Friday Night Pep-Talk: Dealing With Drinking Cravings
Happy Friday yet again! Let’s talk about…
Cravings are a powerful desire for something. Alcohol cravings are mostly significant in early sobriety and maybe caused by sudden drops in blood sugar levels. When we stop drinking we cut out the sugar that our bodies are used to having. In my early sobriety especially, the cravings came on very strong, and they felt absolutely overwhelming. The quickest fix for me was to eat some sweets! Another quick fix for my cravings was coffee with lots of cream and of course – sugar! I actually think that I drank coffee all day long in the beginning! LOL!
I decided to do some research and I found some really interesting and helpful information!
Coping With Cravings and Urges to Drink
publication from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website:
- Craving is most often experienced early in treatment, but episodes of craving may persist for weeks, months, and sometimes even years after some people stop drinking. Craving may be uncomfortable but is a very common experience and does not mean something is wrong. You should expect craving to occur from time to time and be prepared to cope with it if and when it occurs.
- Urges to drink, or cravings, can be triggered by things you see in the environment that remind you of using alcohol. Physical signs may include tightness in your stomach or feeling nervous through your body; psychological signs may include increased thoughts of how good you would like to feel from using alcohol or drugs, remembering times you used alcohol in the past, planning how you would go about getting a drink, or feeling you need alcohol.
- Craving and urges are time-limited, that is, they usually last only a few minutes and at most a few hours. Rather than increasing steadily until they become unbearable, they usually peak after a few minutes and then die down, like a wave. Urges will become less frequent and less intense as you learn how to cope with them.
Form an article called: How to Handle Alcohol Cravings when You Quit Drinking
Because alcohol cravings are associated with drops in blood sugar, keeping a selection of foods on hand that boost and stabilize blood sugar is an excellent way of coping with alcohol cravings. While a candy bar or a bag of candy can be helpful in the short term, a better choice would be to eat foods that slowly raise your blood sugar and keep it stable for longer periods of time, such as complex carbohydrates. Excellent sources for complex carbohydrates are:
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grains such as: quinoa, barley, steel-cut oats, millet, bulgur wheat and brown rice
- Nuts such as: flax-seed, almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds
- Raw Vegetables
Change Your Habits and Mental Associations with Alcohol
Continued from: How to Handle Alcohol Cravings when You Quit Drinking
A component of alcohol cravings that is often overlooked are the psychological and physiological associations that occur with habitual drinking. If you enjoy drinking at a certain time of the day or with a certain activity such as watching television or reading, then when that time of day rolls around or the thought of watching your favorite show or reading crosses your mind, you will likely experience a craving for alcohol. Alcohol cravings do necessarily mean that you have a problem. But, they do at least indicate you have built a habit into your daily routine that your body is responding to. If you’ve made the 5:00 happy hour a part of your daily routine, then your body will respond at 5:00 for that daily dose of alcohol by craving it. Change your routine or drink a relaxing tea or another beverage with your book or when you watch television. In doing so, you will retrain your body to respond to the new habit and the new beverage.
Exercise Can Help with Alcohol Cravings
The journal of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, recently released a study that looked at the correlation between exercise and alcohol consumption. Based on their findings, researchers concluded that exercise seems to reduce alcohol consumption by stimulating brain reward pathways (i.e. releasing dopamine) in a manner similar to alcohol.
* My Quick Check List *
Avoid craving causing situations:
Keep away from people, places, times of day, and situations commonly associated with drinking such as drinking buddies, parties and bars.
When you get a craving:
- Talk about it!
- Write it out!
- Think it through!
- Get involved!
Beware of your emotion:
- Particular types of emotions such as frustration, fatigue, and feeling stressed out. Even positive emotions elation, excitement, feelings of accomplishment can also be triggers.
- Also physical feelings feeling sick, shaky, tense, can bring on cravings which maybe more socialized since we are used to using alcohol to self-medicate.
I hope you found this helpful and you are now more prepared to deal with the cravings! Take care of yourself. Remember that cravings are normal and they are always temporary; you do not have to react to them!
How do you deal with cravings?
For Other Friday Night Pep-Talk posts click HERE.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles. You may also find some great inspiration, support and resources at the bottom of this page.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. (Ref: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders)