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My kids are driving me up the wall and I'm worried about everything, so is it really so bad that I'm drinking every day now?

We've been warned that alcohol isn't a good coping strategy in the current crisis, but Co Down writer Chrissie Russell relishes her nightly glass - and she isn't giving it up for the foreseeable future


Wine o’clock: Chrissie Russell pouring herself a glass at home

Wine o’clock: Chrissie Russell pouring herself a glass at home

Wine o’clock: Chrissie Russell pouring herself a glass at home

There are plenty of things I could complain about right now - how I'm fed up with my own cooking, how I long to see scenery that goes beyond the well-trodden pavements of my village, how my kids, as much as I love them, are slowly driving me up the wall with their omnipresence and casual disregard for closed toilet doors, but I have chosen not to whine. Instead I have chosen wine.

New research has revealed that one in five people is drinking more in lockdown.

I'm one of the five. From only having an occasional G&T or glass of wine at weekends, I'm now pouring myself a glass of something alcoholic pretty much every night of the week. Since all days feel the same, why wait for the weekend?

A large glass of red here, a couple of gins there. Always after 5pm and never more than two, but it's regular, it's something I look forward to and I suspect it's here to stay until life gets back to normal.

From only buying wine as and when I'd need it, I now have a stash of 12 bottles, kindly delivered to my door and I'm about to hit buy on a bottle of Shortcross Gin.

Previously I'd only have had a drink in company. Now I'm really not bothered if my husband chooses to imbibe or not - mummy needs a drink.

I'm still below my 14 units a week and by ordering from nearby companies I'm even supporting local firms during the crisis - just as they are supporting me - so is what I'm doing really that bad?

The trope of the guzzling mum is a hackneyed one. From successful brands like Hurrah For Gin to books like Why Mummy Drinks, popular culture is saturated with evidence that parenting is best done when partnered with a glass of something boozy.

Since coronavirus hit, the parents' WhatsApp groups I'm on have been awash with drinking mummy memes and photographic evidence of my fellow parents following suit.

Like all good cliches, there's a reason why the mum-who-needs-a-drink one is so popular - it's true.

Of course I'm stressed on a big scale. I'm worried about everything: the wellbeing of those in care homes, the health of those on the front line, my older relatives, the economy.

I'm stressed about finance and mortgages and work. I'm concerned about non-urgent health appointments my kids have missed, how my parents are coping, the future of the small businesses, restaurants and cafes in my hometown and further afield.

But on a daily basis my desire for a glass of red is largely fuelled by my thirst for adult time (and no, not that sort of 'adult time' - I don't know who these people are predicting a baby boom but they don't live here). I've gone from minding our children most of the time to minding them all of the time and it's made me realise how much I needed those brief moments of child-free time to recharge and re-set. Malbec has come to symbolise my me-time.

A rich, full-bodied red served in one of my fancy Villeroy & Boch glasses feels like a grown-up treat. So too does an ice-cold gin (Shortcross) and tonic (Fever Tree), poured over plenty of ice with a slice of orange. It feels decadent and delicious, something akin to that delight at seeing a tiered tray of dainties and the clink of china at an afternoon tea. There's no need for it, it's not terribly healthy, but oh, it's very, very pleasurable.

After a day of wiping bottoms, painting, baking, planting, creating, washing, cooking, cleaning (and repeat), this little, simple ceremony of pouring a glass of wine feels like a bit of luxury. It's about indulgence, not practicality; want, not need.

I'm not drinking to excess and I'm sure I'll return to my pre-pandemic ways once the crisis is over and normal life resumes.

Examples have crept onto my timeline of people taking the opposite tack entirely.

These are folk who have decided to ditch the booze and instead see the crisis as an opportunity to embark on new fitness regimes, learning new skills and giving living spaces a makeover.

Well, I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeling the drive to live my best life right now.

Thriving seems a bit of an ask, so I'm aiming for survival and plenty of treats. Right now in our house there's a little bit more screen-time than usual, an above average amount of sugary bakes and a higher level of alcohol consumption.

My remit of treats used to be a lot wider. I miss gossipy coffees with my mum, collecting the kids from an afternoon at their grandparents and finding them replete with tales of climbing trees, building forts and eating shortbread.

I miss going into a changing room with an armful of hangers and telling a stranger in the cubicle next door that the dress looks great on her. I miss long country walks and gathering stones and shells with the kids on the coast. I'd love to hear the chuckle of my toddler when I push him on a swing in the park.

I miss meeting my eldest at the school gates and hearing all his excited chatter about games played in school yards and friendships formed.

I want to sit with a menu in a busy restaurant.

To see friends' faces outside the grid of a Zoom call.

Of course, this is all frivolous stuff. I've not lost a loved one, a job or the power to breathe on my own.

I'm not putting my life on the line every day to treat the sick or stack supermarket shelves. I'm lucky.

But just because things could be so much worse doesn't mean you can't miss when they were better.

I'm well aware that the current crisis presents myriad issues for those with substance abuse issues.

I'm conscious too that, as a country, we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, associating it with a cure for ills and the toast for every success.

Perhaps I'm a product of that culture.

The news from the World Health Organisation last week was clear. "Alcohol is an unhelpful coping strategy" during the crisis we find ourselves in. And they're right of course, but my nightly glass of wine is about so much more than coping.

So, I'm sorry, WHO. I'll stay home, wash my hands and practise social distancing, but I can't see myself putting a cork in it any time soon.

Belfast Telegraph