10 Effective Ways to Deal With Alcohol Cravings. I have had lots of messages from people lately about how they are struggling with cravings for alcohol at the moment, more so than usual given the situation we are currently in.
I understand why, we are being bombarded with memes on social media about how drinking is the only way to cope at the moment, to escape, to numb out a bit from all that is going on in the world.
While it might be tempting to want to escape for a while, alcohol really is not the answer right now as you can see in this post about Coronavirus and alcohol.
I am so grateful to be sober during this crisis and I haven’t given alcohol a second thought for so long, but if you are still feeling triggered and cravings are getting you down, here are 10 ways to effectively deal with alcohol cravings.
Before we start, it is worth having a look at the article I wrote about alcohol triggers because triggers are what cause our cravings in the first place. If you can identify your alcohol triggers and work towards dealing with them first then the cravings you are experiencing will not happen as often. But when cravings come we need some simple strategies to get you through, so here goes:
10 Effective Ways to Deal With Alcohol Cravings
Your thoughts are not you.
When a thought pops into your head, it is important to recognize that it is not you talking, but your addictive voice (even if you don’t identify as being addicted.) Your addictive voice is also known as the wine witch or the beer monster and can be a source of extreme discomfort for you when the conversation starts.
Do not listen to the wine witch, do not try to argue, or reason, or justify otherwise you will get caught in an internal battle that will leave you exhausted and ready to give in. She will try to drag you down, try to sweet talk you or even be mean to you.
Do not listen. Tell her where to go as firmly and with as much meaning and conviction as you can. Eventually she will shut up and each time you stand firm, the weaker she will get and the stronger you will become.
Move your body!
It is far easier to distract yourself from your thoughts if you are doing something. Do not sit on the sofa going crazy. If you can, go for a walk, do some exercise, get out a DVD (I love the 30 Day shred because believe me when you are huffing, puffing and sweating along with Jillian, you have no room in your head for the wine witch!)
Also, exercise releases endorphins; your bodies feel good chemicals which will give you a massive boost of positivity. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you move. Cleaning the cupboards, blitzing the kitchen, dancing round the room, chasing after your kids are all fantastic ways to get out of your head and feel good.
Have a glass of water.
Or something nice and non alcoholic to drink. Often a craving comes because we are genuinely thirsty and while in the past we would have quenched our thirst with a beer or something, we need to replace that with something else refreshing and hydrating.
Some people find that pouring tonic and lime, or fruit juice and soda into a posh glass also helps with the ritual of drinking which can ease the cravings too. Make it special so you don’t feel you are missing out. For me, nothing hits the spot quite like a cup of tea but experiment and find something you love.
Do not romanticize that drink.
Telling yourself stories about ‘the good old days’ or how, ‘one won’t hurt’ will drive you crazy. You are trying to put some space between you and your last drink for a reason so focus on that reason. If you keep giving in when cravings come you will not give yourself the opportunity to grow and to really feel what having a proper break from alcohol is like. The more you get through cravings successfully, the less they will come. Focus on why you are doing this and if it helps, play the movie forward in your head.
What would happen if you ‘just had one’? Would it really be just one, what will happen after that? If you give in now, it is easier to give in again and again, and where will that lead you?
Now, meditation doesn’t always work as a way to actively get through a craving although for me, escaping to my bedroom and listening to a guided, soothing meditation has helped in the past. The best way to make meditation work for you is to practice it regularly.
It has been shown that meditating for just ten minutes a day will help to reduce stress, make you more calm and focused and shift your energy, bringing you to a place of peace and positivity. If you are feeling calm and light and happy then cravings are less likely to appear.
Write it out
In my Ten Steps to Sober Bliss, one of the exercises is to grab your journal or notebook and literally write out your craving and write through it. There are prompts to help you do this exercise in the workbook, but allowing yourself 5 or 10 minutes to pour everything out of your head and onto the page is such a powerful cravings buster.
When we are anxious or stressed our breathing becomes fast and shallow, we tense our bodies, turn inwards and listen to what is going on in our head which, during a craving is not a good place to be. However, as my friend Esther explains, “Learning to breathe well is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your overall wellbeing” What’s more breathing is natural, you don’t need any fancy equipment or extra space, and its free!
Even taking just a few long, deep, controlled breaths will relax you both physically and mentally. Feel your shoulders dropping and the tension leaving your body. When you are in a place of calm you are less likely to react but can act with purpose. Taking some long slow breaths is the first thing I get my clients to do when a craving strikes, once you have calmed down then you can go on and try one of the other tips on this list if you need to, but often the act of slowing down and connecting with your breath is enough to ease the craving on its own.
Reach out to someone
Sometimes, you might need to talk to someone or connect with someone, so do it. If you are aware of your triggers then reaching out to somebody before you feel vulnerable to cravings is a great way to try and prevent them coming in the first place. If you are having a hard time, or if your day is not going well, if you are feeling stressed or anxious, then don’t keep it inside as it will get too much and bubble up in the form of cravings for alcohol later on.
Call a friend, send a text, get on a whatsapp call or post something in the Facebook group. Ask for help and reassurance or just ask someone to listen to you. There are so many options for connecting to people these days, so don’t feel alone.
Look after yourself
If you make the time and the effort to look after yourself properly then chances are you are less likely to experience cravings for alcohol. Cravings come when we are tired, hungry, thirsty, emotional, exhausted, stressed, anxious or bored. Making your self-care a priority so you feel good and nourished on an emotional, mental and physical level goes a long way to reducing the chances of cravings popping up.
Do not underestimate the power of proper self love, compassion and care. When I quit drinking, I had no idea what that meant and it took me a while to learn how to make time for myself and look after myself every day and not feel guilty about it. If you struggle with this or find that you feel guilty then my Virtual Sober Retreat will take you through 7 days of gorgeous, nourishing self care practices that you can use every day. We always go through this together in the facebook group with the new moon of each month, so why not join us and start putting yourself first.
Know that cravings won’t last forever
No matter how uncomfortable they make you feel, cravings only last a few minutes and if you are aware of them, why they happen and how they affect you then you can do something straight away to get through them. You may be scared or nervous about changing your relationship with alcohol because you worry about cravings making you miserable. You may have heard stories of people having to ‘suffer and whiteknuckle it’ through cravings. But really, there is no need or reason for that to be the case. They do get less, they get easier and they do leave you.