Fighting Cravings: How To Stop Them In Their Tracks

Fighting Cravings: How To Stop Them In Their Tracks

Cravings are common in early sobriety.

Suddenly, drinking is all you can think about and that little voice in your head whispers, “just one won’t hurt!”

It’s normal to experience cravings. They’re not a sign that you’re weak, flawed or destined for failure. They’re just a sign that you’re changing a habit and you’re feeling it.

I know how tough cravings are to deal with, particularly during the boozy festive season, when there’s so much alcohol around.

So this blog is all about going back to basics. Here are 5 simple strategies for stopping cravings in their tracks:

 

Listen to the craving

Cravings nearly always have something to tell us – they’re often a sign that something is wrong. We need to address the problem, rather than trying to smother it with booze.

Often, the message cravings have for us is that we’re hungry and thirsty. Seriously – it can be that simple. Having a glass of water and a snack can be a simple fix.

 

Play the movie to the end

Close your eyes and picture what will really happen if you have ‘just one drink’. How will you feel later tonight or tomorrow morning? Spend two minutes doing this. Be brutally honest.

The fantasy is always that you’ll be able to control your alcohol use this time – but if you could do that, you would’ve figured out how to do so by now. (I explained why moderation rarely works here).

 

Ask: how will alcohol fix this situation?

Remember, booze doesn’t change things. Whatever you’re drinking to escape will still be there when you sober up (only it’ll be even harder to cope with because you’re hungover).

People always talk about alcohol being ‘relaxing’ and ‘a great stress buster’. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who feels calm and stress free the morning after drinking too much.

 

Change your surroundings

Get outside and go for a walk. You could run off your cravings, or swim away from them, or sweat them out in hot yoga. Even something simple like a hot bath or shower helps.

Cravings are often a sign that we need a break and some headspace. Forcing yourself to change your surroundings can help satisfy this need.

 

If all else fails, strike a deal

Agree that you’ll reconsider the situation – tomorrow morning. Deciding to drink again is a big deal, so you’ll want to sleep on it first. You’re simply postponing the decision.

It’s unlikely you’ll wake up in the morning and think “I should’ve drunk last night!” But if you do, well – you know what to do! At least you’ll be making that decision in the cold light of day.

 

Bonus tip: don’t forget to do the deep work

Consider the tips above as emergency first aid. They’ll help you get out of a craving when you’re in one – but for long term, happy sobriety you really do need more of a strategy.

Focus on building a solid sober foundation for yourself. This means educating yourself about alcohol and addiction, learning new coping mechanisms and tackling the root causes behind your drinking.

(This is the kind of work we do in my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck)

 

Let me know…

How do you deal with cravings? If there’s something that helps you stay on track during difficult times, I’m sure other people would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

 

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30 Comments

  1. Thanks for these tips Kate, so helpful at this time of year! This will be my first AF Christmas since taking your class in July. I realised during your class that I often drank when I was bored or lonely. Those are big triggers for me, but since I quit I’ve made a real effort to get out more and make new friends (we moved to a new city last year and I was rattling around at home in the evenings) So whilst it sounds funny to say this, I think getting out more has kept me sober!

    Reply
    • That makes perfect sense – I think loneliness and boredom are triggers for many people. Making new connections and new friends helps change that. Wishing you a very happy Christmas Helen!

      Reply
      • I’ve been struggling w stopping alcohol for a while now. I got a DUI 6 months ago and I stopped for 3 weeks. However, even the humiliation and Shame of that experience hasn’t been enough to keep me from going back to alcohol. I thought I would give moderation a try but I just can’t trust myself to stop at 1 or 2 drinks. Sometimes I can, but other times I overdrink and deal with all the anxiety, guilt, etc that the morning hangover brings.
        I feel so amazing when I am alcohol free. I really think I want an AF life but feel like I’m giving up socialization and the romance of drinking a nice glass of red w friends.

        Reply
  2. Playing the movie to the end is my favorite one – it requires brutal honesty but it’s soooo powerful. 49 days AF today!

    Reply
    • It never ends well, does it? Congratulations on your 49 days Lynne!

