy of Getty Images

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