While drinking alcohol can be a way to unwind and socialize, consuming too much of these drinks can lead to numerous health issues, including alcohol dependence and addiction. For people struggling with these conditions and attempting to abstain, alcohol cravings can be a significant hurdle to overcome on the path to recovery.
Unfortunately for those going through recovery, there isn't a surefire way to eliminate these urges to drink. However, it is possible to reduce alcohol cravings when they occur. The key is to understand that they are a risk and equip yourself with strategies to combat the desire to drink alcohol as you try to abstain.
Read on for our guide to # effective ways to help you reduce alcohol cravings in your life.
One of the most effective ways to combat alcohol cravings is to give yourself an alternative course of action to drinking. Exercise is hugely useful for many people battling dependence and addiction for many reasons, including the effect of working out on the body.
Exercise stimulates your liver, regulates blood sugar levels, and helps boost your mood, which can all improve your help. For those struggling with alcohol disorders, these improvements can help counter the strain that drinking puts onto the liver, pancreas, and digestive system, making exercise helpful twofold when recovering from alcohol cravings.
Keep Reminders Around
When combating alcohol cravings, having a clear goal of what you want your life to look like without drinking will help you keep your focus. Keeping reminders of what's inspiring you to stay sober can help give you clarity of attention in the face of cravings.
What these reminders will look like will depend on you. Possible options include photos of families, written reminders of the importance of avoiding drinking, and even motivational quotes to help keep you focused. Keeping these close on hand (such as in your wallet or a folder on your phone) will make it easier to refocus your thoughts when cravings arise.
Call Someone Supportive
You don't have to do all the work to reduce alcohol cravings alone. A strong support network can make a substantial difference in avoiding drinking. Designate several people that you can call or talk to whenever you start to feel the urge to drink.
It's critical that whoever you call is someone who supports your abstinence efforts, and not a person who may have been critical of your decision to start drinking. Having several potential people that you can talk to will give you options if your first person is unavailable.
Eat Foods That Can Help Reduce Cravings
Instead of hunting down your next drink whenever you get a craving, seek out a healthy food option that can help reduce your urges to drink. Studies have shown that certain amino acids and many variations on Vitamin B can help reduce the urge to drink in those recovering from alcohol dependence and addiction.
Cayenne pepper is helpful in both reducing cravings and helping alleviate the symptoms of stomach problems that can happen with heavy drinking, and it's just one example of what's available to you. Herbs like dandelion have also shown positive effects in reducing cravings, as have low-fat proteins, fruits, and vegetables. It can also help to integrate Vitamin B dense foods into your regular diet.
Focus on a Hobby
Like exercising, taking time to focus on a hobby will give your mind something else to focus on than wanting a drink. This activity can be whatever you want it to be: reading a book, watching a TV show, hanging out with friends, listening to a podcast, creating something artistic.
By making a different activity into your go-to, you reduce the chances of getting a drink, which makes it much easier for your body to adjust back into a state where it doesn't desire alcohol. The more mentally engaging your chosen activity is, the better it can keep you focused on the goal of staying sober.
Make Something Else to Drink
When the urge to drink alcohol comes up, you can let yourself focus on something else. Take the time to make a fresh cup of coffee, tea, or another preferred non-alcoholic beverage and sit down and enjoy it. You can also pair this strategy by focusing on a hobby can not only give your mind something else to think about but can also keep you busy and moving.
Work on Your To-Do List
Do you have tasks on your to-do list that haven't gotten done yet? Sometimes there are phone calls that need made or places in your home that need to be tidied up. Keep your to-do list at hand and make it your goal to focus on a task whenever you start to feel an alcohol craving. Once again, you'll have something to preoccupy your mind instead of letting your urges eat away at you mentally.
Meditate (or Focus on Your Breathing)
Many of the strategies for fighting alcohol cravings on this list involve concentrating on activities outside yourself to divert your attention, but paying attention to your inner self can help as well. Meditation as a mindfulness practice can be a helpful tool when it comes to being aware of what you're feeling, as well as other things around you, and it doesn't necessarily have to involve clearing the mind.
While meditation is an excellent practice for centering yourself, you don't have to take a crash course in mindfulness if you're unfamiliar with it. Concentrating solely on your breathing (even for as short a time as a few minutes) can have a calming effect and put you in a better state of mind to recognize your cravings and keep them from interfering with your sobriety.
Preparing to Combat Alcohol Cravings
While it's essential to have useful in-the-moment coping skills for combating alcohol cravings, the most effective methods involve proper preparation. Here are some more significant picture aspects you should consider along with our craving reduction strategies.
Consider Taking Medications
Alcohol dependence and addiction are medical conditions, which also means that there are various medications out there designed to reduce cravings. These medicines work in many ways, usually by helping to cope with relapse symptoms, preventing drinks from giving a positive response in the brain, or even causing aversion to alcohol in general.
Some medications currently available on the market in the US are:
While studies have proven these medicines as effective in curbing alcohol cravings, they have different side effects and may not be as useful for you as they may be for another patient. You should discuss the possibility of medication with your doctor to know if taking one is viable for your case.
Avoid Places Where Alcohol Is Available
For many people, being around alcohol is enough to tempt them to take a drink. The best strategy to reduce these types of cravings then is not to keep alcohol at home and not to attend events where you know there will be a high potential of drinks.
However, even with one's best efforts, it's possible that you'll end up in a situation where alcohol is available, such as a party or family gathering. In these cases, it may be safest to remove yourself from the area if possible. And if not, the rest of the methods on our list can give you options in your coping strategy.
Recognize Your Other Drinking Triggers
Being around alcohol is often one of the most common drinking triggers for people struggling with alcohol dependence and addiction, but many other triggers can pose a risk. Aside from being around alcoholic beverages, certain situations, environments, and people can also serve as external triggers to drink due to how the brain associates these factors with drinking.
Aside from parts of the outside world that can cause alcohol cravings, internal factors can also become triggers. Usually, these elements will seem to arise at random, but often you can find them tied to specific thoughts, emotions, and even physical sensations. Consider if you associate drinking with celebration (positive emotion) or trying to combat pain or nervousness; these are internal triggers.
By staying aware of, tracking, and analyzing your external and internal triggers, you can understand when you're most likely to feel the urge to drink—and have your strategies at the ready.
Stick to the Strategies That Work for You
While you are not alone in the struggle against alcohol cravings, your path to combating the urge to drink may look different from someone else's. What's essential to success is to try out different methods, then follow through on the ones that help you the best; don't feel obligated to keep up a strategy that isn't helping you reduce your cravings.
With effective methods for reducing cravings, a reliable support network, and professional help, you can move past your alcohol dependence and into the next stage of your life.