      Reply
  3. Such great tips, as this will always come up, and at the oddest moments. And “doing the deep work” is key. The “why” I need to drink part. And also, the “why” I don’t want to drink anymore. For me, I don’t want to drink anymore because I hate falling down that “rabbit hole” of hangover,guilt,anguish,despair that inevitably follows. Plus, you’re still left with whatever made you drink in the first place.
    I’ve also found that these 2 additional steps really have helped me:
    1. Tell myself “I don’t drink.” I don’t even allow myself to entertain the idea. No more gray area for me or monkey brain mind swirls. I then work on what other soothing treat (healthy-ish) might be needed (chai latte, popcorn & a fun flic. etc). I no longer try to moderate drinking. Hard stop.
    2. Creative journaling. SO therapeutic, easy and leaves me with a huge sense of calm. I write/scribble whatever comes to mind in a journal. Then I paint, glue, draw over it, covering up the words. All the while, with writing out my random thoughts, and then creatively working on the pages with whatever I have on hand and however I want to cover it up with, it feels like meditation. So, several times recently, instead of driving to the store for a bottle of wine, I head home to my creative corner to fill up some pages. Besides having some interesting results, this practice has been powerful for me. Thanks, Kate, for all you do~! You rock!

    Reply
    • Thanks Lisa – that’s such a great point about being clear that you don’t drink… no more doing the moderation dance. And your second step sounds so beautifully creative, I love it! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi Kate. I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I’ve decided to stop drinking now instead of making it my New Years resolution. Tomorrow will be 6 years since my sister passed away. I’ve been self medicating with mainly wine pretty much the whole time. I’m sick of feeling hung over and disgusted with myself. Today is day 2 but looking forward to many sober days to come. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

    Reply
    • I’m sorry for your loss Susan, but I’m excited to see you making this change – you won’t regret it. Wishing you all the very best on your sober journey 🙂

      Reply
    • Good luck xx sorry for your loss xx I am on day one xx

      Reply
  5. I find that when I’m craving a drink that keeping busy and having something to eat helps. I have such a long journey ahead of me, but so badly want an AF life.

    Reply
    • It’s no coincidence that you feel the strongest urge to drink at the end of the day, when you’re the most tired and hungry! Tackling those triggers always helps. Keep going Annette 🙂

      Reply
  6. I realized I need to stay in a routine that involves exercise and lots of tea. When I have cravings, I’m usually tired, hungry, or thirsty and what I’m mostly craving is relaxation. I have to consciously separate my idea of relaxation to exclude alcohol. I’ve been pretty successful in the last few months (I’ve given in a few times when I was with friends) but am not drinking alone every day after work anymore. Thank you Kate and readers for this helpful, inspiring blog!

    Reply
    • Sounds like great progress. Keep going Alisa!

      Reply
  7. Christmas bis usually my worst time but I am heading into in this year AF if I ever think about that one drink I always think how I will feel the next day I can’t go back to the depression feeling like crap and that feeling of guilt the next morning…so I am looking forward to a AF Xmas and a happy one thanks for all your help Kate

    Reply
    • Staying alcohol free will be the best Christmas present ever. Go Michelle! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Thanks Kate. H.a.l.t.Hungry,angry,lonely,tired has helped me.And playing the tape through.I like your idea of changing my surroundings.Sugar. I like to buy a special snack or treat that I can have at the end of the evening to look forward to like I used to look forward to beer. Best wishes Af gang!

    Reply
    • HALT is a great one to remember. Wishing you a happy, AF Christmas Ashley!

      Reply
  9. Thank you Kate. I needed to read this. I stopped drinking 15 months ago.. and this festive season is feeling harder than last. I used to fall into the trap of thinking “ I need a drink to unwind and relax” so wine was a daily habit at the end of the day. A year later and I still haven’t found a way to relax and unwind without it. I feel so uptight and stressed all the time and feel like the “ fun,
    Happy, carefree me” disappeared when I stopped drinking. I guess this is just a bump in the road on my journey…just really struggling and fighting an internal battle with myself at the moment.

    Reply
    • It sounds as if some romanticisation might be going on here. I’m wondering, in your 15 months sober have you done any work on challenging your limiting beliefs and tackling some of those common illusions about alcohol? I’m hearing a few myths in your post (the idea that alcohol makes you happy and carefree for example – that’s a myth). I’d definitely recommend focusing on this – there’s nothing worse than being sober and feeling as if you’re missing out all the time! AF living doesn’t have to be like that. If you want some support with this, definitely check out my stop drinking course – as well as debunking lots of myths we also help you build a strong sober toolbox, so you have other ways of relaxing and unwinding. The class is really aimed at people who want support to stop drinking, but I think you might get a lot out of it Candice. Here are some details about the next course: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  10. Low calorie hot chocolate – it’s like a hug in a mug and perfect to unwind with – loving alcohol free life 57 days now and beginning to really see the benefits – bit nervous about Xmas and new year as I come from a boozy family but I will be strong and remember I don’t drink!

