As we retreated into our homes to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, more and more of us started popping bottles in the kitchen — at least that’s what the countless quarantini memes, TikToks and Instagrams, and my Mastercard bill seem to suggest.
But how much are women actually drinking as we hunker down to ride out the pandemic?
Well, a recent survey found that out of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S., 16% said they were drinking more “due to social distancing and self-quarantining practices.” Perhaps surprisingly, 19% said they were imbibing less alcohol, according to a Morning Consult survey from April. And yet, liquor sales have been skyrocketing in the U.S., particularly from online retailers, whose business shot up 243% at the end of March, according to the market research firm Nielsen. (General best-practice guidelines call for up to one drink a day for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
There are plenty of reasons why some of us may be drinking more — boredom, anxiety, loneliness, difficulty separating work from home, from, uh, cocktail hour, and weekends from weekdays. Or just because. As one reader put it, “if I’m being honest, I’m not really sure why I’m drinking.”
Here’s what 13 women had to say about their current alcohol use habits. (And please: If you think you are overindulging and you are concerned about it, please seek support.)
“I try to stick to two glasses of wine a night at dinner-ish time. And sometimes a bourbon or cognac later. I’ve been drinking a little bit more on more stressful days. With two kids at home and trying to manage them, work, their school, their meetings, make food, exercise, and try to do laundry and chores as a single mom, it’s a bit daunting. Sometimes a bottle of wine gets finished over the course of a night, but not most days — and NEVER before 5 p.m. That’s my threshold! (Unless it’s the weekend, then maybe a beer in the afternoon.) I’m never “drunk” around my kids and am not worried about over-consumption. (Although a general practitioner would likely call the above consumption alcoholic!?!?) — Meghan
“I started the pandemic drinking wine pretty regularly — a glass or two, (k, sometimes three) most evenings. But then I missed that “Ahhh” feeling you get with the first glass of wine you’ve had in days, so I’m trying to limit it to weekends (aaand my weekends start on Thursday now). I’m probably drinking a little more than usual, but I figure drinks and food are some of our only joys in life right now so I’m okay with indulging.” — Ciara
“I live by myself, and I don’t like to drink alone. I think I’ve had two nights where I’ve been drinking on Zoom calls and for Easter! I used to drink two to three nights a week, now maybe it’s once every two weeks. Drinking definitely doesn’t help with the anxiety. Also doesn’t help with sleep — and work is so busy I need to be sharp and focused. (No time for a hangover!) Less drinking is probably why I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought I would in quarantine. Less liquid calories excuses the fact that I used to workout every day for at least an hour at the gym. Now I’m lucky if I get 30 minutes, three days a week. — Anne Marie
“So far, I’m drinking once a week or once every two weeks. Mostly Coronas, wine, and tequila. Most of the time, it’s been out of boredom.” — Sandra
“It is safe to say that alcohol consumption at our house is up, WAY up. And, if I’m really being honest, I’m not even sure why I’m drinking. I’ve never been one of those people who comes home after a long, hard day at work and pours themselves a glass to take the edge off. So why now? I will admit, sometimes playing the roles of employee, mom, wife, teacher, housekeeper, cook, and whatever else life seems to ask of us these days, drinking a glass of wine does seem to make things feel better. Maybe it allows this super type-A lady to relax and breathe. If I think about it, it’s one of the most ‘normal’ things we can do given everything else that’s going on. It reminds me of better times — times with friends, times with family, and times when we weren’t worried about anything but having fun.” — Rebecca
“My drinking has ramped way down. If I have even a single beer, it becomes a real downer for me. I think it’s making me realize that alcohol is purely social for me. By myself, I don’t like it. Maybe I use it as a way to get over my social anxieties. It’s challenging because my partner has been enjoying beers and this has become maybe even slightly contentious between us. He can handle himself and finds comfort in beer. Unlike me!” —Whitney
“I’m consuming at least one drink, four to five nights a week. During the week it’s usually just a glass of wine (or sometimes two), and on the weekends (Friday and Saturday) it’s more like: half a bottle of wine, or a couple of coolers (I like Cottage Springs vodka sodas) or a cocktail if I’m video-chatting with friends. I discovered you can make a pretty good martini using a protein shaker cup! The frequency of my alcohol consumption has gone way up — I normally never drink during the week unless I have a special occasion. I think it’s a mix of feeling like I want to reward myself for getting through another day of weirdness (I always wait until work is done and I’ve gotten in a workout and made dinner), and also just the subconscious feeling of missing socializing. I’m trying to not judge myself too much — everyone is dealing with this pandemic in their own way. As long as I’m maintaining balance (not eating like crap or sleeping through workouts) I feel pretty okay about my drinking habits right now.” — Jessica
“At the start of quarantine, I noticed a big uptick in my alcohol consumption. I was socializing more and realizing that, after the Zoom calls ended, I was home alone and drunk. My sleep schedule started to get later and later and my new favorite jeans began to become my least favorite jeans (because my waistline was expanding). I saw the stack of empties in my recycling bin and the statement on my Visa and decided it was time to make a change. I found it really hard to stay away from the booze at first. So much so that I asked my roommate to hide my alcohol. I didn’t trust myself not to go for my regular glass (or three) of wine because it had become such an essential part of my daily routine. I’m now on day 29 of sobriety and this lifestyle change has led to a renewed interest in fitness. I am now looking into bikes in the hope of picking up my childhood love of triathlons and I have extended my sobriety goal to Mother’s Day, but suspect this will last beyond that if I truly pursue my fitness goal.” — Monica
“I have been drinking one to two alcoholic beverages per day. Usually just one, two if my kids are out of control. A lot of mixed drinks. Some from the LCBO, Aperol spritzes, and always mimosas. Prior to the pandemic, I only drank maybe one drink on weekends. I’m drinking from the stress of having kids, being stuck inside while both myself and my husband try to do our jobs from home, and home school. I think I’m also drinking more because I have more time. Plus, it calms some of the anxiety that goes along with quarantining. Some days I worry about my liver, but then I remember why I’m drinking and I know this won’t be forever (hopefully).” — Mikki
“At the beginning of the quarantine, I was determined not to drink too much. Typically, I don’t drink when I’m at home alone. I would say, throughout the first two weeks, I maybe had five glasses of wine. Total. For the last two weeks, I’ve been drinking more as I’ve been hanging out with my new corona BF. I had a Zoom birthday party on Saturday night, and I had a couple of bourbons on the rocks, but other than that, I haven’t been drinking.” — Sarah
“Cocktail hour is getting earlier and earlier, and I’ve rediscovered my love for Manhattans. Working full-time and parenting a very small child has been stressful, although I feel very lucky to be healthy and still employed. Once the baby is down, I’m definitely having a few drinks while I catch up on emails, plan my schedule for the next day, and try to create some kind of order in the house. I’m drinking almost every day and having one to three drinks, which is way more than my usual habit. I’m not worried at this point, but I recognize it’s a coping tool.” — Kat
“I’ve been drinking one to two glasses of wine, one to three days a week; usually Saturday or Sunday and one weeknight. It’s definitely more than normal; I would usually only have wine one or two days throughout a whole month. I think I am more anxious, although, because I don’t have to prepare lunches or daycare stuff for the next day, I can relax more and the nights are more my own.” — Loren
“I just returned to my family home as a newly graduated university student and I haven’t had alcohol since I’ve been back! It’s been a month now. This was really for no reason and I plan to go back to drinking when I can socialize.” — Kate
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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