Donna Y. Ferris: My gift from the pandemic

Donna Y. Ferris shares how her drinking escalated during the pandemic and the gift that came from it.

My Drinking Escalated During The Pandemic

I will never forget the day. It was March 13, 2020, and like most moms, I was grabbing essentials at the grocery store. Toilet paper, paper towels, canned soup, lunchmeat, cheese, cereal, almond milk — and six bottles of chardonnay.

The day was memorable, of course, because it marked the beginning of the pandemic here in the U.S. — but it stuck with me for another reason. It was the first time I seriously questioned my alcohol consumption.

See I was the only person in my house who drank. That chardonnay was all for me. And by the end of that first week, I’d joined four wine clubs.

And I wasn’t alone.

US Drinking Escalated During The Pandemic

According to a study by the research organization RTI International, the proportion of people exceeding drinking guidelines (four drinks a day for men and 14 drinks per week / three drinks a day and seven drinks per week for women) increased to 39% between February and November 2020 (the last data they received). And more women reported exceeding recommended drinking guidelines than men between April and November 2020.

“Women are more likely to use alcohol to cope with stress, depression and anxiety, and all these are a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Caroline Barbosa, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI. “Alcohol consumption among women has been on the uptick for the past two decades, and our study suggests the pandemic may only exacerbate that trend.”

My Gift From The Pandemic

Sure, I’d written more than one scene where I blacked out or drank to cope with spousal betrayal and grief. But didn’t everyone do that? I’m not an alcoholic, am I?

Google’s response to this question is a list of the signs of a drinking problem. Which scared me so much I opened a bottle of wine and turned on the “Housewives” for comfort.

Several days later, on a walk listening to a “Ten Percent Happier” podcast with guest Annie Grace, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to sign up for the free “Alcohol Experiment.” Its 30-day “just try it” approach sounded perfect for gray-area drinkers, which is where I saw myself. It allows us to be curious about sobriety without feeling it’s an all-or-nothing enterprise. They augment the program with Facebook support groups whose members are going through the same process. There are a lot of people jumping on this bandwagon. Some call it a sober revolution.