Alcohol use looks different with stay-at-home procedures

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

Many turned to their own objects of comfort during the pandemic and self-medicating became a habit during uncertain times. Daily routines have shifted due to social distancing and isolation, and many have experienced changes in how alcohol looks at home. While some feel there is no point in drinking because of a lack of parties, others are struggling and using alcohol to cope.

According to NPR, Nielsen’s market data reported that alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants surged 24% during the pandemic. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey urged mask-wearing and social distancing. Ducey emphasized in a briefing Oct. 29 for people to continue effective precautions as cases rise, according to USA Today.

Ducey issued the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” policy at the end of March, allowing only essential businesses like grocery stores and medical corporations to stay open. 

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans issued and signed a proclamation in early March prohibiting restaurants, dining areas, cafes, bars and similar businesses from serving food and drinks for consumption on the premises. Closure of all nonessential establishments also took effect.

Going out does not look like what it used to. For some, quarantine has made it undesirable to drink alcohol anymore. Senior Lindsey Wilson said when clubs and bars had closed downtown, she did not have an urge to partake in drinking.

“Drinking alcohol is only fun to me when there are people to be around,” Wilson said. “So since quarantine, I really don’t want to drink alone.” 

However, those who are responsible for the well-being of students are concerned about the misuse of alcohol due to the pandemic. 

Hannah Nunez, a behavioral health counselor at Campus Health Service, said concerns for mental health problems and bad habits will increase. 

“[The idea of students struggling with the pandemic] worries me the most because this age demographic on campus is mostly used to social interaction and are able to have access for help,” Nunez said. “We have been trying to offer phone calls and virtual seminars for students having trouble coping with the pandemic.”

Over the course of the stay-at-home order and with general social distancing guidelines still in place, alcohol sales have seen an intense increase as takeout alcohol has become more popular, according to Cornerstone of Recovery, a rehab facility in Louisville, Tennessee. 

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control COVID Data Tracker, there have been over 245,000 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the United States. These numbers have been tracked since Jan. 21 and the website is updating daily with new cases coming in continuously. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., according to Cornerstone of Recovery. COVID-19 has led to many deaths, many not related to getting sick from the virus. 

Realizing these bad habits are becoming a new lifestyle, NAU graduate K’lynn Garbo said she thinks drinking alcohol is something she needs to quit, but does not know how to stop.

“When there is nothing else to do anymore, I sit and think way too much about life and my struggle with depression,” Garbo said. “The only reason I have not gone completely nuts is because alcohol helps me forget about the situation we are all in.” 

Garbo said she has easy access to alcohol since she lives next to the liquor store Majestic Marketplace. She said she tends to walk to the market buying more alcohol each week, which has caused other issues to arise. 

“Now that I have been binge drinking more, I have started to wake up hungover and I’m too lazy to do anything productive during the day,” Garbo said. “I have stopped working out and I don’t really cook much anymore because I’m starting to lose my appetite.” 

Many are facing situations similar to Garbo’s and NAU Behavioral Health Services is providing methods to cope with alcohol abuse and other problems in response. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also provides a list of options for physical distancing service that allows young demographics to stay connected with one another. 

Despite the struggles created by quarantine, Cornerstone of Recovery said in an article that it is best for people not to panic. Most people are on edge with COVID-19 and during these times, it is important to remember that even trivial matters can be seen as a crisis.