Alcohol cravings can be intense. When they come, it can be incredibly hard to push past them through sheer force of will. Yet, if you have cravings but want to quit alcohol, how can you know how to fight the urge to drink? It helps to plan ahead and know what you will do when cravings happen. Here are six tactics to help you fight back against those urges to use alcohol.
Are you struggling with alcohol cravings? Reach out to us at The Woods at Parkside for answers and expert help.
Why Am I Struggling with Alcohol Cravings?
Struggling with alcohol cravings is quite common for people who are trying to quit or cut back on drinking alcohol. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or uncommitted to your recovery. In fact, it’s very understandable to professionals trained in helping people with alcohol problems. There are several reasons why you might have those urges.
- Your brain chemistry changes after you have gone months or years of drinking alcohol regularly. You may become tolerant to the effects of alcohol and need more of it to get the same effect as you once did.
- If alcohol has given you pleasant feelings in the past, it likely causes your brain’s reward system to kick in when you are presented with the possibility of drinking.
- If you drink to ease anxiety, such as social anxiety at parties, you might crave alcohol for the relief of that anxiety.
- You might encounter triggers, which give you an automatic response to alcohol, and you immediately start to crave it. The triggers might be within you, such as depression or anger, or they could be external, such as going to a place where you used to drink alcohol.
While it’s not surprising that people who have been accustomed to drinking alcohol crave it, you won’t likely be able to get sober if you keep giving in to those urges. It is very difficult, but there are ways to manage cravings.
How to Fight the Urge to Drink
Are you ready to find out how to fight the urge to drink? Here are the five tactics we mentioned to help you fight alcohol cravings.
1. Talk to someone.
It’s a great idea to just talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. Sometimes, you might not even need to mention the cravings. It may help you enough just to hear a friendly voice talking about something else to distract you. Other times, you might need to express your feelings about the difficulties you’re going through or want advice from a trusted mentor or sponsor.
2. Know and be aware of your triggers.
It’s important to know what will trigger the cravings. Then, you can plan how to handle or avoid them. For example, if you know going to a bar will trigger your cravings, you might decide to just not go. On the other hand, suppose a family wedding reception is happening at the bar, and it’s important to you to be there. In that case, since you know the cravings will likely come, you need to plan for them by thinking of things you can do if you feel the urge – perhaps one of the other items on this list. Also, you will need to stay aware of your feelings and your choice to stay sober.
3. Distract yourself from your cravings.
There are many ways to distract yourself, and you don’t have to do it forever. It might take several hours if you are in early recovery. Therefore, you will need to think of an activity that takes several hours, such as taking a long hike or painting a complex picture from start to finish. You might even find that shorter activities help in some cases.
4. Imagine what would happen if you gave in.
When the craving happens, be honest with yourself. Picture yourself having that one drink. Have you stopped at that in the past? If there was a time when one drink led to trouble, remember what happened. Play the entire scene over in your mind. Do the consequences seem worth that one drink? Then, remind yourself of all the reasons you want to stay sober and prevent relapse.
5. Make sure you don’t have nutritional deficiencies.
People who have been drinking heavily for years may have developed nutritional deficiencies. As it turns out, former drinkers who switch to healthier eating habits experience fewer cravings. In fact, they are more likely to avoid relapse. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars. Eat lots of fiber and take supplements if you need them. You may reduce alcohol cravings more than you expect.
6. Use HALT.
HALT is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The idea is that when you start to have a craving, you ask yourself if there is something else behind your craving. For example, if you realize you are actually craving companionship, you can go find someone to talk to or hang out with for a while. If you’re actually thirsty, you can simply drink some water.
How to Prevent Alcohol Relapse
Preventing alcohol relapse requires a long-term strategy that goes beyond stopping cravings. The tactics above can fit into your overall strategy. Start by thinking about your reasons for quitting alcohol and the benefits you hope to gain. This is your vision for yourself. Keep it in mind every day.
Next, consider what your strategy will be. Your strategy is how you will approach the problem, and the tactics are specifically what you will do. Your strategy might include:
- Learn skills that help you stay sober.
- Stay aware of your challenge, your condition, your health, and your feelings.
- Practice self-care.
- Join a support group
- Have a contact list of people you can call if you need support.
- Plan to get professional help if you find yourself unable to overcome your alcohol problems on your own.
Remember, even if you haven’t achieved sobriety before or have had a relapse, it is possible to get sober for good. Others have done it, and though it might be one of the biggest challenges of your life, you can certainly succeed.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment at The Woods at Parkside
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, you need extra help when you are struggling with alcohol cravings. At The Woods at Parkside, we offer medically supervised alcohol detox and a comprehensive alcohol treatment program. Furthermore, if you have mental health issues that complicate your alcohol use disorder, you may benefit from our dual diagnosis treatment program.
The Woods at Parkside provides high-quality care from mental health professionals with extensive experience treating alcohol use disorder. Our residential facility in Gahanna, Ohio, offers services for people near Columbus, throughout Southern and Central Ohio, and surrounding areas. If you need help with alcohol addiction, we look forward to helping you find true, lasting recovery.
Could you have an alcohol addiction? Contact us at The Woods at Parkside to learn about alcohol use disorder and its treatments.