'I drank several bottles of wine a week but the alcohol ban forced me to question my habit'

Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images

  • Phindi, who lives alone, started drinking more wine than usual during lockdown.
  • However, when the alcohol ban was reinstated recently, she began questioning her motives for drinking more heavily.
  • With no more wine in storage and no means to access it, she's now dealing with her emotional triggers.

 When President Cyril Ramaphosa reinstated the ban on the sale, dispensing, and distribution of liquor with immediate effect, it caught many South Africans by surprise. But for 27-year old Phindi*, it saved her from her dependency on alcohol.

According to the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA), South Africa is among the top five countries with the highest consumption of absolute alcohol per drinker per year. We are also the second-highest category of harmful patterns of drinking. For Phindi, it created a problem she never had before the lockdown.

This is Phindi's story, as told to Wandile Jama.

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I was a social drinker before the pandemic but started drinking wine more often. I started drinking a glass or two of wine after a long day of Zoom meetings and then two more glasses during dinner.  

I told myself that I wasn't drinking because I was addicted, but because it was relaxing - a reward for getting through another stressful day. I would convince myself that 'we are going through a pandemic, be kind to yourself.'

After a long day, a glass or two of wine transitioned to a bottle a day and three or more bottles per week. I would wake up with a hangover during the week but still drank after a day or two.  It started to seem normal because of social media. I mean, most of my digital friends were posting boomerangs of their drinks.

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One of the first signs that my drinking had moved past unwinding was when I found myself having a hard time going over a day or two without drinking. A part of me knew that this was starting to become a problem I needed to overcome.

When the president announced the ban with immediate effect, I had no alcohol left in my house and had intended to buy more the following day. At first, I was shocked but relieved because this was the only way I could face my problems and work on my mental health.

I realised that I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism for dealing with the 'new normal.' Living alone during a pandemic can become lonely, and the uncertainty of this pandemic was taking a toll on me. 

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The alcohol ban forced me to confront my issues. I've started journaling and found other ways to unwind and reward myself. I'm starting to feel like myself again, and I wake up feeling lighter, happier, and in control of my emotions and feelings. 

People tend to think you have to be an alcoholic to admit that you might have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

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Ask yourself if your drinking has increased since the lockdown started and take a moment to reflect on the pros and cons and whether that is working for you.

To do that, I would advise completing the sentence, "If I have a drink right now, I will feel (blank)." By filling at that end of the phrase, it gets to the root of the need you are trying to fill, and that can help you see through cravings.

For instance, if the phrase is, "I will feel less afraid," you could consider some counseling to help get to the root of that anxiety." It's a concept that can also be applied to other habits that can get away from us, like online shopping, gaming, overeating, or smoking.

Has your routine changed during lockdown, tell us how here.

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