How to Beat Alcohol Cravings
One of the most persistent myths about substance use disorders is that drinking and drug abuse are a choice people make, and that people who can’t quit on their own are weak or have failed somehow. While there are a few rare instances of people who have walked away from drinking and never looked back, for most problem drinkers, things are more complicated than that. Alcohol cravings are one of the most significant reasons.
Due to the way addictive substances disrupt brain chemistry, people who are physiologically and psychologically dependent on alcohol find drinking profoundly rewarding. When you’re trying to stay sober, cravings can be a significant obstacle on your journey. Any experiences, physical sensations or sensory input your brain associates with drinking will activate a cascade of urges that could lead you to a relapse. If you want to beat alcohol cravings, consider these three tips for early sobriety.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Throughout your recovery process, you’ll experience emotional ups and downs, some of which might cause you to gloss over all the negative impacts of drinking and contemplate a return to substance abuse. First things first, take some time to write out a list of things that trigger your desire to drink. This exercise can help you predict alcohol cravings before they arrive.
For instance, if you have discovered that feeling anxious makes you crave a drink, that likely means you need better ways to manage healthy stress levels. As you keep track of your urges, note what specific time of day they occurred and their severity on a scale of 1 to 10. You may also want to include details like where you were and who you were with at the time.
Triggers are different for everyone. Some are situational or emotional, while others may relate to specific memories, activities, places or people. For example, if you had a favorite happy hour spot before you decided to get sober, seeing it on your way home from a long day at work could lead you to justify stopping in for “just one drink.” To avoid this dangerous idea, find a new route that doesn’t take you past that bar.
2. Practice Healthy Coping Strategies
While making a list of triggers can be an asset as you learn how to beat alcohol cravings, it’s unrealistic to assume you can control every situation you’ll find yourself in. For example, if you’re watching a movie or TV show where the characters celebrate an occasion with heavy drinking, that’s a stressor you couldn’t have predicted or taken steps to manage in advance. Having an arsenal of healthy coping strategies to use during occasions like this can help you overcome alcohol cravings.
- Learn some simple breathing exercises to minimize stress and center yourself.
- Practicing yoga and meditation can teach you to relax and take each moment as it comes, instead of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful, calming setting. Picture it as vividly as you can – what can you feel, smell, hear and see?
- If your surroundings allow you to do so comfortably, try progressive muscle relaxation to bring yourself a sense of inner peace.
3. Work With a Therapist
Attending one-on-one therapy can be extremely beneficial in early recovery because having a therapist ensures you always have someone to listen to your innermost concerns and help you work through problems non-judgmentally. If your goal is to beat alcohol cravings, look for a counselor who specializes in evidence-based techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. These approaches have roots in the idea that people can take steps to identify and rectify negative or unhelpful thinking.
By understanding the thought patterns that might be holding you back from reaching your objectives, CBT and DBT can allow you to become more mentally resilient, experience less stress and prevent a relapse. These therapies are also drug-free, holistic ways to change your behavior for the better.
Find Freedom at Beach House Center for Recovery
Alcohol cravings don’t have to control your life. Discover a better, healthier way to live through treatment at Beach House. To speak with our experienced admissions advisors and verify your insurance coverage, contact us today for your confidential consultation.