What Will I do With All of These New Habits Post-Covid?
If one thing is clear, many, if not most, of us are drinking a lot more these days and, while that is understandable, how are we going to fix it once the habits have become our new “normal” and are deeply entrenched?
Yes, the usual suspects are in play: boredom, loneliness, relationship friction, isolation, and old habits that are easy to reinstitute or expand. Remember when cocktail hour meant 5:00 p.m.? Now 4:00? Or 3:00? Or with the 3 martini lunch revived from the 1950s?
Understandable, especially as the duration lengthens and the end is nowhere in sight and stupid ignorant people host and attend super-spreader events. Even the President of Notre Dame is chastising himself for catching Covid by attending an event which ignored every guideline he himself laid down for students at his college. So I guess you don’t have to be stupid, just think you’re special?
By now, most ofius have run through our “to try someday” and “why don’t I anymore” and “when I get the time” lists. Can’t make another loaf of sourdough bread? Assemble another jigsaw puzzle? Try another position from the Kama Sutra? Binge watched yet another PBS series? Sign up for another Zoom yoga, Pilates, dance, art, language class?
And so alcohol does what it does best: relieves anxiety, fills time, provides insulation from others (the liquid privacy I saw so often during long, dark Alaskan winters) while allowing passive aggression, or actual aggression, against Covid itself or the annoying others we still have around.
All of this makes sense and if the pandemic had been brief, or the end was known, then it might make sense to drink our way through it. But it’s obviously not brief nor is the end anywhere in sight. And the longer this goes on, the more entrenched the new habits become and turn into our new normal – a new normal that’s going to be damn hard to kick.
So, now what?
I’m afraid that now, pandemic, and post-pandemic, as well as pre-pandemic, the answer is that much dreaded word, “effort.”
Effort starts with our day. Get up, do the routine ablutions, get dressed, do some work – even if it’s made up work – get out of the house, set some short term goals and develop concrete structures to achieve them. Keep in touch. Track down those friends you lost track of years ago – remember there’s no better time to be found than now. Do that family tree. Learn to sell stuff on eBay (I see my boyhood stamp collecting from 60 years ago is worth less now than it was then, sigh). Play slot machine with the stock market like you would have at you nearest casino.
Create routines and exert the effort. That’s a new normal you will need when the world opens up again. Skills honed now will stand you in good stead then.
“No, Virginia, You’re Not an ‘Alcoholic’.”
Few slurs get tossed around more cavalierly in our language than “alcoholic.” Yet asked to define it and we find that there is no definition beyond “someone who drinks more than I think they should.”
In the late 19th century, writer Booth Tarkington noted:
“There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink”
And once painted with that brush it’s nearly impossible to lose the label (and I still wonder what Tarkington’s other “thing” is, oh well…).
As with any purely subjective label there are both advantages and disadvantages to assuming the alcoholic mantel. The advantages are routine and obvious if one exploits AA and the rehab industry’s “disease” model which immediate frees you from any responsibility for your drinking past, present or future. Additionally, if you go that route, you can hide out in the 12 Step cult for the rest of your life, evading responsibility for damn near everything including ever growing up. As my uncles noted in the 1950s, “AA? Hrumph. Just the Peter Pan Society for all the little boys who never want to grow up.”
Those are not minor advantages, as I have noted in my Guide: “AA: Who it Helps, Who it Harms, Who it Kills & Why.”
But suppose you fall into the “Who it Harms/Kills” categories as most of us do?
And suppose you don’t aspire to be an “alcoholic”?
Then you are stuck with self-medication being the symptom, but that frees you to address whatever you’re medicating, and choosing from options which include abstinence, harm reduction, moderation, or continuing to drink but making an informed choice not a pressured one founded on false information, intimidation, and mythology.
It means you can assume responsibility for correcting and coping. Whether CBT, assertiveness training (the biggie), motivational enhancement, over-coming trauma, managing diet and exercise programs, and/or reconstituting your social/recreational/sexual habits.
Need a bit of short term help winnowing you way through that welter of choices and coming up with a plan tailored to you? It’s what Mary Ellen and I have been doing for 16 years with hundreds of individual clients in an affordable, effective, safe, and confidential manner.