    Reply
    • You’ve got this Kat! Congratulations on your 57 days 🙂

      Reply
  11. At the beginning of the year I did amazingly and was AF for over 100 days, I made the mistake of drinking again on my son’s 21st birthday (June) , thinking stupidly that I would be able to control it but since then I have struggled to stay away from the booze. I re-start the AF journey every week but I get to about day 4 and cave . I just don’t remember all of your wonderful tips when that voice is working its hardest to convince me to drink. I think maybe listening to the craving will help and the use of the HALT acronym, I’m a visual person so I think I will write it on my hand ! and keep trying 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa – it sounds as if you could do with some support! Have you got people around you that you can talk to about this, to get some motivation and accountability when you’re struggling? It doesn’t have to be face to face – online groups are also perfect for this. If you want to join my online community, I’ll be opening up registration to my stop drinking course again in January. I think the combination of daily lessons plus being part of my awesome course community will really help things click for you. If you’re interested in the course, there are some more details here https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      (be sure to check out the videos from my former students too!)

      Reply
  12. This blog has been so helpful to me! I am just over 2 months AF and feeling really good. This is about the time last year that, after going AF for about a month, I had a glass of wine at a Christmas party and slowly but surely went back to daily drinking. Its amazing how one day you feel so in control of alcohol and then it slips away. I’d determined not to be tempted this season. I have found that a glass of kombucha in the evening helps me when I have cravings. It tastes a bit like hard cider and is lightly carbonated and enjoyable.

    Reply
    • It sounds as if you learnt a lot from that experience you had last year Kristin. A massive congratulations on your 2 months – keep going! You’ve got this 🙂

      Reply
  13. Great reading all the comments. I have a bit of a unique situation. My husband has been in prison (white collar crime which I have to say because people always judge and jump straight to “lock em up and throw away the key”) but this is my reality, he’s been there since August 2017, it’s been a really, really tough time; I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. And I really miss him, we only get to speak for 15 mins each day and I see him once a month. I have plenty of friends (some that know and some that don’t), and a supportive family but it feels like the other half of me is missing. I’m drinking way too much and I think I’m just lonely and missing my mate, it’s taken my a while to understand that. I don’t know if anyone can relate but thought I would get brave and throw it out there!

    Reply
    • How sad, Annie! That’s already been such a long time. Stick with Kate and this community! May you find support and a hopeful path forward.

      Reply
  14. Today will be my first day of AF living ….was going to wait till Jan 1, but I’m done! Just finished reading Mrs D is Going Without, and know it won’t be easy but here goes.

    Reply
  15. So Ivego e am done it again. I have wasted this morning in bed and feel angry and with myself and downright crap. I keep a drink diary and I am honest about how much I drink. I am currently over 40 units on a ‘past seven day count’ and this is frighteningly awful. I just CANNOT do moderation. I kid myself I can. I know I feel great the next day when I have not drunk the night before, so I ask myself, ‘why do I do it to myself’? .
    My husband hates it, I know. He on the other hand can do ‘just one’ and I really envy that. I feel utterly stupid and I know I am slowly killing myself. I have not properly addressed the why, and try as I might I cannot seem to answer this question. On the face of it, I am happily married, have two great kids, a good job, a lovely home etc etc. It’s completely unmindful. I was diagnosed with sever recurrent depression in Feb 2016 so I take strong medication which I guess does not work effectively when one drowns it in booze. So double whammy really. But I enjoy the feeling of not feeling when I am in my cups. I enjoy the woozy feeling after two bottles of strong ale.
    My sex life has gone down the toilet. I stay up far too late after my husband has gone to bed, so I disturb him when I eventually get there, and then all through the night with my subsequent snoring. And it’s getting worse.
    So here I am, reading blogs about being an alcoholic. Yours in the second I have come across, and it looks great, down to earth and visually attractive. I have read the past 20 or so comm ets and felt instantly. That I needed to verbalise my thoughts. I am just rambling now. But now I have started writing , I cannot stop!
    I too have a creative corner, as per a previous comment. It is sitting there waiting for me to join it. I cannot seem to get my arse over there and do something though. Instead I sit at the end of the kitchen table and escape into endless crochet. I suppose that is creative in itself? Although god knows what I am going to do with all these items which I have made and are piling up. An on line shop perhaps. I did have one, but I closed it and am afraid of opening it again, in case it fails.

    Think I’ll stop rambling now and do some more reading on your site.
    I would love to be AF but somehow I am afraid of it and cannot visualise it….must try harder.

    Reply

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