How to drink alone… responsibly

If you’re using booze to cope with your anxiety, we’ve got some unsolicited advice for you.
2 min. read
Beer for sale inside a North Capitol Hill Grocery Store, May 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denverites rushed to stock up on booze Monday when Mayor Michael Hancock announced liquor stores would close for a little over two weeks. It was initially part of his "stay at home" order that went into effect Tuesday evening to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Almost instantly, liquor stores in and around Denver were packed with lines out the door. But people gathering in close proximity was exactly what the mayor was trying to avoid, so he amended his order. Liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries can stay open if they implement "extreme physical distancing."

Denver nutritionist Jolene Park wasn't surprised at peoples' rush for booze.

"People who are severely addicted [to alcohol] would need a medical detox if they don't have liquor stores available to them," she said. "And we don't want to flood the ERs with that."

But there are also many people who she says fall into "gray-area drinking." They aren't physically addicted to alcohol, but they use it as a mechanism to cope with anxiety and discomfort. According to Denver Public Health, more than one in four adults in the city binge drinks.

"Not having that resource of alcohol for the next couple of weeks as comfort, as an anti-anxiety tool, as something to reach to, can be very panic inducing," said Park.

So how do you drink responsibly when you're home, maybe alone, and your social life is upended? Park has some tips:

Stay conscious of why you're drinking. Are you anxious? Unsettled? "Being aware of that is key," Park said.

Set limits AND add habits. Rules for yourself around when and how much alcohol you consume can help. It's also important to practice other habits that help with uncomfortable feelings.

What kind of habits? Breathe mindfully, exercise, do something repetitive like a puzzle or knitting, find a creative outlet. Maybe this is the month you finally learn guitar or write a short story.

Keep in mind that alcohol disrupts sleep and can increase anxiety and depression.

"It's not saying don't drink," Park said. "But there are many other things you can reach to as well."

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