Online alcohol sales have increased an unfathomable 400% since COVID-19 hit the United States. There’s no stats on bad memes about drinking at home—but if there were, we would find an astronomical rise in those too. Zoom happy hours are a common 5PM activity. “Quarantinis” are a thing now, and recipes for them abound.
I don’t think recycled jokes are funny anyway; they don’t challenge expectations or bring anything new to the table. But it’s not just my pet peeve that makes these jokes unfunny. At best, they encourage unhealthy coping skills. At worst, they normalize dangerous drinking habits.
The quarantine drinking memes didn’t spring forth from nowhere. Like with a lot of other things, the pandemic is illuminating issues that already existed. And it’s been common long before the pandemic for people in the US to internalize “solving” their problems with alcohol. Instead of seeking help, many joke about it if it starts to feel uncomfortable.
I’m not surprised to see the memes and quarantini recipes. If you think that a few drinks are the best solution to a hard day…well, the pandemic is a hard day times a million. It’s an indefinite series of very hard days. But drinking to cope is not helpful for anyone, even those who don’t have a Substance Use Disorder. It won’t cure loneliness—it will increase loneliness. It won’t cure feelings of hopelessness or anxiety or grief—it will increase those, too.
And for people with Substance Use Disorders, the messaging can be triggering and hard to escape. And it can make anything outside of drinking to cope seem suspect. A sober friend, whose co-workers don’t know she is sober, said she was shamed at her work’s video happy hour for drinking seltzer.
The pandemic is already a particularly hard time for people in recovery. If you’re struggling with sobriety, it’s unhelpful to be bombarded with photos of everyone drinking at 2PM. If it seems like everyone online is throwing all drinking caution to the wind, it may be hard to talk yourself down. People might think, “The world is falling apart anyway; I might as well drink.”
We might not have statistics for a while, but it’s looking like relapses have significantly increased since the pandemic came to the US. With mass isolation, ongoing trauma, uncertainty, and all of the other negative impacts of this crisis, increased relapses are to be expected. If a person overdoses alone at home, they are more likely to die. None of this is funny or worth celebrating.
I don’t think those participating in quarantine drinking meme culture are inherently inconsiderate or wrong. A lot of people probably don’t have sobriety on their radar. One person posting a picture of the wine they poured right when 5PM hit isn’t the problem. It’s when the entire culture normalizes numbing ourselves out to get through a pandemic—instead of being present and alert and better able to face a crisis—that it becomes toxic.
If you think you are drinking too much during this time, and are worried you have a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers is open and here for you, with hospital-grade sanitization of all of our facilities so that you can feel safe in treatment. At our recovery centers across the country, we will help you work through traumas and build the healthy coping skills needed to thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.