Coronavirus

Interviews With Australians Drinking Their Way Through the Lockdown

"There's a new depressing thing on the news every 10 minutes. Throwing down wine is the only way to ignore it."
25 March 2020, 3:22am
We Asked Australians in Lockdown if They’re Drinking More
All photos provided

The spread of the novel coronavirus has created a new and scary world. Throughout Australia, people are now spending all day, every day in their homes: bored, isolated, and worried about the future.

So I don’t know about you, but I’ve been dealing with all this by stockpiling magnums of wine. Honestly, without wine, I don’t know where my head would be at. And I figured there must be other people out there who are stocking up on booze rather than toilet paper and drinking themselves into a false sense of comfort—so I asked a few friends about their COVID-19 drinking habits. I also asked them to send me photos of their stockpiles of booze, which they did only too happily.

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Hannah, 21

VICE: Hey Hannah, crazy times. Would you say you’re drinking more frequently than usual?
Hannah: I reckon I’m drinking less frequently, but drinking a lot more per session. Maybe because I’m at home, so I don’t have to worry about judgement from other people? But also, probably because there are less distractions, less people to talk to, and I'm drinking faster.

How many more drinks are you consuming at the moment?
Usually when I'm out my bank account probably only allows for about five to seven drinks. But due to the seemingly endless flow of booze in my house, I’m pretty much back to my teenage self: absolutely no limits, smashing as much booze as my body will allow.

Do you think your alcohol consumption is a bad idea in a health crisis?
That’s a tough one. I literally think I had the worst hangover of my life this week. Drinking this much has made me super lazy but my mental health has actually been glowing from all the “me” time. I don’t think alcohol is good for your immune system in general, but I am fucking isolated and I need it.

Your relationship with alcohol seems… dedicated?
Yeah, I’ve always had a pretty healthy relationship with alcohol because I usually know my limits well. I don’t really get that hit from drinking; it’s normally just a social thing for me. But obviously right now the whole world is not overly social, so we’ll see how healthy my relationship with alcohol will be at the end of this.

Any recommendations for anyone else who is drinking more at the moment?
I highly encourage afternoon drinking. That way, you sleep through the hangover and can still do wholesome shit (facemasks, crafts, meditation) to keep your sanity the next day. If you have friends in isolation too, you can have dinner parties with them at any time of the day. I think it’s important we stay social, so we don’t all go completely insane.

How do you feel about COVID-19?
A weird, uncomfortable combination of fucking scared and oddly calm. Scared because I’m away from my family and I likely won’t be able to get home to them, and scared for my grandparents and their health. Calm, because I know I’m doing everything that I can right now.

What does the future look like to you?

I’m hopeful. It’s a scary time and none of us have any idea what the fuck the next six months bring, but as long as we look out for each other and do what we need to do, I feel pretty confident that we’ll emerge from this a bit more fucking aware and conscious of how we need to act as a society.

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Trent, 25

Hi Trent. Tell me, how worried are you about COVID-19?
I’m feeling very concerned about COVID-19. I know it’s not the first epidemic I’ve lived through but it seems to be the one that has stuck around the longest. It has definitely fucked with my work: coming from a semi-rural city in Tasmania, our hours have been almost cut down completely, seemingly out of nowhere!

What other epidemics have you lived through?
I mean I was like six or something, but SARS and also Swine Flu and Ebola. None of them seemed like a huge deal though. Unlike this monstrosity.

Why have you stockpiled so much booze?
I never intended it to be that way or for booze to become a priority. But then, it must’ve a been subconscious priority. I feel like if lockdown happens I’ll either be doing one of three things: practicing flair bartending, playing video games, or trying to finish PornHub...

Lol. Do you feel like you’re drinking alcohol faster than usual?
It actually doesn’t feel that way… but I am almost through my stockpile already.

How many drinks do you usually have per sesh?
I would say usually 12, but I can’t be certain.

And how many are you drinking now?
Well honestly I’m trying to stay at the same limit to usual. Just so I can salvage the rest of my stockpile. It’s hard though, so I’m smoking weed to help slow me down—it gives me something else to focus on and consume. And that’s definitely working. The depletion of my stockpile hasn’t been as great the last few days, thanks to weed.

