How to overcome an alcohol craving

If you’re in the early days of your sobriety, alcohol cravings can be a common and frustrating part of that experience. They can be intense and unsettling. Luckily, there are some great strategies you can use to overcome your cravings!

My cravings were at their strongest in the first few weeks of not drinking, and then once I hit 30 days they started to subside. However, I still get the occasional craving. I think this is probably due to years of conditioning my brain to associate drinking with relaxation, even though I now know that drinking alcohol only gives me the illusion of relaxation and it ultimately leads to much more stress and anxiety than I was experiencing in the first place.

So I have some strategies that worked well for me in early sobriety and that I still use now and then to overcome cravings. I hope you find them helpful!

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Focus on the craving and how it is affecting you physically, mentally, and emotionally. This has always seemed like an odd strategy to me, but it works for me. When I have a craving for alcohol, taking a minute to sit with it and think about it often makes it go away. Focus on where you are feeling the craving in your body and how that craving feels. For example, when I’m craving alcohol I often feel discomfort in my forearms. It’s so weird! They get sort of tingly, like my skin is crawling. I sometimes feel tension in my shoulders and neck as well. My thoughts race and I feel agitated. The emotions that come along with the craving are usually a combination of sadness, anxiety, and sometimes even panic. Once I have identified that I am experiencing an alcohol craving, I usually feel a little calmer immediately and I can look for a healthy way of dealing with the craving.

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Eat a healthy snack….or a piece of chocolate. About half the time when I have an alcohol craving, I’m also hungry, so having a snack is usually a quick way to alleviate the craving. I try to eat something healthy when I have a craving, such as a low-fat yogurt, an apple, or some carrots and hummus. But I am not going to lie…chocolate is often what I reach for when I am having a really intense craving! I’m especially fond of dark chocolate. Chocolate causes your brain to release a little bit of dopamine, so maybe that’s why I find it helpful. Early on, I would eat several pieces of dark chocolate every day to help manage my cravings. Now that my cravings have subsided, I eat it much less often, usually just a couple of squares for dessert in the evening.

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Distract yourself with something. Exercise, watch a TV show or Youtube video, do a puzzle, play a video game, knit, call a friend, take a bubble bath, read a book, do situps, clean your kitchen, listen to music…basically do whatever it takes to distract yourself until the craving passes. In my first 30 days, a long walk was the best way to distract myself during the time of day when my cravings peaked, which was usually between 3 and 5 pm. I kept that up until the snow started to fall and I still try to exercise or at least do something physical, like housework, whenever I get a craving. It really is the best way for me to get through them. But find what works for you!

Drink a mocktail. This isn’t a great strategy for everyone, but it has been so helpful for me! My go-to is lime-flavored sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime wedge. I put it into a wine glass and sip away while listening to music or playing video games. This seems to trick my brain into thinking it got what it wanted. However, I have talk with some people who say that anything resembling an alcoholic beverage is a trigger for them, so this might not be a good strategy for everyone. I avoid non-alcoholic beer and wine for that reason. I think the similarity in flavor would be a trigger for me. Everyone is different, though, so if this is helpful for you, keep doing it.

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Recognize and avoid your triggers! If you’ve experienced cravings in the past, take a moment to think about the situations you were in. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? How were you feeling? Identifying the factors surrounding your cravings can help you to figure out what triggers your urges to drink and then you can look for ways to avoid those triggers in the future. For example, if you experience the urge to drink when you’re with a group of friends who are drinking, you may want to avoid outings with friends that involve alcohol. Ask friends to meet you at a café or join you for a walk instead of hitting up the local pub. If you’ve noticed that you get triggered to drink when you’re feeling hungry, keep a snack in your purse or car at all times.  

Thanks for stopping by and reading! I’d love to hear your ideas, too! What are some strategies that have helped you overcome your alcohol cravings? Leave a comment to share your experiences and tips!

“If you’re in the early days of your sobriety, alcohol cravings can be a common and frustrating part of that experience. They can be intense and unsettling. Luckily, there are some great strategies you can use to overcome your cravings!”

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