Changing your relationship with alcohol would be so much easier if we could just get around one pesky issue – cravings! Cravings can derail even the most motivated and dedicated people out there. For many of us, they seem to come out of nowhere! It’s hard not to give in when we’re blindsided by the overwhelming need and urge that pops up in us for alcohol. You’re not alone in experiencing these cravings. Today, we’re going to share our 7 best tips on how to avoid alcohol cravings with you. Even better news – you’ll be able to use these tips on cravings beyond alcohol!
Let’s get started!
To Avoid Alcohol Cravings – You Need To Know What Cravings Are
A craving is an intense desire for something specific. This desire can seem uncontrollable, and a person may feel as though they cannot feel satisfied until they get that particular thing.
What causes alcohol cravings?
Knowing what a craving is doesn’t really help us understand why we get cravings though. And knowing what causes alcohol cravings can go a long way toward learning how to avoid alcohol cravings!
Cravings can seemingly appear out of nowhere, or they may be related to a specific trigger. This could be a sensory trigger – something you see, hear, smell, or taste – or it could be a mental or emotional trigger. A specific date or location that has memories related to drinking for example.
The brain regions responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward also play a role in cravings. Cravings also involve the appetite centers of the brain, even though they tend to be separate from hunger. In fact, our cravings for food or even alcohol can actually be a signal that we are dehydrated.
Hormones can also play a role in the cravings we experience. Hormonal fluctuations can create cravings. An imbalance of hormones, such as leptin and serotonin, could also lead to certain cravings.
Types of Cravings
Not all cravings are the same. We generally break them down into two categories: selective and nonselective.
Selective cravings are specific. A certain drink, a particular brand of alcohol, or a wine from a specific region.
Nonselective cravings are the opposite. When it comes to alcohol cravings these show up as any drink will do. You’re not interested in the taste or the experience with these cravings, only the numbing effects that alcohol brings.
How To Avoid Alcohol Cravings
Now we know what cravings are, what types of cravings exist, and even what causes cravings. But that’s not why you’re here! You want to know how to avoid alcohol cravings. Let’s start with this disclaimer – you won’t be able to avoid cravings altogether. That just isn’t realistic. What we’re going to do is not only help you with how to avoid cravings, but we’re also going to help give you some tools you can use to work through cravings without giving in to them.
Tame Your Triggers
In order to avoid alcohol cravings, you need to be able to identify what it is that brings them on. Triggers will pop up in your life and taming them will help you to avoid alcohol cravings.
Taming your triggers begins with becoming aware of them. A great way to do this is by journaling. Now that doesn’t mean you need to physically carry a book around with you to take notes – although you certainly can if that appeals to you. Here at This Naked Mind, we’re firm believers in using what you already have. So take advantage of a tool that’s probably already with you – your phone. Text yourself, put a note in your phone, or log it in your calendar when you feel a craving hit.
Try to include as many details as possible – the time of day, where you were, how you were feeling, who you were with, the intensity of the craving, and so on. Knowledge is power and providing these details means you can go back and help identify what triggered the craving.
In the science world, this is known as empirical data. You can use it to anticipate cravings and develop plans and tools for dealing with triggers. That can mean learning how to use urge surfing to deal with triggers and cravings. Or it could mean knowing which invitations to accept or turn down, coming up with your “go-to” list of non-alcoholic drinks to order, having an exit strategy, or simply learning to sit with the craving until it passes.
Beat The Boredom
One of the things that catches so many people off guard is the boredom that can accompany not drinking. It isn’t that not drinking is boring – it’s that you now have all this extra time that you used to waste by drinking and numbing yourself. Cravings can pop up during these times of boredom. This video addresses that –
In the past when we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, we’d drink. We would treat boredom with a depressant that was once used as a sedative – oh the irony!!
That’s not you anymore! Now you have the amazing opportunity to be someone whose life is FULL and ENGAGED. You get to fill your life with the activities, people, and interests you couldn’t focus on before. While they can serve as distractions from drinking, they also serve as important sources of the pleasure hormones you’re seeking from alcohol. How great that you can now get that enjoyment and that high from pursuits that truly benefit you and those around you. Rather than looking for ways to beat the boredom, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever had time for drinking!
Playing The Tape Forward
You can also help avoid alcohol cravings by learning how to play the tape forward. Take your temptation and walk yourself through what will happen if you do have a drink. Reminding yourself of the consequences of alcohol use can be a powerful deterrent.
