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When does a casual drink become a problem? (August 2020)

BEING CONFINED in one space for hours on end, seven days a week can lead to people relaxing more often of an evening with a glass of wine or a beer; one or two drinks a week easily becomes one or two every day, sometimes more.

In some cases, having a drink can become addictive.

While the majority of alcohol programs are directed towards men, women too can easily become addicted to a drink.

I am not suggesting for a moment that it is mostly men who fall foul of alcoholism, but what

I am saying is that women often turn to alcohol to relieve their stress and anxiety too.

Men drink for many reasons; often socially, sometimes habitually, in some cases to impress their friends, or if they have already become dependent on it.

WOMEN are somewhat different.

Having a drink for a woman can also be social, but it can similarly be an opportunity to drown her sorrows and may be related to an underlying psychological disfunction or trauma.

For men, research has shown, that alcoholism can be a genetic thing and less so for their female counterpart.

Stephanie S. Covington PhD, LCSW (2000) writes in her article Helping Women Recover, that women do not get the same kind of “relief” from a drink or two as men do, and they can be left with feeling symptoms of guilt or shame after having had one too many.

In some cases, women might feel despair or even fear that they could lose their children were they to be reported to the authorities.

It is still culturally less acceptable for women to consume large amounts of alcohol compared to men.

It is particularly important to acknowledge early on that a person may no longer be in control of their drinking habit, and to recognise that they may in fact be in denial about it.

Taking the first step to seek help is the hardest.

During this period of Stage 4 lockdown, we, as a community, have been pushed to our limits.

The casual drink has possibly become the regular habit.

Another thought is, that women drink to be accepted, that having a glass or two can make them less fearful of intimacy, giving them some sort of “courage” to perform.

Sometimes a person will drink to keep their partner company, giving them a sense of “mutual enjoyment” so that the couple can more openly share their thoughts and feelings more freely.

This sharing can also create a form of empathy with their partner enabling them to feel more equal at a cognitive level.

There are many reasons why men and woman might turn to alcohol, and often these are based around relationships and family.

However, these past few months have been extraordinary times.

Men and women alike have been pushed to their limits.

Everyone has had to adjust to enormous change, managing their time around work (if they are still employed), running a family, home schooling, supporting their partner if he/she has lost their job and finds themselves stuck at home, a whole range of new roles and restrictions have come into play.

In addition of all these scenarios comes another reason for people turning to alcohol – TRAUMA.

During this period of COVID-19 there has been a significant increase in family violence.

According to an article written by Jennifer Neil in the Australian Journal of General Practice, under normal circumstances nearly 24% of all women have reported being victims of domestic violence at some point in their life.

At times of crisis, these statistics are set to increase dramatically.

During this pandemic there has already been an increase in calls to helplines.

Anyone who currently lives in a domestic violence situation has been subject to spending more time locked indoors with their abuser.

These people are the most likely to turn to alcohol or drugs and are also at greater risk to be the recipients of further abuse.

LONELINESS is another cause of alcohol abuse, and now more than ever there are a lot of lonely people because they live by themselves, and they are not allowed to visit friends or have friends visit them.

If you know of someone who is at risk, or might need help, reach out to them.

If you have noticed that your friend is drinking more frequently, mention it to them.

Help is only a call away; it might be a life saver.

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