How to Stop Alcohol Cravings
Are you looking to cut down on your drinking or even stop altogether but find that the urge to drink gets the better of you at times? Learning how to stop alcohol cravings is incredibly important for anyone looking to change their drinking habits. Without taking steps to manage these cravings you will find that all your hard work can be undone in minutes and you are right back to square one again.
Understanding Urges to Drink
If you are experiencing the urge to drink then identifying what is causing the problem is an important first step. Not everyone has the exact same reasons for their urges so getting help to pinpoint your triggers can be particularly useful.
It is important to distinguish the difference between physical cravings and psychological. Alcoholics who try and stop drinking will experience very intense physical withdrawal symptoms. These can include hallucinations, seizures, headaches, vomiting, insomnia, sweating and anxiety. This post is not aimed at people with severe alcohol issues because professional medical help and advice is necessary for them to stop drinking. Instead, this post is aimed at mild to moderate drinkers where we can help with the psychological factors that cause someone to crave a drink.
How to Stop Alcohol Cravings Naturally
As a therapist, I never suggest medication or supplements instead I look at my client’s thoughts about themselves, their lifestyles as well as their stresses and worries. The key to helping a client to reduce their alcohol intake is by addressing the factors that are causing them problems in their lives.
The first thing I talk to my clients about is classic conditioning. This is something that comes into play with my middle-class drinkers who find themselves with a glass of wine in their hands after work every evening.
So how does this conditioning work? Well to put it simply if you do the same thing at the same time every day and repeat that day after day your mind will naturally expect that to occur again and again. This means that if you come home from work, reach into the fridge, pour a glass of wine and then plonk yourself in “your” chair night after night it will seem unusual if you don’t do the same the next evening.
This means that when you try not to drink one evening you mind “craves” alcohol simply because you have trained it to expect that 7 pm drink. It associates that special chair and you unwinding with alcohol and will kick up a fuss if it isn’t given any.
The key in the case of classic conditioning is to break the associations. This means not sitting in the same chair. Heading upstairs first to have a bath after work. Coming downstairs and sitting in the garden and reading a book or going into a study and playing a computer game. As the alcohol is not associated with those events it becomes easier to break the habit.
Learn more about your drinking habits, triggers and associations with our Alcohol Tracker Worksheets. Download a copy to learn what is making you drink and when. Follow the healthy habits suggested, get help to learn how to control alcohol cravings and create a plan of action to moderate your drinking.
Your Partner and Drink Habits
I cannot stress how important it is to get your partner on board if you are attempting to drink less alcohol. Learning how to stop alcohol cravings involves tactics that you can employ but it also sometimes involves having conversations with those close to you.
Time and time again I see classic conditioning built into routines that include a person’s partner. You both come after work and open a bottle (or more) and spend the evening slowly drinking yourself into a spaced-out zone to switch off. There is no point in trying to change your nighttime habits if your partner continues to open a bottle because the temptation is there right in front of you.
Have the conversation and express how important it is that you are supported in your drink less journey. Without your partners help you are already hampered. Yes, of course, it is still possible to reduce your drinking without them but it does make it much harder.
Stress and Alcohol Cravings
Stress and anxiety are two major contributors to alcohol cravings. People are often unaware that when we are stressed and anxious we turn to alcohol, food, shopping or drugs to take our minds off what is happening. We dissociate from the problems around us by going into our alcohol haze in the evening so we can forget about what is on our minds.
The trouble with using alcohol to dissociate is that the problems simply resurface the following day. The key to reducing the alcohol cravings is to tackle the underlying worries so that the need to switch off disappears.
This means that if you have got into the habit of working long days at work and decided to bring it home with you in the evening you need to change your lifestyle. If you try and run a home, work, are studying, trying to keep fit whilst being the head of the parent-teacher organisation something has to give. Nobody can do everything and finding time just for yourself to do nothing is hugely important but so underestimated.
Resolve to do everything you can to reduce your stress and anxiety levels such as:
- Practising meditation or mindfulness
- Getting some gentle exercise
- Finding time to laugh or have fun with friends
- Use self-hypnosis to relax you
- Go to bed on time
- Eat well
- Book a break
Alcohol and Your Emotions
If classic conditioning or stress or anxiety is not behind your alcohol cravings then the next thing you need to ask yourself is whether another underlying emotional problem may be at play. Emotions often bubble away underneath the surface without us even being aware of them. Tackling these unhelpful negative emotions is important for many people on their drink less journey.
Here are some common issues that we see time and time again during our programs:
- Fear of failure
- Lack of confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of not being good enough
If a client of mine has low confidence then finding ways to boost this may be important in their drink less journey. This is because in the past they may have used alcohol as a crutch to enable them to mingle at parties or to be able to attract a partner. Once they have confidence the need for the alcohol goes away as they now have natural confidence which can help.
Hypnotherapy is one of the easiest ways to find out what is at the back of my client’s minds. It is usually relatively simple to relax them enough to open up and explore their subconscious worries and fears. When that information is revealed then therapy can be aimed at the real underlying problem instead of telling my clients the obvious drink less tips and strategies.
External Triggers and Alcohol Cravings
As well as classic conditioning it is important to look at external triggers and drink urges. Learning how to stop alcohol cravings means identifying your external triggers and either limiting your exposure to them or having a plan of action to assist you when they come into play.
Some of the biggest external triggers are seeing a bar, going to a party or a social gathering or meeting certain friends or family members. My clients tend to be full of motivation to drink less until they are in a bar with their mates and then they can’t stop ordering round after round to keep up.
When you are first starting out on your drink less journey it is important to limit your exposure to your triggers as much as you can. This means that your mind can get used to drinking less without also having to create a plan of action for friends and colleagues.
If you are meeting a friend who triggers the urge to drink find another way to see them. Meet up in a coffee shop for lunch so that alcohol is not on the agenda or go to the cinema with them. Find a way to catch up where alcohol is not centre stage.
At social gatherings, if a craving starts begin to play a movie in your mind. Imagine yourself having drunk six or seven drinks and how that makes you feel. See yourself drunk and making a fool of yourself. Imagine yourself going home and feeling sick whilst the room is spinning. See yourself waking up the next morning feeling like death with a terrible hangover and anxiety. Play the move a few times and then ask yourself do you still want the drink knowing the inevitable consequences.
Self-Hypnosis for Alcohol Cravings
Self-hypnosis for alcohol cravings is another tool to help train your brain to think differently. Our drink less guided meditation download helps our clients to change their subconscious thinking to help them create new improved habits. The audio should be listened to daily for at least twenty one days to be most effective. As the audio also promotes stress and anxiety reduction it kills two birds with one stone. You can purchase the audio in our online shop.
Drink Less Therapy
Are you looking for more personalised help with your drinking issues? I offer an online therapy program to help my clients to drink less. The program consists of four sessions which are held on a one to one basis via video link and are personalised to your particular situation. If you want to learn how to stop alcohol cravings or drink less simply fill in the form below to arrange your sessions.
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