This opinion piece was published by The Mercury on Thursday 9 April 2020 under the title 'Talking Point: Raise your glass to a sober isolation'
I don’t consider myself to be a big drinker and I don’t keep a lot of alcohol in my home.
While I enjoy a social drink with friends and I find alcohol calms my nerves when I’m feeling tense, I try not to drink too much at home.
My reasons for this are personal, and I’ve shared them through previous pieces for The Mercury in the past.
However, I have to admit that with the level of stress and uncertainty I was feeling just over a week ago, due to COVID-19, I popped into the bottle shop to buy a bottle of wine.
It was on this day that the government announced increased isolation and social distancing measures, so instead of purchasing just one bottle, I walked out of there with a case of wine.
Not a big deal, I hear you say.
Everyone has been preparing to be quarantined and stocking up on essentials, which for many includes alcohol and retail sales have been spiking across the country.
The problem is though, that having all this extra alcohol in my house meant I went from drinking a glass of wine every now and then, to drinking every night and now that case of wine is gone.
Why? As a busy mother of three, I’m certainly not bored but I’m definitely stressed about COVID-19 and feeling uncertain about things at the moment, and I know I’m not alone.
Drinking alcohol and smoking are common ways some of us cope with stress, uncertainty or boredom and reaching for a drink or a cigarette can feel like an escape.
But as we all live through the weeks to come, we need to keep an eye on how much we’re doing it to ensure that we all come out okay when things go back to normal.
I have the benefit of working in a role that ensures I know the risks, and I haven’t had another glass of wine since finishing that case.
To help others, I want to share some simple messages about drinking and smoking during COVID-19.
Think about it
Be aware of your alcohol and tobacco use.
Our lives have changed so much in such a short period of time, and it’s easy to drink or smoke more than you used to without really noticing.
Avoid the temptation to stockpile alcohol or cigarettes, try to monitor your use and turn your attention to other things you enjoy.
Flatten the curve
Keep to the social distancing rules, even when drinking or smoking.
Avoid sharing drinks or smokes with others and wash your hands before touching your face or anything that will go near your mouth, like a cigarette or wine glass (alcoholic drinks don’t kill viruses!).
Know the risks
Both drinking alcohol and smoking can cause breathing issues, which can put you at higher risk of serious complications if you get COVID-19.
If you smoke you have a higher risk of getting lung and chest infections generally.
Alcohol affects your mood, sleep and ability to deal with illness and increasing the amount of alcohol you’re drinking and how often you’re drinking can lead to greater tolerance and dependence.
Being dependent on alcohol will not only effect your health but may also impact your relationships with your family and friends and also your ability to do your job at work.
Talk about it
Now more than ever we need to stay connected.
If you’re drinking or smoking more, consider quitting or at least cutting back, and reach out to friends, family or support services.
Also look out for those around you and don’t be afraid to have a gentle conversation with a loved one.
There are many places you can seek help or advice if you’re worried about someone’s use of alcohol or if they have started smoking again.
Alcohol and Drug Information Service – 1800 811 994
Family Drug Support – 1800 811 994 fds.org.au
Alcohol and Drug Services – 1300 139 641
Quitline – 13 7848
Tasmanian alcohol, tobacco and other drug service directory – www.atdc.org.au/service-directory
Alison Lai is the chief executive officer of the Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania
This opinion piece was published by The Mercury on Thursday 9 April 2020 under the title ‘Talking Point: Raise your glass to a sober isolation’.