COVID-19 Restrictions: an opportunity for change
By Ann Marie Crotty. Ann Marie is one of ACON's Substance Support counsellors.
The pub is an all too common historical hang out for LBQ women (trans and cis) and non-binary and gender diverse people. It provides us a space to meet like-minded LGBTQ folk, to connect, socialize and even find dates and get a little flirty. Community performance, art and sporting events book out beer gardens and sticky carpet corners across the state, and do well filling them with fierce women and gender diverse folk.
With the pub being the most common venue for these social and community connections, it may be no surprise that studies show LBQ women (trans and cis) and non-binary and gender diverse people drink more alcohol than their heterosexual counterparts. We also see more LBQ women (trans and cis) and non-binary and gender diverse people drinking to an unhealthy level and who self-identify as wanting to reduce or manage how much they drink.
So what is happening with the drinkers in our communities now that we are in this wild experiment where all the pubs are forced shut?!
In these forced pub shutdowns, there may be an opportunity for members of our communities to explore if they would like to reset their relationship with alcohol. New environments can be very conducive to changing and sustaining new habits.
We are seeing individuals seizing these strange and unprecedented times as an opportunity to grow, to rest, maybe to start on new hobbies and personal goals. Our social media feeds are full of examples of community adapting to life online so as to express themselves and stay connected.
So how could this new landscape help LBQ women and gender diverse people create new healthier habits and maybe even plan to maintain change once our beloved spaces are returned to us?
Below are some tips on how to use the current environment to make these changes.
- Choose a goal such as moderation, reduction, ‘taking a break’ or even abstinence from alcohol during this time. Make your goal clear and measurable, or SMART, and download a goal setting template to help you get started.
- Share your plan with others. Invite others to join you, whether it be your housemates, your partner or your LGBTQ friends and community. You could even take your new social experiment online!
- Start a journal. This is a great opportunity to increase your awareness and explore your relationship with alcohol. In the early days of changing your habits it is important to be very aware of our internal triggers (often our emotions, body sensations and thoughts) that lead us to choose to drink. This awareness can then allow us to make different choices in how we respond.
- Schedule your time. Identify when you are more likely to drink (or times you would be in the pub) and make other plans to socialise. These may include virtual hangouts on apps such as houseparty, online games or livefeeds of local queer performers.
- Normally drink at home? We know this is the case for many in our communities. Change things around! Depending on what your goal is, remove or move the alcohol from its normal hideyhole.
- Moderating or reducing your intake? Try keeping a Drink Diary, taking a set number of nights off, and set hours when you can drink (hint – not starting too early and stopping one hour before bedtime). Have non-alcoholic drinks aplenty: maybe create a personalised mocktail and share online!
- Always wanted to try mindfulness? An urge to drink is a great place to practice and see the benefits of mindfulness. This involves acknowledging the urge or thought and ‘riding the wave’ until you come out the other side. There are plenty of apps and content online to help begin a mindfulness practice such as Headspace and Smiling Mind.
- Read up on alcohol and the benefits of stopping or reducing. Knowledge is power and it’s quite the motivator. There are tonnes of books, podcasts and personal stories of change out there as well as new socialising spaces opening up that are worth a look. Some recommendations of where to start include Hello Sunday Morning Resource list, Sober Curious podcast and a list of popular Sober literature.
- Reach out. Alongside habit, it is often uncomfortable feelings that have us reaching for a drink. Have one or two friends who you can call if feeling down, overwhelmed or in need of distraction. Talking about how we are feeling can help relieve the pressure or drive to push it away. If you are in need of more support beyond your friends, check out the support resources below.
- Reward yourself! This is the best bit! You surely have saved a bit of dough from not being down at the pub! We understand that money may be tight right now so that can only be a good thing. Rewards also do not have to be expensive – Bake a cake, take a walk, binge that TV series. Just name it as your reward for achieving your goal.
This blog is intended to get LBQ women (trans and cis) and non-binary and gender diverse people to reflect on their relationship with alcohol and the social queer spaces in which drinking has become normalised for our community.
It is up to each individual to decide if they would like to change how they drink. If it is something you want to try out, hopefully this has provided some ideas on where to start.
If anyone would like further support for alcohol and other drug issues you can contact our Substance Support Counselling intake for more information. Other support services (currently online) include:
- SMART Recovery Australia
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- The Rainbow Recovery club
- In The Rooms
- Hello Sunday Morning
- Sober Recovery