By Lucy Corry for RNZ

The Alcohol Healthwatch is warning against increased social drinking during the lockdown.

There's a popular meme doing the rounds on social media, where a woman shows how to teach children fractions by pouring herself a glass of wine. She pours the wine in a quarter at a time to make a whole. Then she drinks it down in the same way, repeating the process until the bottle is empty. It would be funny, if it wasn't surrounded by similar binge-boozing tweets and Facebook posts.

Drinking to cope seems to be the default setting for many facing life in isolation, prompting a World Health Organisation expert to describe it as "an unhelpful coping strategy".


She's unimpressed by politicians, celebrities and influencers sharing memes and talking on social media about 'day-drinking' and needing alcohol to cope.

"The majority of our social occasions, whether they're celebrations or commiserations, go hand-in-hand with alcohol in this country, but it is a depressant. There are enough pro-drinking messages in our environment, even without Covid-19. At a time when we should be looking after each other's wellbeing, I really encourage these people not to share these messages."

She's also worried about the 'influencing' happening in homes, with people drinking more around their kids.

"Children pick up cues very easily and if they see you drinking to cope, that becomes normalised very quickly.

"Research shows that children don't like their parents drinking; they don't like the impact on their behaviour or being around them when they're tipsy or worse."

If you're worried that you or someone in your household is starting to drink too much, Jackson suggests setting some rules.

"Work out a protocol for your family about drinking - mark the alcohol-free days on your calendar and stick to them. Be really vigilant about drinking your kids and call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline for support.

"I know we're going through a really difficult time, but this is an opportune chance to try health-promoting strategies, like catching up on sleep. Exercise if you can, make healthy meals during the day, call your friends and try new practices to help get you through."


Lotta Dann, who has been sober for eight years and runs support website Living Sober, said she understands why people might turn to alcohol to cope with the new realities of lockdown.

"I totally get it, but it's such a flawed coping mechanism. It actually adds misery on top of misery.

"Yes, you can put rules in place about your alcohol use, but what's really good to do is to be ok with all the emotions, the sadness, the stress and the anxiety. That's what will actually make a difference. Don't try to numb yourself and avoid it constantly, because it doesn't work and it will make it worse.

"It's better to try doing all those things like physical movement, making yourself a lovely cup of tea, appreciating a little square of chocolate, listening to mindfulness stuff online and connecting with buddies. They don't give you the same lovely dopamine rush that alcohol gives you, or the numbing, but in the long run they're much more effective."

Lucy Corry is a Wellington journalist and recipe writer