Alcohol cravings are normal and expected during sobriety. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle. After you’ve completed an alcohol detox center program, you may still be tempted to drink. Fortunately, the more practice you get, the better you’ll become at resisting alcohol cravings.
How Alcohol Cravings Can Affect You
Alcohol use affects your brain over time. When you drink, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical associated with positive feelings. Your body remembers these good feelings, and your brain begins to associate alcohol with reward. This anticipation of reward motivates you to drink over and over again.
Once you stop drinking, the positive emotions associated with dopamine disappear. You may feel anxious, nervous, or depressed. Your brain has gotten used to alcohol and may require alcohol to feel pleasure.
With both physical and psychological motivations to drink, you’ll want to plan ahead to resist alcohol cravings.
Know Your Triggers for Alcohol Use
Cravings usually happen in response to triggers— events, emotions, memories, or experiences your brain associates with alcohol. One of the best ways to resist alcohol cravings is to know what triggers you.
Everyone’s triggers may be different, and it’s important not to blame yourself when your cravings happen.
There are two types of triggers: internal and external.
Internal triggers are thoughts, emotions, sensations, or memories that give you an urge to drink, like:
- Frustration after an argument
- Relief at the end of a stressful workday
- Anxiety about meeting new people
- Irritation and restlessness when you’re bored
External triggers are environmental cues that make you think of drinking, like places, people, situations, and times of the day. These could include:
- A neighborhood bar
- The time when your workday ends
- Friends you used to drink with frequently
- A celebratory event
Though external triggers can be easier to recognize and avoid than internal triggers, they both may come up unexpectedly. Triggers are often most intense in early recovery.
Notice the places, people, emotions, and other triggers that encourage you to drink, and make a list. It may help to track your alcohol cravings for a few weeks and write down what you think inspired the craving.
Next, make a plan to help you avoid or resist alcohol cravings around these triggers. Some triggers may be unavoidable, but you can control and manage the feelings when they happen.
Controlling your triggers may mean:
- Thinking of a calming strategy to use
- Spending time with friends in settings that don’t serve alcohol
- Establishing a new after-work routine to avoid your favorite bars
- Finding another way to celebrate accomplishments
- Learning productive techniques for managing conflict
Over time, managing your triggers will become easier.
Reach Out for Support When Alcohol Cravings Hit
Sometimes, you can resist alcohol cravings by asking for help from someone who understands. Call or text someone else you know who’s also working to stay sober. Ask to go on a walk or talk on the phone. They’ll know what you’re going through and can offer tips of their own.
Other friends and people you care about can offer distraction or emotional support when you’re resisting alcohol cravings.
Therapy and counseling can give you accountability since you’re checking in with someone regularly about your progress. Trained therapists can also help you explore ways to reduce reliance on alcohol, and identify mental health issues that may be affecting your recovery.
Practice Mindfulness to Resist Alcohol Cravings
Mindfulness exercises can be short and simple. When you practice mindfulness, you’re focusing on the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. You may observe the physical space around you and pay attention to the way you feel in your body. You’re aware of your desire to drink, but you don’t judge yourself for this desire.
Deep breathing — and stretches, if you have the physical space — can be a mindful way to resist alcohol cravings.
Mindfulness meditation can improve your health all around. Mindfulness reduces anxiety and memory loss and decreases blood pressure.
Detox Safely at Springfield Wellness Center
The first step in your recovery is the most important. Springfield Wellness Center offers alcohol detox treatment you can trust. Our trained and compassionate medical staff helps you through the withdrawal phase and works with you to discuss next steps in treatment. Whether you participate in our mental health treatment programs or receive our BR+NAD addiction therapy, we’ll find a plan that works for you. Call 844.334.4727 to learn more.