I caught a drinking problem during the pandemic

I’i caught a drinking problem during the pandemic  

Are you one drink away from alcoholism?

A Zoom aperitif here, a glass of wine at the end of the day there. Just to relax, just to pass the time. Nothing bad. This is what Marie-Ève* was thinking at the start of the pandemic, before alcohol became a very real problem. Testimony. 

“To reduce stress, you can exercise, but sometimes a glass of wine can help,” Prime Minister François Legault suggested during a press briefing in March 2020.  

< p>It was precisely to cope with stress and boredom that Marie-Ève ​​started drinking regularly. “Before the pandemic, I only used occasionally, on weekends or in a social context. I believe that all my obligations forced me to be reasonable,” she says.  

But, in March 2020, the three companies she manages are hard hit by confinement, two of them working in the field of catering. The gym, where she spends a lot of her time, is also closing.  

On social networks, everyone is managing confinement in their own way and many are having a drink at home. “It was almost part of the confinement experience,” recalls Marie-Ève.  

Gradually, the habit sets in. Every evening, after 5 p.m., she drinks her first glass of wine. Then a second, a third and sometimes a fourth. In the morning, waking up becomes difficult and motivation declines. 

“One day, I said to myself “tonight, I would like it not not drink”, but I couldn't. That's when I realized there was a problem”


That was a year and a half ago. Since then, Marie-Ève ​​went to see her family doctor who decided that it was “not that serious”, then she tried to work with a coachlife that was clearly unqualified, to finally find herself alone with her alcohol problem.  

“The current context is still very stressful, with health measures, closures partial or total… It also means that you can't see so many people. If I could take the time to talk about it with a friend, to look for a solution together, it would be less difficult, I think. But there, I feel quite alone in there,” she confides.  

A favorable context 

According to Anne Elizabeth Lapointe, director of Maison Jean Lapointe, an organization that offers rehabilitation services to alcoholics, Marie-Ève ​​is certainly not the only to have developed an alcohol addiction in the last two years. Everything in the current context is “conducive to slippage”, according to her.  

“We are at home almost all the time, out of sight, which creates a lack of supervision and makes loss of control more likely, explains Ms. Lapointe. We can also be tempted to drink to get bored and to cope with the negative emotions generated by the pandemic.” 

Except that consuming alcohol is not a trivial habit. By dint of drinking, our body becomes more and more tolerant to alcohol and, after a few months, we can  develop a habituation. 

“It’s also easier to hide your consumption. By staying at home, there is less chance that those around you will realize the problem. If you have a hangover, but you are working from home, for example, no one may notice, ”she says.  

Consuming at home 

The SAQ's sales results also reflect the changes caused by the pandemic on the consumption habits of drinkers. In its last annual report, the SAQ recorded 222.3 million liters of alcohol sold in 2020-2021, an increase of 2.2%.  

If this increase may seem minimal , it should be remembered that alcohol sales in businesses such as restaurants have fallen sharply due to successive closures. “This, combined with other impacts of the pandemic […], contributed to the increase in sales to consumers of $361.1 million”, underlines the SAQ.  

We therefore now buy our own alcohol to consume it at home rather than at the bar or restaurant. And more are also bought at a time to “stock up,” the report notes. The average shopping basket has thus increased by nearly 50%.

I caught a drinking problem during the pandemic  

Photo: Thomas Picauly/Unsplash

While branches have seen a drop in footfall, online sales have literally exploded, with an increase in orders of more than 130%.  

Since the start of the pandemic, “the alcohol has remained accessible almost at all times and it does not help to reduce consumption,” confirms Marie-Ève.  

“With the SAQ's delivery service, you don't even have to leave your home. It's even easier to let yourself be tempted,” adds Anne Elizabeth Lapointe.  

Finding help 

A little “chilled” by her bad experience with her life coach and the lack of support from her doctor, Marie-Ève ​​still wishes to receive help to regain control of their consumption. 

She joined the Alcoholics Anonymous Facebook group, where she reads other people's stories, which helps her feel less alone.  

From the admin of the group, more than 3,000 new members have registered in the space of two years. But, the pandemic has not been all bad, since it has also pushed Alcoholics Anonymous to organize meetings in virtual mode, thus making participation more accessible.  

On the side treatment centers such as Maison Jean Lapointe, the reception capacity has been reduced since the arrival of the virus. “A lot of people are on the waiting list,” says the director. So there are people who we cannot help immediately and who find themselves between two chairs.” 

Here too, we had to adapt and quickly turn to the virtual. “For cases that do not require urgent weaning, online monitoring has proven to be very effective, underlines Ms. Lapointe. People manage to achieve abstinence, even in virtual, and we follow them in this way until a place becomes free in the center.

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