You don’t need alcohol to celebrate pubs reopening
The COVID-19 pandemic has really tested the famous British resolve. We all learned the proper way to wash our hands and the importance of wearing a mask. But with the success of the vaccine rollout and the relaxation of social distancing rules, it is time to step blinking back into the light of normality while keeping a meter distance. Whatever your political persuasion, it is hard to argue that there has been one coherent message from the government when it comes to pubs and bars during the Coronavirus pandemic. We have been transitioning from universal closures to 9pm last order times to discounted pub meals during “Eat Out to Help Out”. While the rules may not have been clear, what is clear is that pub closures have given many people the opportunity to assess their own drinking habits.
Different people have approached the Coronavirus lockdowns in different ways, but for a great number of the British population, the enforced isolation has been a time to focus on their health. From Joe Wicks taking the country back to their school days with his PE lessons to almost a million downloading the “Couch to 5K Challenge” app between March and June last year, a great number of us made positive changes in our lifestyles during lockdown. This includes many people cutting back on their alcohol intake and even cutting it out altogether.
The UK has a curious relationship with alcohol, and pubs are one of our most cherished institutions. In this article, we will look at why you don’t need alcohol to celebrate pubs reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic.
UK drinking culture
The drinking culture in the United Kingdom is quite unique and many of us have fond attachments to our local drinking establishments. From after-work drinks to girls’ nights out and beers with the boys, for a significant proportion of the British population, the pub is the location of much of our social lives. While lockdown may have put a temporary stop to all that, it is no surprise that many of the memes on social media at the minute are about making up for lost time when the pubs reopen.
For many people, however, UK pub closures were an opportunity to give up alcohol as everyone was forced to stay at home social distancing. It can be difficult if all your friends enjoy a drink to be the only one who has a coke or orange juice on a night out. Peer pressure is rarely malicious, but even gentle ribbing can be enough to convince someone to have a few pints or glasses of wine even when they don’t really want to. There are many substances that can be potentially addictive, but none have an entire culture built around them which is so ingrained in many of us.
The danger of binge drinking
Binge drinking has been a societal issue in the UK for years. The notion that you need to drink to have a good time exists in many people and binging both on a night out and before you go out has become commonplace. Alcoholism is a unique addiction as it a more extreme version of what is generally considered to be normal behaviour. There is societal acceptance of drinking to excess, which isn’t the case with any other substance.
Excessive alcohol abuse can have many negative effects on health and also lead to strained relationships, problems at work, and other issues. Binge drinking on a Friday or Saturday night can easily result in a “hair of the dog” session the following day. If you are drinking heavily every weekend, it is not a big step to then start adding a few drinks through the week, and this can quickly spiral out of control. Many people who just started out as weekend binge drinkers end up addicted to alcohol and begin to use it as a crutch.
Alcohol as an aid
There will be a lot of nervousness surrounding the end of the UK COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Nobody knows if life will ever return to normal or if we will forever need to wear our masks and keep our distance. For some people, alcohol will be used to ease their social anxiety or to help them be the ‘life and soul’ of the party again. Others may be worried that they will go back to drinking to help them deal with a difficult job when they are able to return to work. Using alcohol in this way to deal with difficult emotions or in the place of therapy or medication can only provide a temporary solution to the underlying problems. Drinking to get through difficult times is a coping mechanism that many people in the UK rely on without even realising that they have a growing problem.
The impact of drinking culture on mental health
The enforced closure of British pubs during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns has made it easier for people to change their drinking habits, and many will have seen major improvements in their physical, mental and emotional health. If you are one of those people, the anxiety which comes with peer pressure to drink could see you throw away those improvements, particularly if you are an introvert who feels like you need alcohol to give you the confidence to socialise. Falling back into these old patterns of behaviour can bring on depression and undo all of the hard work that has been done during lockdown. It is crucial that you identify other support methods rather than relying on alcohol as a support to get through social events.
The impact of drinking culture on addiction recovery
Anyone who has made a successful recovery from addiction knows that it is a journey and that there are many obstacles along the way. The peer pressure that is likely to come with the reopening of pubs and bars after the Coronavirus lockdowns in Britain can be a huge obstacle which you will need to overcome if you are going to achieve long-term sobriety. Social media and the news are currently full of references to post-lockdown drinking, so it is important to put yourself in a supportive environment where you don’t feel any expectations to drink.
Ways to celebrate the end of lockdown without drinking
Going to the pub with friends or family doesn’t automatically mean that you have to drink. There are some fantastic British gastro pubs where you can go and enjoy the food. Many establishments have a weekly pub quiz, which will enable you to have fun while staying sober. The best pubs these days cater for far more than just hard-drinking regulars, and there are so many ways you can celebrate the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns finally ending without breaking your sobriety.
Supporting everyone through the lifting of lockdown
If one of your friends or family members has given up alcohol during the UK COVID-19 lockdowns, it is crucial that you are supportive and don’t pressure them to drink. A positive relationship with friends and family can have a huge impact on a successful recovery process, and so just as we all leaned on our support bubble during lockdown, we all need to help each other in any way we can. While the reopening of pubs is a cause of celebration for many people, for others, it could bring anxiety and the possibility of a relapse. It is crucial to remember the reasons for giving up alcohol in the first place and find other ways to enjoy time in the pub without alcohol.
A Few Words From…
Nuno Albuquerque, Treatment Lead
The current Coronavirus crisis is without a doubt a frightening time for everyone, especially for those suffering with addiction who are in need of critical care and immediate treatment. This is why we are going to every length possible in order to remain open and to provide the same standard of care, trust, love and support deserved to everyone with addiction. Addiction won’t pause during the Coronavirus crisis, and neither will we.