‘Drinking culture has changed’: How the pandemic affects people’s relationship with alcohol

In the height of a pandemic, more people in Wales are gravitating towards alcohol consumption to deal with their personal matters

The pandemic has affected people’s relationship with alcohol, be it for better or worse. (Image credit: Ashvin Tiwana)

The famous author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, once said, “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” Despite it being said almost 100 years ago, it’s a quote that an avid drinker could resonate with, especially in recent times. 

Living through a pandemic is difficult, and individuals resort to various ways to pass time, get by, or even survive. The consumption of alcohol, without a doubt, is a gateway to escape the trials and tribulations of life for many. 

In Cardiff, the number of referrals for alcohol and substance support has gone up. Kaye Cheeseman, maternity cover administrator from Recovery Cymru said, “We saw a 43% increase in the number of people we supported in 2020, which we believe was partly as a result of Covid-19.”

This number indicates that more people are seeking help and recovery against alcohol abuse, even more so during a pandemic. 

Public Health Wales reports that 45% of men and 34% of women drink above the recommended guidelines, which is not more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

Speaking to Charles Wakley, manager of SO Bar Cardiff, it is believed that the pandemic has made an impact on the country’s drinking culture.

“The most pressing social issue we currently face is that drinking culture has changed. I have witnessed customers acting in a very animalistic way, possibly due to the long period of no social interactions,” he said. 

The most pressing social issue we currently face is that drinking culture has changed

While not everyone needs a social life with alcohol being included, many people would have built a stronger relationship with it.

“We found a rise in cocktail sales after the lockdowns due to this,” said Charles.

In his ten years of hospitality experience, it is only recently that Charles has seen the evident splits in society that were not there before.

“People use alcohol as a coping mechanism, to pass time, to deal with the anxiety, depression, and misery of the pandemic. I don’t think it’s a coincidence we’ve seen these social issues rise after such a difficult time,” he said. 

Charles does think that the lack of respect for alcohol and the poor relationship that many form with it, has been and will continue to be very damaging, should the drinking culture remain this way. 

Alcohol as a best friend

Ben, a 26-year-old from Cardiff, describes himself as an alcoholic. He explains how alcohol has been there for him since the start of the first lockdown, back in March 2020

Ben wished not to reveal his full name to avoid any repercussions in his field of work. 

“I’ve spent most of my time since last year working from home, and after a while of doing so, I became very agitated. I realised what would always calm me down is a whiskey neat,” he said. 

One always led to two, and Ben’s night would end with a full bottle of whiskey now only half full.

“I enjoyed every moment I was able to get drunk, after all, what else was I supposed to do?” he said. 

I enjoyed every moment I was able to get drunk, after all, what else was I supposed to do?

With him not being able to see his family and friends, Ben resorted to alcohol consumption to fill the void within himself, and has no regrets. 

During the pandemic, people use alcohol to fill the void within themselves. (Image credit: Ashvin Tiwana)

“I honestly would not have been able to survive some really difficult times without alcohol. It was really the best friend I needed that helped me with my own internal reflections during the times I couldn’t be with anyone else,” he said. 

With the lockdowns lifted, Ben is now able to continue with his drinking habits in bars and clubs around the city.

Alcohol as a worst enemy 

However, alcohol could more than likely play the role of villain when it comes to someone who’s been battling an addiction with it. 

A 25-year-old Welsh native, who wished to be known only as Ann, said that alcohol gradually made her life hell, and it wasn’t until a huge fallout during lockdown did she think she needed help.

“When I was stuck at home with my family, I gravitated towards more alcohol consumption and spending time alone in my room,” she said. 

Her drink of choice was vodka, and it was never just a glass a day. 

“I didn’t see an issue with my drinking back then. I was just enjoying myself in what was a terrible time, and I remember my mother being disgusted by my behaviour because I was drinking non-stop,” she said.

She continued, “I had a big fight with her and said some nasty things. I felt so bad, and it was a wakeup call for me to change my behaviour, as I didn’t like the woman I was becoming when intoxicated.”

I didn’t like the woman I was becoming when intoxicated

From then on, Ann stopped drinking and has since been seeking help in her journey against alcohol addiction. 

Avid drinkers have a different understanding of what alcohol is to them, and what it is able to provide. The pandemic has turned the world upside down, and things have certainly changed.

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