How do you feel about your drinking during this crazy time?
It’s a bit of a double edged sword that one. Some days, it’s just the right day to have a few bevs and feel fucking excellent. But then there are times where you find yourself drinking to forget what’s going on around you. It doesn’t feel super positive to drink on those days, but I do it anyway. I definitely have more good days than bad.

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Grace, 27

Hi Grace. How are you feeling about the pandemic?
For the first week or so I wasn’t really worried. But then I came back to Australia after a holiday in New Zealand and I was immediately put in isolation. That’s when the fear started creeping in. In all seriousness, I think the main bummer is not being able to work. I’ve just helped open this amazing restaurant that I’m super proud of—the whole time I was home on holiday I was thinking about it and my whole crew of amazing staff. So, this quarantine is the fucking worst.

Are you drinking more than usual at the moment?
I think I am drinking about the same; the only real difference is I’m starting earlier in the day. Maybe that means I am drinking more? It feels the same.

Is booze what you’re stocking up most on?
Yeah. Being sober is honestly a greater fear than being alone for two weeks.

What would be the worst thing about being alone and sober?
Just getting into my own head. I’m a very family-forward person; my family is my life and they’re all telling me to come back home and I really don’t want to. If I was alone and sober, without booze and my housemates, I would have already booked my flight home for sure.

How useful are you finding alcohol during this time?
Very useful. Like, I’m definitely using alcohol to cope. It’s a quick stress reliever and it’s fun. Those are two things I am finding difficult to obtain elsewhere in this current isolation circumstance.

But are you worried about your health?
Health officials haven't told us to limit alcohol, so I am going to keep on with what I'm doing. I mean, hangovers aren’t great for your mental health at the best of times, but fuck, anyone got a better plan?

Are you hopeful for the future?
At the moment that’s undecided. I want to be hopeful that this will all blow over and I can get back to that restaurant I love so much—but shit, you never know. If I can say anything, it’s that I’m not going to give up without a fight. And I didn’t move to Melbourne to turn around and go back.

Why do you want to fight for it so much?
Melbourne is fucking amazing for every single soul. I came from a small town in New Zealand, and I moved to Melbourne to broaden my horizons, to learn new things, and to build a foundation that would give me the confidence to open my own place. I don’t want to leave that dream behind for anything. Not even this.

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Ruby, 27

Hi Ruby. This is a crazy time. Are you scared at all?
Fuck yes. Scared and so worried. Worried if I will have a job in a few weeks, worried about my parents’ health, and how the hell am I going to pay rent? I’m worried that Melbourne relies heavily on people hitting the streets. Will our economy survive?

So you were telling me alcohol has been hoarding priority number one. Why is that?
As soon as I heard that I had to stay inside for two weeks, I reached out to people with an SOS to drop around all the wine they could. What else is one meant to do while locked on home? Count their toilet paper? Alcohol allows me to forget about the shit that’s happening out there.

Did you stockpile anything else?
Not really; I legit only stockpiled alcohol. My main worry was: do I have enough wine? Do I have enough mixer? Do I have enough gin? Yeah, the list goes on.

Do you feel like this stressful time calls for more drinking than usual?
Without a doubt. Staying at home, literally staring at the wall, has definitely led me to drink more. What else am I meant to do after 4 PM? There's a new depressing thing on the news every 10 minutes. Throwing wine down seems the only way to ignore it. Seriously, fuck it. What do I have to do tomorrow? Nothing. I’ve started some serious conversations with my dog, let me tell you.

Would you say your coping mechanism is wine?
For sure it’s a coping mechanism. Watching ScoMo utterly fail to take charge and make decisions made me reel. I texted a friend: “please drop at least two bottles of Pinot Noir at my door—it’s wine or cry time.”

Do you feel healthy right now?
Health is something I think about more than ever at the moment. I work a lot on my feet usually, and now all I do is move from my bed to the couch, to the kitchen to cook… you get it. I’ve actually looked up home exercise videos. My mum would pay money to see me exercising. Although I don’t think alcohol has a negative effect right now, because I just feel like so much has already been taken away. If I start to feel like I’m getting sick, I might put the bottle down—but currently I’m holding onto the last bit of fun we can have.

Interviews by Laura Roscioli. Follow her on Instagram