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Alcohol attitudes during the holidays and COVID

Stu Johnson

The month of December, even during coronavirus times, often brings with it get-togethers and parties. That can mean the consumption of alcoholic beverages. For most, it is a time of celebration and socializing. But, for some, it can be the furthering of an alcohol use disorder.

UK Student Center
Stu Johnson
UK Student Center

While drinking alcohol occurs in various age groups, some of the higher consumption levels are found in those 18-to-26. Here’s just a sample of attitudes about drinking from four UK students, Dare, Rachel, Madison, and Liam.

“It’s cool every now and then but like, not an everyday thing.”

“I just don’t see any benefit in it. I don’t see any gain. I also am religious, so I don’t see a, like, a benefit to drinking, like I don’t think it brings anything good necessarily into the picture. But I don’t judge others that do. I think it’s totally fine if you do. It’s just a personal decision that I don’t think that I should.”

“I definitely think there’s the potential for it in college since we’re on our own. We’re able to make our own decisions. We’re not influenced by parents, more so by other people. So, there’s definitely more the potential for alcoholism, just because of the binge drinking culture. So, I definitely think that’s a risk factor.”

“And a lot of it is apathy towards wanting to know the line. A lot of people think it’s cool to cross the line. So, I would say specifically on college campuses awareness of crossing the line is minimal.”

National reports have cited increases in heavy drinking among men and women over the last two years during the pandemic. It’s also been labeled as a factor in air travel misbehavior. Within the last week, an airline attendant organization asked that the availability of drinks prior to flights be scaled back.

Mark Fillmore-University of Kentucky Department of Psychology
University of Kentucky
Mark Fillmore-University of Kentucky Department of Psychology

Mark Fillmore is director of graduate studies in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Psychology. He says surveying is typically the best way to assess drinking activity. Fillmore said Kentucky figures have climbed over the years. “The increase in Kentucky is steeper than national. We are moving up. We have increased our levels of consumption, perhaps, maybe we’ve shown a 50% increase in levels of consumption from back to 2006,” said Fillmore.

Fillmore said that followed a slow decline in alcohol use in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Kentucky’s bourbon industry has grown dramatically over the last decade. In all there are some 32 distilleries as part of two different Bourbon trails. Sarah Barnes is the director of industry responsibility and sustainability with the Kentucky Distillers Association. Barnes said when tours resumed following a hiatus created by coronavirus, trail participants were ready to get out and it did create some challenges. “We obviously have some isolated incidents, sometimes later in the day those get a little bit worse, but most of our distilleries are equipped with that. Most of our tour partners that bring tour buses to us are partners for a reason. And so, they’ve done a really good job of everybody having each other’s back,” explained Barnes

Barnes noted there’s respect for those visitors who choose not to drink bourbon. She added there’s a mocktail project which leads to creative drinks. Barnes said some will, “blow a regular cocktail out of the water.”

UK’s Mark Fillmore said there’s no evidence that an increase in distilleries or production increases consumption in a region. He noted alcohol is already readily available in liquor stores.

One of many recovery programs in Lexington is found in Shepherds House.

Robert Girardot
Stu Johnson
Robert Girardot

29-year-old Robert Girardot resides in a sober living apartment. He said he started drinking in middle school. “I’ve battled alcoholism and drug use for years now and I’ve lost a marriage out of it, I’ve lost cars, homes. I have a child on the way now. My current wife has an EPO on me because of my addiction and alcoholism,” said Girardot

Girardot is involved in a 12-step program. The Jessamine County man said he’s been a dry drunk before, sober but miserable and always craving. He believes the AA strategy can work. “Anybody with certain addictions, we are me, myself, and I. It’s about me. I don’t care about my family. I don’t care about my kid. But, once you find a higher power, greater than yourself, of anything, I don’t care what you are, who you are. If you can just find something to believe that’s higher than your own self, it will change your whole life,” added Girardot

Girardot said his short-term goal is to live a sober life. He also wants to make a better career choice and be a good father, a real father.

UK Psychology Professor Mark Fillmore said treatment can be a difficult road to travel successfully. He noted the best strategy lies with prevention. Fillmore added if the problem of alcohol use disorder can be prevented in the first place, “we’re better off as a state.”

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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