Some posts may include affiliate links. For more info, please click here.
Getting sober is no easy feat. We have been taught from a young age that alcohol is a rite of passage into our teenage years and adulthood, a way to relax from the trying times of working, “adulting” and parenting, and as a way to deal with emotional turmoil or the heaviness of life. So when we wake up and realize that alcohol isn’t all its cracked up to be, or maybe we realize that we have an unhealthy relationship with it, we begin to consider our life without alcohol and choose sobriety.
But what happens when life triggers those alcohol cravings? How do we deal? How can we pass through the storm of a craving with our sobriety still intact? Here are 4 ways to stop alcohol cravings in its tracks.
Stop Romanticizing Alcohol
Does a certain smell or a fond memory that revolved around drinking alcohol (Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or July 4th barbecues) cause you to reminicse of your old drinking days?
This is called romanticizing alcohol and we need to find a way to separate the memory from the drink.
I don’t know about you, but when I think back on my college drinking days, I laugh when I remember all the foolishness my friends and I got into..happy hours, Homecoming weekends, dancing at the bar till all hours of the night, apartment party hopping, the late night drunk food runs….the list goes on and on.
But within those memories are not so great events, such as getting pulled over by a state trooper on the way home from a party TWICE (and thank goodness, not getting a DUI or hurting myself or others!!) throwing up, blacking out, getting into arguments, and doing other less than noble things that make me cringe whenever I think about it.
We need to separate the positive memories from the alcohol. I have found with 4 years of sobriety that memory-making family events such as Christmas dinner at my aunt’s house is still as awesome sober as it was when I used to get shitfaced drunk with my cousins. We can still sit around and laugh for HOURS on end, playing games and enjoying each other’s company, just like we always did!
I also find simple things such as baking cookies with my kids or hitting the beach with my family even more enjoyable….I now realize that a glass of rum punch didn’t automatically create those memories, I did! I helped to create those wonderful memories with my family.
If you find it hard to separate the good memories from the alcohol, think of a not so great experience you had while drinking where alcohol was the number one offender or cause of the negative experience. Admittedly, I have way more of these negative experiences than I do of positive memories (because after a while, it gets old throwing up, blacking out, or waking up feeling like death!)
Identify The Feelings Or Emotions You Are Experiencing Right Now
Are you chasing a specific emotion or feeling? Or are you trying to run away from one?
For me, I chased the initial buzz of alcohol to help calm my anxiety. After that first drink, I would literally feel the tension in my shoulders relax, and my body would begin to move and react at a slower pace. I even loved the feeling of my eyes moving and reacting at a slower place. It almost felt like a weighted blanket draping around my entire body forcing me to move through life a bit slower.
Because I didn’t know how to slow my mind down from racing with anxiety, alcohol physically did it for me.
But it wouldn’t stop there.
Once I would get that initial buzz, I would keep drinking to maintain that buzz, eventually getting sloppy drunk.
Identifying what feelings and emotions you are running from or chasing after can help stop alcohol cravings in its tracks.
Perhaps you are chasing after old good memories of drinking (see point 1 above!) and if this is the case, again, focus on not romanticizing alcohol.
If you are running away from a specific emotion, identify it and acknowledge your discomfort with it.
And remember, it’s okay to have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings! What we do with those feelings and how we deal with working through those emotions, rather than bottling it up or ignoring it, is what will help us to get past those cravings.
Once we identify the feelings that are causing those cravings, it might be a good time to check-in with someone for a chat or simply write your feelings down in your journal.
Maybe it’s just boredom that’s bringing about the cravings, or perhaps sadness, anxiety or other concerns that we need to work through and address, either with a friend, trusted family member, or mental health professional.
Take the time to write down or talk through those feelings. Journaling will also help us identify a pattern to our cravings in the long run.
For example, there was a month’s length of time when I was about a year sober and the novelty of it had really worn off. I was craving alcohol every single night, and I really thought my sobriety was in jeopardy because I had never experienced cravings like this before. Up until this point of my sobriety, I would experience at most a fleeting thought or desire to drink and then I would be good for a few weeks or month with no cravings for alcohol. I was sad because what came so easily at first was no more. It was a daily struggle to not think of alcohol during this time period.
I finally realized however, that cravings were hitting me harder than normal because we were rounding through the holiday ultramarathon of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and I was settling into the reality that my sobriety would absolutely need to be permanent. It was actually this experience and working through my feelings during this time that helped me to create this post: That One Thought I Tell Myself When I Feel The Urge To Drink.
I was able to realize that there was a pattern (the boozy holidays) that was triggering fun drinking memories that I realized I would no longer be able to partake in, at least not in a drunken state. Once I came to terms with my feelings and accepted its reality, I was able to get through that extremely tough period still sober and stronger than ever.
Deter and Distract
Finally, this is where sobriety becomes a lot of fun because we allow ourselves to try new things we might not have had time for when we were drinking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with distracting our mind from alcohol, and I feel like it’s actually essential to maintaining our sobriety!
Make a list of fun things you would like to do or try that don’t involve alcohol. Keep this list handy when you feel a craving hit (after working through the first three items on this list to help you get to the bottom of the craving!)
Have the list range from simple events such as taking an essential oil-infused bath, reading affirmations, or going for a walk or run, to more time consuming such as learning a new language or taking music or karate lessons.
Also, have a few quick go-to items that you can access anywhere to help you talk yourself down from a craving (such as the Calm or Headspace meditation apps) or learn a couple easy breathwork techniques that you can practice anywhere. Alternate nostril breathing and 4-7-8 breathwork are two of my favorites that provide a quick dose of calming energy.
Final Thoughts and Words of Encouragement
You can get through these cravings with your sobriety intact! You are stronger, better, and more brilliant without alcohol. Give these steps a try and check in with us below so we can encourage and support one another!