Don’t Feel Pressured To Drink Just Because Pubs Are Open
Today (Monday 12th April), pubs and restaurants opened their doors and were once again able to start serving alcohol – but just because you and your friends now can go for a pint, it doesn’t mean you have to.
I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of people out there thinking, ‘I’ve waited months to take part in a round, why would I not go out and drink?’, and while that’s a perfectly fair opinion, it’s not one shared by everyone.
Over the past 12 months, some have turned to booze to curb boredom and are now be looking to cut back, others have used pub closures as a reason to lower their alcohol intake, and many have likely gone so long without a night out that the prospect of massively overdoing it is now a very real possibility.
As a result, there will be lots of people out there who aren’t actually that keen to indulge in pints, cocktails or shots this weekend, though with so much hype around the prospect of ‘normality’, they’ll likely be feeling pressure to do just that.
Discussing why people may feel the ‘need’ to get drunk after lockdown, Nuno Albuquerque, head of Treatment for the alcohol addiction experts UKAT, told UNILAD that ‘people think they have 12 months of ‘making up’ to do, whether that’s being constantly busy seeing friends, eating out, or drinking alcohol’.
Nuno acknowledged that we may feel ‘robbed of time’ because of lockdowns, but noted that our bodies have adjusted to a different way of life during the past year and as a result ‘throwing them in the deep end when the pubs open can be dangerous and unhealthy’.
Haydn, a 25-year-old machine operator from Halifax, gave up drinking in lockdown as pub closures prevented him from going out at weekends, when he would typically meet up with friends for a drink. He described his decision as ‘like quitting cold turkey’, and after four months without alcohol he realised he was ‘beginning to like being sober and having a much healthier physical and mental state’.
With pubs set to open their doors imminently, Haydn told UNILAD he has ‘a slight fear’ that he will fall back into drinking as he begins to socialise again, noting that going out for drinks is often the only way he’s able to catch up with people out of work, and that alcohol helps ‘take the edge off’ his anxiety when he is around strangers.
In an effort to keep up the habits he developed in lockdown he plans to say ‘no’ when asked if he wants a drink, but he knows his decision will likely be met with some ‘light pestering’ or ‘playful jokes’ from friends trying him to encourage him to join in.
When it comes to going out with friends, Nuno stressed that ‘just because your friends are drinking, doesn’t mean that you have to as well’. He noted that friends shouldn’t judge a decision to avoid alcohol, and that ‘as a society we should be open and accepting to personal choices made going forward’.
Project editor Jess, from east London, shared a similar opinion as she told UNILAD that ‘if you’re finding that you need to prove yourself to the people [around you], maybe they aren’t the people you should be with’.
Jess stopped drinking after realising that a lot of her ‘outward self was based on being the fun and chaotic one at parties, and how alcohol was the magic sauce that made [her] forget what cringe was’.
The 26-year-old believes drinking has ‘become a symbol of being fun’, and as a result people may feel they have to ‘prove themselves’ now that lockdown is coming to an end.
For a lot of people, alcohol is almost like a performance-enhancing drug in social situations. It takes away your inhibitions, it makes you less awkward and more fun – at least that’s the perception!
Now we’ve all sat inside for more than a year, it’s only natural to feel the pressure to prove you’re as much of a laugh as you were before – especially if you don’t feel like that person anymore.
Combine that with the typical British binge-drinking culture and I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are scared of how much drinking they feel they’re going to have to do, but probably also more scared of how much they feel they wouldn’t be able to not drink and maintain their old self or reputation.
In an effort to be considerate to those who are apprehensive about getting carried away with alcohol now that pubs are open, Jess believes people should ‘actively remind themselves not to pressure friends to drink’, and that alcohol is ‘not the only way to enjoy yourself’.
She has not yet herself come up with a ‘game plan’ as to how to avoid drinking after lockdown, and said she feels it’s ‘going to be rocky’, but when it comes to tackling feelings of pressure she recommended trying to ‘unpack where that pressure is coming from’, adding, ‘Is it wanting to be fun, is it about reputation, is it a potentially more destructive or worrying need to not be yourself? Self-awareness is key because once you identify the where, you can start to handle the thoughts.’
Nuno explained that hesitancy to drink alcohol after lockdown ‘won’t be uncommon’, and advised taking the time to explain your choices will help lift any pressure you may be feeling from friends.
He told UNILAD:
People may think that drinking alcohol will lead to people not following social distancing regulations, or it might just be that people are nervous about the effects alcohol will have on their body now.
There will naturally be people who are excited to get drunk once the pubs reopen, but not everyone feels the same. Some people have unhealthy relationships with alcohol that may have been realised during lockdown, and so a sober future is the best path for them.
We’re all looking forward to the world returning to normal, but everyone’s ‘normal’ is different.
For Haydn, doing things his own way has been a source of ‘liberation’. He emphasised that the lifting of lockdown does not mean you are ‘obligated to go out and consume every drop of prosecco the local pub has’, saying, ‘Just take it one step at a time, at your own pace.’
Whether you choose to stick to one or two drinks, forgo alcohol altogether or simply decide to avoid the pub for a bit longer, there is no wrong decision. The reopening of pubs is great in the sense that it signals an end to lockdown, but consuming alcohol is not a necessary requirement of the milestone.
If you want to get the pints in, enjoy it, but do so while respecting everyone’s individual choices.
If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence, contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, 9am–8pm weekdays and 11am–4pm weekends for advice and support.
If you are concerned about alcohol intake, you can find guidance in the anonymous CAGE questionnaire, an internationally used assessment instrument for identifying alcohol problems, here.