Sarah Hepola

Drinking in a global pandemic

Apocalypse is a great reason to get drunk, but it's also a very good reason to stay sober

A few years ago, I was talking with a couple female writers about what we’d do during a zombie apocalypse. One claimed she’d be good with a sword, and she clasped her hands and pantomimed slicing through the air. The other said she could forage. She could scour the cabinets and make dinner from any random ingredients. They turned to me.

“I’m out,” I said. “Zombie apocalypse comes, I’m getting drunk.”

I was probably seven years sober at the time, and I had zero impulse to start again, but the end of the world was such a grisly scenario, such an off-the-wall excuse to pick up again, that I leapt for it. Maybe¬†I was trying to be funny, but nobody laughed. The women looked over at me like two kids who’d been keeping a ball up in the air only to have it yanked away by some adult. Was I being serious? Was this a cry for help?¬†

“Don’t be worried or anything, but if the world is ending, I’m drinking whiskey again.”

They nodded, and we moved on to other topics. Later I wondered why I’d said that. I wondered if I meant it, or if I was seeking some kind attention in that moment, or trying to disguise the fact that I have very few practical skills. I can’t cook, I can’t hunt, I don’t know how to DO anything, but the truth is that I don’t think I’d choose that scenario at all. I have come to thrive on the heart-thump of being clear and alert in every moment, even the terrifying ones, and if the zombie apocalypse were upon us, I’d probably be the person writing an essay to remind people they are not alone during the zombie apocalypse.

This is a strange time. Coronavirus, social distancing, shelter-in-place. Some people will drink more, and that’s understandable, but to those who are struggling to drink less, or not at all — I wrote a piece on CNN for you. Stay safe, friends.