Most people experience strong desires, urges or thoughts about drinking alcohol when they start to cut down or quit. It helps to recognize that these urges, desires and thoughts are natural. We all have different ways to cope with desires, urges or thoughts about drinking. The following are some of the most common ways used by others:
- Drink nonalcoholic beverages (e.g., water, pop, juice, tea)
- Try not to think about your desire to drink
- Engage in other activities (e.g., walking, sports, hobbies, work around the house)
- Engage in activities with others who aren’t drinking
- Stop romanticizing about drinking (remember the consequences of drinking)
- Think about how much money you’ll save
- Think about the benefits of not drinking
- Reassure yourself that the thoughts and desires will go away on their own
- Make a list of reasons for wanting to remain abstinent
- Avoid places or situations where you’ll have the urge to drink (e.g., parties, bars)
- Try to identify what’s causing the desire to drink (being tired, hungry, stressed, self-pity)
- Help other people
- Sructure your day/ have a routine
- Practice positive self-talk
- Focus on the present moment
Remember, if one method does not work well for you, you can try something else. Instead of feeling deprived, try to get excited about recovery, and designing a new life for yourself.
Emergency Coping Plan
At some point, you’ll be faced with situations that will trigger the urge to relapse. We call these high-risk situations caused by triggers. When you get triggered, try to get the thoughts of drinking out of your mind as soon as they appear; Do not entertain the thought. The more you think about it and consider drinking as an option, the more “high-risk” the situation becomes. Very quickly, thoughts turn into cravings, and the two lead to a slip
TRIGGER -> THOUGHT -> CRAVING -> DRINKING
Review this Emergency Coping Plan to help you deal with these situations:
AVOID the situation. Identify the situations as one in which you’d be tempted to drink. Plan how you’ll avoid these situations, OR plan for alternate activities.
LEAVE the situation immediately or contact someone who can help you.
DISTRACT yourself from cravings. If you find yourself in a situation you can’t leave and you get a craving, try these strategies: Thinking about something else, reviewing your Coping Plan, remembering the progress you’ve made or how your body is healing itself; try drinking water or juice; try deep breathing exercises, or thinking about an upcoming event in your life, such as a vacation.
DELAY acting on the craving: make a deal with yourself that you’ll wait 15 minutes before you give into the craving. The craving will usually pass in a couple of minutes anyway. If you keep delaying, the craving will go away.
Use SELF-TALK A craving may be accompanied by negative thoughts about your ability to resist it. Use positive self talk statements to combat your negative thoughts.