Freedom picnics bring with them a curly question for some

It’s day not-even-a-box-dye-can-save-me of lockdown number who-even-has-the-will-to-keep-count, but the people of Melbourne and Sydney have a spring in their collective step.

With five-person picnics back on the agenda for the double-vaxxed, every serviceable patch of grass has recently played host to a gaggle of friends trying to remember how to make conversation outside of the group chat. Yes, we’re making the most of our newfound freedom, and if you’re anything like me, your newsfeed looks like opening night at Coachella due to the sheer amount of pictures of people drinking outdoors.

A few lockdowns ago, comedian Jo Stanley decided to become more mindful about her drinking.

And it’s that last point that has given me pause over the past few weeks. While those who know me well will attest to my love of a good wine (outdoors or otherwise), lately I’ve been choosing to hit pause on the booze more frequently.

When you’re under stay-at-home orders, Happy Hour hits differently. For one thing, it’s not all that happy, and for another, it’s never just an hour. I’m someone who tips easily into anxiousness, and whether it is the uncertainty of COVID, or because my creative work is requiring more vulnerability lately, I know that alcohol only adds fuel to that anxiety fire.

That’s why, a few lockdowns ago, I made the decision to be more mindful about my drinking. I haven’t stopped all together, but I’m putting more thought and intention into the how, when and why of the alcohol piece in my wellbeing puzzle.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Forty-six per cent of regular wine drinkers in Australia now claim they’re taking active steps to reduce their alcohol intake. That’s nearly half of the attendees at your picnic, and yet chances are that most upcoming gatherings will feature at least a few drinks on the rug. Even though so many of us are trying to cut back, when it comes to freedom picnics, turning down a boozy bevvy will get you more raised eyebrows than an unmasked cougher in Woollies.

And so, what to do?

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Perhaps, like most things, the answer lies in humour. Not that your decision to hit pause should require any explanation, it would be great to say “Just Because”. But if you’re being pressed as to why, I’ve got some excuses that might help. Tell them that, your health kick has to start somewhere and like Ross and Rachel, you’re on a break, but from alcohol. Or throw your beloved under the bus and explain that it’s their turn to celebrate, and your turn to drive. And finally, there’s always the option of “I grabbed zero by mistake.” (Best mistake ever).

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