Monday 13 April 2020

Why a Pandemic is the Best Time to be Sober

Like millions of people around the globe, I feel like I'm living in an unfamiliar, and unwelcome, parallel universe. 

The TV I watch, books I read and vivid dreams I have show people hugging, kissing, travelling, partying and working in offices. My diary is filled with festivals, concerts and theatre trips, parties and a few holidays - events that will never happen. 

Instead, we are all living in a world of isolation and fear. Even if we are lucky enough to be healthy, we worry for our friends and family, for our livelihoods, for the world.

At a time like this, it's easy to think that alcohol will help. Indeed, alcohol sales in the UK have increased by around 50%. My local supermarket's booze aisle has been stripped bare, and my social media feed is filled with memes about alcohol being the only way to survive all this. 

And yes, alcohol does - temporarily - blur all the edges. It softens our reality, which needs an awful lot of softening right now. It provides a well-deserved treat at the end of the day, when our lives are suddenly devoid of pleasures. And surely now is not the time to make our lives even harder by denying ourselves a drink?

I get it. But, now really is the very worst time to be drinking.

Firstly, alcohol increases anxiety. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but it really is true. Yes, initially it makes your shoulders relax and you can feel yourself unwinding. But, as the alcohol leaves your body, that anxiety returns magnified, often in the middle of the night.

Sleep is difficult enough at the moment, and alcohol makes it much worse. Booze might lull you off to sleep, but it'll wake you up at 3am and taunt you until your alarm goes off.

Keeping the ship afloat right now - trying to work from home while simultaneously home-schooling, providing endless meals, cleaning and doing all that worrying - is really, really hard, and so much harder if you throw a hangover into the mix. 

Also, drinking makes us short-tempered, and when you're stuck in a small space with your family, you do not want to add fuel to the fire of any simmering resentments.

Added to all of this, alcohol is a drug. The more you drink, the more your body and mind come to rely on it. And, like being on holiday but without any of the fun, a pandemic is a time when all the usual restrictions don't apply. You probably don't have an office to go to. You can start drinking earlier and earlier in the day and pour increasingly large measures - and you probably will. It's very, very easy to turn a moderate drinking habit into a serious problem.

There are some really, really good reasons to be sober right now.

Once you're past the first hard days of not drinking, being sober makes you so much calmer, stronger, and more able to cope. You probably have parents or children, or both, relying on you, and you really want to make sure that you're up to the challenge.

Also, alcohol messes with your immune system, and everything we know about this terrible virus tells us that the fitter and healthier you are, the more likely it is that you'll be able to shake it off relatively easily.

If you've been secretly worrying about your drinking habits for a while, this is actually a really good time to quit.

The hardest thing about the early days of going sober is other people. Dinners, drinks parties and holidays are tough to start with, so often the newly sober will self-isolate for a while, just like you're doing right now. You can easily empty your cupboards and fridge of alcohol and not go near the booze aisle when doing your weekly shop. It's probably empty in any case!

One of the things I'm most grateful for right now is being sober. 

If I were still drinking, I would be constantly anxious about where my next drink was coming from. Then I'd feel guilty about that anxiety, when there are so many more important things to worry about. I'd have emptied the cupboards of loo roll and pasta, and filled them with wine. I'd be (even more) bad tempered with the kids and the husband, and would be spending my evenings comatose and my mornings hungover.

Just writing that paragraph makes me feel queasy.

So, if you're thinking about quitting drinking, do it now. Then, when the world finally gets back to normal, you'll be in the very best shape to make the most of everything it has to offer. And if you're newly sober and struggling, don't make the mistake of thinking that alcohol would make it easier. it would only make everything so very much worse.

To read about my first year sober, and for hints and tips on how to do it and what to expect, read my memoir - The Sober Diaries.

For more information and inspiration, check out my SoberMummy Facebook Page. I'm doing a Facebook Live session on Thursday at 8.15pm UK time (after the clapping).

If you'd like to take your mind off everything and are looking for some feel-good fiction, my new novel - The Authenticity Project - is out now!

If you'd like to find out more about me, or to contact me privately, go to

Love to you all. Stay safe and well.

Clare Pooley (aka SoberMummy)