It’s important not to romanticize the effects of alcohol when you do this. Be realistic when you play the tape forward. The negative effects of alcohol are what caused you to take a break from it so putting yourself back in that situation won’t be different this time. It won’t be just one drink. It won’t make your problems go away or make them easier to deal with. You will still end up filled with guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and the various health problems alcohol brings.
One of the best ways we can avoid alcohol cravings is by learning to be present and stay in the moment. To steer away from being impulsive or controlled by our stress and anxiety. Stressful situations can certainly fuel cravings so developing techniques that can ground you and alleviate that anxiety is so important. First and foremost, give yourself permission to notice cravings without giving in to them. Sit with your craving, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, and wait for that feeling to pass.
To make that experience less stressful and uncomfortable, you also might try –
Get curious about your craving
Rather than fighting your cravings, you can choose to get curious about them. What are the beliefs you hold which are leading you to crave alcohol in this situation? Is there any truh to that belief? Can you change that belief in something truer?
You’ll learn how to reconstruct those beliefs and develop so many other valuable tools in this alcohol-free journey in The Alcohol Experiment. Find it along with so much more including a supportive and private community, access to over 700+ videos on everything you’ve always wanted to know about how to live your best life without booze, and chances to connect with Annie Grace and other TNM coaches inside the FREE This Naked Mind Companion App.
Give it time
One of the best ways you can avoid alcohol cravings is to just give it time. Cravings are time-limited; they will typically go away on their own within 15-20 minutes. While those 15 minutes may seem like an eternity, they will pass. You can endure anything for 15 or 20 minutes. More importantly, you’ll feel accomplished and better prepared for the next time a craving hits.
Accept help to avoid alcohol cravings
If you’ve tried everything on your own to avoid cravings and nothing has worked – be willing to accept help. The resources now available to help people change their relationship with alcohol are countless. There is no shame in using them and allowing yourself to claim the happiness and health you deserve. You can look into –
We know we said 7 tips but this bonus tip on how to avoid alcohol cravings might just be the most important one.
Give yourself grace.
Yes, give yourself grace. If you do indulge in a craving, you have not failed. Instead you’ve made an important discovery that can help you so much on this journey.
Here at This Naked Mind, we don’t believe in relapses, failure, blame, guilt, or shame. What we do believe is that people have data points. These are experiences where they have a drink while on their alcohol-free journey. These experiences are vital lessons that need to happen in order for them to ultimately find success and lasting change.
What does that look like in practice? Let’s say you did indulge in a carving and you drank. Instead of judging or shaming yourself,try to be observational about it. Ask yourself –
“Did it work for you or not?”
“Did you feel the way you wanted to feel?”
“Did things go the way you wanted them to go?”
These experiences allow us to gather information instead of living in guilt or blame. This leads to compassion-based change which can create more effective, longer lasting, and deeper change in our lives.
Giving in to a craving allows you to see where you still have work to do. It guides you towards continuing to develop the tools and resources you need to make alcohol small and insignificant in your life. It DOES NOT mean that you can’t do this. It just means you aren’t done yet – and that’s a good thing.
Drunk For Science
I get asked so often if I ever relapsed and I can honestly say that I haven’t. What I did do though was intentionally have a data point! I chose to get drunk for science and I filmed it all to see if I was missing out on anything by drinking and to see if drinking once I no longer desired it would cause future cravings for me. You can watch that video here.
Do You Need More Help To Avoid Alcohol Cravings?
Does it feel like you need something more in order to avoid alcohol cravings? Like this is a missing piece that if you could just connect it, you’d be free? That’s true for so many of us and it usually has to do with the way we’re trying to create change.
That’s what makes This Naked Mind different.
Instead of behavior-based goals, we use emotion-based goals. To us it’s not about changing your drinking habits themselves, it is about changing how you feel about alcohol and how you feel about your relationship with alcohol. That doesn’t have to mean being alcohol-free. It could be drinking less than before but feeling really good about that. That’s what matters here – how you feel about what you’re doing.
This is your journey and it’s up to you to choose what path it takes. Without judgment – your judgment, and that of others. It’s the freedom to continue to make choices about your relationship with alcohol and to have permission to change what works for you based upon how it makes you feel. You’re not tied to the rules of a program, you’re tied to making the best choices for yourself.
Want to learn more?
If you’re curious to learn more about the science behind why we drink and how to avoid alcohol cravings, check out the book that has helped so many people begin that journey! Download the first 40 pages of This Naked Mind for free now!