When you stop doing something you’ve been doing for a while – in our case, drinking alcohol, you will get cravings you will probably be thinking about wine or beer all the time. However, your thoughts and feelings are not you and a mere thought cannot make you do anything you don’t want to do but when a craving hits, all our energy and focus is centered on those thoughts and feelings and it can be very uncomfortable.
But, know this, they don’t last forever. And the good news is that they will get less frequent and less intense as time goes by. For now, I want to give you some advice on how to get through them so you don’t let your craving for alcohol drive you crazy!
What is a craving?
A craving is a feeling you have in your body, it can be physical, emotional, psychological or a combination of all three. Your craving might be feeling out of sorts, or you might have physical pain. You could be really annoyed, feel wound up or really sad and upset.
A craving can also be what you are thinking in the moment (the wine witch.) These sensations simply put are thoughts and feelings of, ‘I want wine….. mmm, a glass of wine would be nice….. oh it’s hot outside, let’s have a cold beer…. I want wine, I want wine, I need wine – GIVE ME WINE NOW!’
You can see that they start off quite innocent but if you let them, they can turn into something very powerful and can completely take over as if you have no control over your own mind or body. But you do and the sooner you do something about them, the easier they are to manage and the quicker they will melt away.
Your brain will try and trick you.
Depending on the trigger that caused the craving in the first place, or how long you have been drinking, the feelings will range in frequency and intensity. But, put simply, your mind is very powerful and your brain is so used to receiving alcohol at certain times that when you don’t give it any you have a craving, and a craving is just your brain is just doing its job, the job it’s been used to doing for so long.
Your brain will try and trick you into giving in to the craving and this is when the wine witch or beer monster usually appears to try and persuade you to give in and have a drink. Which obviously you don’t want to do.
Now, beating cravings are only a small part of the sobriety journey and getting over them is not enough on its own. There is much more to your new sober life than beating cravings and giving up alcohol which is why I created the Sober Bliss program, a complete course in living the best life you can without alcohol.
Why not sign up to the newsletter to learn more. But for now, what do you do when you’re hit by a really strong craving to have a drink so you don’t let your craving for alcohol drive you crazy?
Do something else
You can cope with the craving for alcohol in many ways, from distracting yourself to just going with it and trying to ride it out, But whatever you do, DO NOT enter into an internal discussion with yourself if you do, it will only leave you feeling exhausted, stressed, resentful and deprived. Instead of trying to fight the urge or craving, it is important to do something else.
Be aware. When you feel a craving for alcohol try to be aware of what is happening around you and inside you. Check yourself using the popular acronym H.A.L.T which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Are you any of these things?
Cravings for alcohol are often caused by a craving for sugar, or being genuinely hungry. When did you last eat something? Have something to eat, drink a glass of water or have some tea. I used to carry chocolate round with me in the beginning and just a square would put me right. If you’re not hungry, are you angry?
Have the kids been playing up, is your boss being a shit? Did someone cut you up on the way home from work? Has your husband left the towels on the bathroom floor again or did your teenager leave his orange peel on the sofa for the 500th time? If you are feeling angry, then work out why and address it. A glass of wine won’t magically remove the orange peel from the sofa, so drinking won’t help!
Are you feeling lonely at all? Maybe you’ve been with the kids all day and you want some adult conversation or you are just feeling a bit flat and isolated. If this is you then pick up the phone to a friend or relative, go online and check in with support groups, even if you don’t post anything just seeing others out there will help.
Get outside, call on a friend, go to the park or for a walk – there is bound to be someone there you can have an idle chat to. Why don’t you send me an email?
I don’t believe in quick fixes but when a craving strikes, a sure fire way to kick it into touch is to move. You can physically do something else such as going out for a walk or run. Blast the craving away by putting on some loud music and dancing.
You could clean the bathroom, do some yoga – anything really to distract you from the feelings. Just don’t sit there twiddling your thumbs, hoping the feeling will pass.
Simply changing your environment is enough to stop the craving there and then. Go to another room, go upstairs, go outside into the garden or if you’re in a restaurant go to the loos for a few minutes. You know when you go into the kitchen and then you can’t remember why you went there? – Same thing.
Playing movie to the end is a hugely powerful tool to get over the craving, especially if that little voice inside you is saying, go on, just one, one won’t hurt…’ Well, we all know that once we give in, we never, ever have just one.
Play the movie to the end do not glamorize that first drink see yourself getting shouty and obnoxious at the end of the night in the pub having to be helped in the taxi. Or feel what it will be like falling into bed, while your kids tuck you in and kiss you goodnight because you couldn’t stop at one glass of wine and were so out of it, you made a rubbish dinner and passed out without eating.
Remember what it will feel like to wake up dehydrated, heart racing, desperate for the loo and feeling full of shame, regret, hurt, and self hate at 3am.
Then play the movie to the end when you don’t drink. Enjoy a fantastic evening with your friends where you sparkle all night, drive home and flop into bed happy, tired and sober.
Imagine yourself waking up the next morning, feeling proud of yourself, feeling great and not hungover, being full of energy, well rested and ready for a fantastic day with your kids, family, your friends shopping or going hiking, doing whatever you have planned and know you will enjoy it and be there.
I always, always told myself ‘just think of the morning’ and that was usually enough to bust through any good idea I might be having that it was okay to have a beer.
Your brain is awesome and even though you might not think it mid craving, you can rewire your brain so that cravings for alcohol and previous beliefs about alcohol just melt away.
We dedicate a lot of time in the program to help you do just that, it is all based on scientific evidence and proven methods and I teach you how to do it effectively so that you don’t get any more cravings. If that is something you struggle with a lot then get in touch.
One effective skill you can learn to get you through a tricky moment though is deep breathing exercises. They really do help to calm you down and take a step back. With deep breathing and taking a step back, comes mindfulness, this means actually going with the craving, not fighting it but noticing what is happening.
Just observe your physical feelings and your thoughts but don’t try to change them – just let them be. Maybe you think I am insane right now for suggesting it, but I promise you this is a very powerful technique to bring to your daily life which will change things dramatically for you and again, I teach this in the program during a one to one session with you.
You can start right now though and this is what I want you to do:
When you get a craving for alcohol, don’t fight it. Notice it, feel it and observe it. Notice where you are, what is happening, how are you feeling? Be aware of what is going on but don’t try to actually fight what is happening. How are you feeling physically or emotionally? What thoughts are you having or hearing?
Write it all down while you are experiencing it. It will help you get through the moment and will help you in the future.
I hope that this advice will help you through any cravings you have but I want to hear from you….
When have you had a craving for alcohol? Any specific time of day or occasion? How did you feel physically and emotionally? How long did the craving last? What did you do to overcome the cravings? What worked and what didn’t? How did you feel when you got through it?