Pastor Jim Melvin
Are you wasting away in Margaritaville? Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, known for his colorful Hawaian shirts, catchy lyrics and laid-back islands attitude could be nominated as the pandemic spokesperson. Many of his song titles like “Wasting Away in Margarittaville,” “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” “And Why don’t we get Drunk,” extol the use and abuse of alcohol.
Judging from celebrity posts on Facebook, and the posts of my friends, family, and coworkers, the covid-19 pandemic has us awash in alcohol as much as in virus particles. People working from home report happy hour starting earlier and lasting longer. I have a friend who runs a liquor store that offers drive-through pickup and he says that since March his sales have made every day seem like New Year’s Eve. Statistics show that alcohol sales have risen as much as 55% since the covid related lockdowns began.
As lighthearted as the attitudes toward pandemic drinking habits appear, there are some serious consequences to our changes in consumption lurking in the background. The following are some of the negative consequences that can logically be expected to result from the current uptick in drinking:
- A rise in general health problems including a suppressed immune response which increases the susceptibility to disease including covid 19.
- Weight gain which also negatively impacts overall health.
- An in increase in the incidence and severity of depression.
- Relationship problems, child neglect and spousal abuse are more common.
- Lowered inhibition and lack of judgement in social situations increase the likelihood of exposure to covid 19 infections.
Lest I be accused of being a party pooper or a wet blanket, let it be known that I generally counsel moderation in all things. Even the Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” In balance, however, Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not be a drunkard, for that is debauchery.” Medical science seems to support the biblical advice. It has been shown that one drink per day may have some health benefits including reducing heart disease. More conclusively, anything more than moderate consumption leads to all kinds of serious afflictions including cancer, multiple organ failure and heart disease.
Alcohol usage goes up during times of stress. An increase of alcohol abuse was observed after the 9/11 terror attacks. The isolation caused by the pandemic and the resulting lack of positive social connections makes us extremely vulnerable. Working at home increases the temptation to drink during the workday. So here are some practical suggestions of steps that you can take to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle in “Coronaville.”
- Honestly evaluate your drinking habits. Widely accepted health guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. A drink is defined as 1 twelve oz. regular beer, 1 five oz. glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. 80 proof distilled spirits. These amounts are to be consumed over the course of the week and not saved for a weekend binge. Overall, 0 drinks per day is best.
- Strictly limit the duration of your cocktail hour if you have one. One hour seems to be an appropriate length of time for most people.
- Be extra aware of your drinking on weekends, holidays, and vacations.
- Do not drink during the workday.
- Substitute non-alcoholic drinks or drinks with lower alcohol content for cocktail hour or engage in some other kind of activity or social interaction. It may work for you to serve alcohol only at dinner time.
- Couples and family members should positively and respectfully support one another in limiting alcohol consumption.
- Talk openly with social acquaintances about your decision to responsibly consume alcohol.
- Seek professional help if you or a loved one is being negatively impacted by their drinking.
- Avoid bars and parties where alcohol will be consumed in excess. These situations are the main source of covid spread at this time. It is your right to politely decline invitations to social events that you feel would put you at risk.
- Pray for strength and serenity.
It’s five o’clock somewhere right now. If I wanted to, I could find a good reason to pop a beer or pour myself a drink. I choose not to. I know that, like you, I am operating under a higher than normal level of stress. As much as this pandemic time stinks and tries to drive us to drink, we can create our own silver linings by committing to staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. Today, for me, five o’clock sounds like a good time to go for a walk. What are you going to do? Let’s just not waste away in Margaritaville.