Staying on top of your drinking as lockdown lifts: our top tips

July 2020 | 7 minutes

We asked some people who moderate or don’t drink at all for some of their top tips for managing their drinking now that pubs and bars are slowly reopening.

The gradual lifting of lockdown brings excitement as well as apprehension for many. If you’ve made a change to your drinking over the past few months, it might feel stressful thinking about how you’ll stick to your newly-set drinking goals. Members of our online community are here to help!

Planning ahead

Steve: "Plan what you are going to order before you go to the bar. Plus, have a backup drink. When you are at the bar, don't hesitate when ordering, just order your drink when asked."

Gill: "Visit the venue beforehand or phone them up to find out what alcohol-free options they have behind the bar so you can have your choice ready in your mind, instead of being indecisive and thus vulnerable to persuasion to choose an alcoholic option ..."

Kerry: "Fast forward in your mind to ‘the morning after the night before’. Do you want to wake up feeling like a furry creature died in your mouth and exploded your brains, or fresh as a daisy, ready to take on the day?"

Steve: "Have a sober friend you can call if things get too much."

Coping with pressure

Steve: "You can say no. If friends are encouraging you to join them, have confidence to say no if that's your decision. It is OK to say no."

Ann: "Remember you don't have to drink a lot to have fun. You can be sensible and still have a great night, and afterwards you'll remember it all and you won't feel ill next day."

Steven: "Go on, you deserve to meet up with your friends at the pub, just bring a bottle of fizzy water with you, and stick to drinking that throughout the evening. I believe the joy of just seeing mates again and having good discussions should be enough of a high by now, without alcohol. They might try to rib you into having just one. If you’ve committed to staying alcohol-free, you'll find strength in that. Oh, and wear a face mask!"

Steve: "If things get too much, remove yourself from the environment. Come back once you feel OK to do so."

Gill: "I might add: volunteer to go to the bar to order the drinks - or get the first round in - that keeps the control with you - at least for the first round and then by the second you know you’ve got it nailed 🤗👏"

Steve: "If you slip, do not worry. Forgive yourself, draw a line and move forward. If we are trying, we are winning."

Low- and no-alcohol options

Matt: "I've discovered a whole new world of alcohol-free beer during lockdown and am slowly working my way through them. Some are better than others, but all have been drinkable and have satisfied my urge for a beer but without the need for alcohol - it's a win-win!"

Amanda: "If you don’t want to drink but you're going to the pub, invite a trusted friend (preferably one that doesn't drink) to support you. Suggest a pub that has alcohol-free alternatives (lots do), drive so you have an excuse not to drink, and if you do have a drink stick to one. Practice your one-liner response for the inevitable encouragement to "have just one". Remember any negative responses from friends are about their needs, not yours."

Kerry: "There are so many amazing alcohol-free drinks to try (beers especially). It's been an absolute life saver for me, particularly in the first few days/weeks of going sober."

Gill: "How about asking the pub / bar / restaurant to stock your preferred alcohol-free drink? As long as they know someone’s going to drink it they shouldn’t mind where they get their markup 🙄🤗 (and wholesale catalogues have vast options that are rarely exploited to the full) - then give them some praise afterwards in a review on Facebook or Trip Advisor for being good for alcohol-free options!"

You can find more information about coronavirus and alcohol in our coronavirus information and advice hub. If you’d like more tips on managing your mental health and your drinking, this blog has additional advice.

There is no shame in asking for help. If you’re struggling to control your drinking, or you would like to talk to someone about getting some support, here is a list of organisations offering remote services.

If you’re finding things really difficult at the moment and are feeling overwhelmed, you can contact the Samaritans for free in the UK on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.