Three Coping Strategies to Deal with Alcohol Cravings That Really Work
Recovering from alcohol addiction can be difficult, both mentally and physically. The rewards of lifelong sobriety are worth the effort, but they do not always come easily. To fully engage in recovery from alcohol addiction, you must learn new skills, change your routines, let go of some relationships, and create a new lifestyle. In time, this new, healthy way of life will feel familiar. In the beginning, it might take some active commitment and effort.
Alcohol cravings can linger for weeks–or months–after you complete detox treatment. Without having a strategy to cope with them, cravings can easily lead to a relapse.
Being prepared for cravings means expecting them to happen and being ready with a solution that works for you. Learning effective ways that can help you cope with alcohol cravings makes it more likely that you can get through the discomfort of cravings without giving up on sobriety.
Is it Possible to Get Rid of Alcohol Cravings?
Alcohol cravings are likely to be very intense during the detox phase of treatment. This is why you must seek professional support during alcohol withdrawal and detox. Having medical supervision and support during detox allows you to be monitored and treated for the uncomfortable–or dangerous–symptoms of withdrawal, including cravings.
Over time, your alcohol cravings are likely to decrease. However, you may continue to experience cravings for weeks or even months. Some people find that they experience cravings for alcohol for years if they are in triggering situations. This is why it is important to find a coping strategy that works.
One of the most important parts of helping to get rid of alcohol cravings is to identify which situations are the most triggering. Ask yourself:
- When do I want to drink the most?
- Which people trigger the urge to drink?
- What situations, days, or events lead to cravings?
- What feelings and emotions lead to cravings?
This work can be done effectively in therapy during and after addiction treatment, but it is a good idea to think about your triggers and avoid them as much as possible–especially in the early days of recovery.
Three Strategies to Cope With Alcohol Cravings
In addition to avoiding your triggers, it is important to practice good self-care to cope with alcohol cravings. Many people think of bubble baths and scented candles when they hear the term “self-care”. But real self-care means more than this. It means identifying and meeting your needs so that your body and mind are healthy and balanced. When it comes to treating alcohol cravings, here are three strategies that can help you care for yourself.
1. Engage Your Body
When cravings hit, take care of your body. This might mean getting some exercise, spending time outdoors in the fresh air, or finding a hobby, such as playing an instrument, writing, or creating art, that keeps your hands busy. Remember to eat nutritious meals regularly and move your body. Yoga, running, hiking, or taking a walk around the block can be great ways to manage alcohol cravings.
2. Engage Your Mind
Distract your mind and take some of the attention away from your cravings when they hit. You could watch a favorite movie, practice meditation or prayer, write in a journal, or read a magazine or book.
3. Reach Out
Sometimes, the best coping strategy for alcohol cravings is to avoid being alone. Whether you meet up with a supportive person for a cup of coffee or you simply call a friend to talk for a bit, spending time with someone you trust can help you get through a craving without drinking.
When your physical, emotional, and social health is improved, you will likely find that you are better able to manage your alcohol cravings.
Cope With Alcohol Cravings By Understanding Them Better
Learning as much as you can about addiction and recovery can help you sustain your commitment and energy, even when faced with challenges and cravings. In addition to avoiding triggers, practicing good self-care, and surrounding yourself with the support you need, you may also want to explore the DISARM method of dealing with cravings.
- Name the urge: Give your cravings a name that fits. You may refer to your cravings as “The Bully”, “The Salesman”, or any other name that makes sense to you.
- Be Aware: Identify your early craving “warning signs”. What do cravings feel like to you? When are they likely to start? How do you know you’re feeling the urge to drink before it’s too late?
- Absolute Refusal: Refuse strongly and immediately. Draw a line and refuse to cross it. Not drinking is your number one priority and there is no need for debating whether or not you will drink.
Practice refusing alcohol in low-pressure situations. You can even practice saying “no” out loud at home by yourself. In time, saying no will be automatic and much more comfortable. Remind yourself how proud you will be in an hour when you’ve refused. Stay focused on your reasons for choosing sobriety and know that the craving will pass if you give it time.
Find Help for Alcoholism Today
Lifelong sobriety is worth the effort. Resisting cravings takes minutes, but the rewards–better health, new opportunities, improved relationships–last a lifetime.
At New Jersey Addiction Interventions, we believe that anyone can recover from addiction if they get the support and treatment they need. If you or someone you love requires addiction treatment, call us today to learn more about the comprehensive, adaptable programs available to you.
Medically Reviewed: November 10, 2021
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.