This post might have had a bit more potency had it been published earlier in January, in the first few crisp days of a new year, a wash with optimism as goals get written in expensive notebooks. However, as the grey January days have ticked by, the monotony of lockdown 3.0 has made its mark and ‘Dry January’ seems to be a distant memory – it feels all too important to be saying that we need to learn from 2020 and make this year a year of change.
After the turbulent, rocky and frustrating year of 2020, we all need to reflect and be kinder to ourselves, starting with our health. It took for a terrifying pandemic to sweep across the world to shake us up: to force us to revaluate all aspects of our lives, and to really think about what is profoundly important to us and what makes us happy.
The constant news bulletins, the press conferences with pale-faced politicians pleading with us to stay at home, the intensity of those graphs and figures as the death toll increased. COVID 19 shook us all up and I think we would all agree that it shone a well needed beam of light into our lives.
“We should never again take our health and those of loved ones for granted, and that includes mental health too.“
It still upsets me that alcohol is still being used as the way of coping, the relief we all need to get through this pandemic together.
Countless reports show that alcohol consumption has significantly increased throughout lockdown, and supermarket giants including Lidl have created campaigns including TV ads stating that a £5 bottle of wine is the answer to home-schooling. These marketing tactics are actively encouraging ‘quick pop to the shops for some wine’, when we have been told that visits to the shop are to be for ‘essentials only’ to try and keep the virus at bay, so its no wonder that alcohol consumption has shot up.
As well as cancers and other awful diseases, alcohol is also proved to have a detrimental impact on our immune systems, and in the midst of a deathly virus, our immune styles need all the protection they can get surely? So, by continuing to drink and to raising a glass of wine to thank the NHS staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, seems embarrassingly contradictory and futile.
In a time when looking after ourselves and being healthy is even more paramount, yet people are still choosing to ignore sobriety as an option. How many exercise workouts, yoga classes, meditation sessions, gut health guides, wellbeing podcasts are there – yet no mention of binning the booze as a way of staying healthy? Or even worse, how about a nice gin & tonic to accompany your yoga class?
It isn’t a new thing that alcohol has a big impact on our mental health – yet it seems to sometimes get left out of the conversation.
So when the latest lockdown in the UK was announced in January – ‘Dry January’ was shafted, tossed aside without a second thought with ‘try January’ taking its place. The concept of using alcohol as a coping mechanism is so ingrained into our society, our culture that its expected.
Campaigns like Sober October and Dry January are fantastic in putting sobriety into the spotlight for once, celebrating the fantastic selection of 0% options out there, finally changing the conversation to one of positivity and the benefits that come from a dry lifestyle. Yet I do not see enough of this this January, after the year we have all got through – it is more crucial than ever to put the spotlight on sobriety and celebrating it as a lifestyle choice.
“The great pause of 2020 has allowed us collectively to shift our perspective putting our heath, our mental health top of our priority list.”
Aren’t we all tired of feeling tired? Aren’t we all just a bit done with alcohol? Isn’t it time to be kinder to ourselves, protect our health and celebrate sobriety?
We should be celebrating sobriety as a lifestyle, much like the rise in veganism, celebrating our choice to say ‘no thanks’ to putting something toxic in our bodies. Celebrating putting our health and mental health first should not be met with cynicism and mocking. It should be greeted with more respect and joy and less ‘how boring’ and ‘are you pregnant’. The conversation around being kind to ourselves and promoting a healthier lifestyle should naturally include sobriety as well.
2020 did however see some big names in the alcohol industry such as Gordon’s announcing their 0% gin which was a big deal, and nod towards a change coming. With many celebrities and well-known figures talking about their struggles with alcohol and mental health, plus online communities such as Sober Butterfly Collective are popping up to shake any stigma around a sober lifestyle, and showing off the benefits of a cleaner life.
“It feels more poignant than ever to be able to say “I stayed sober in 2020”.
We should all use 2020 as a reminder and a lesson on what is really important: our health and that of loved ones and being kind to ourselves and others. Sobriety allows us to tick both of these boxes, meaning we should celebrate it this year more than ever.
Let us learn from the great pause of 2020, and move forward this year by being kinder to ourselves.
I think we should leave alcohol behind in 2020, along with the zoom quizzes, the overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’, the tired look in Matt Hancock’s face and all that anxiety.
Co – Founder of Sober Butterfly Collective.