For many of us struggling with alcohol dependency, quitting drinking is not as easy as just putting down the drink. During the first days, weeks and often months of sobriety, the alcohol cravings may be truly predominant and often very difficult to deal with. Frequently we do not have any line of defense when the cravings hit, and we end up taking that drink and relapsing. However, you can learn how to break this destructive cycle by utilizing some new coping skills.
I found this interesting information at the Betty Ford Center website:
A report in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Research (Modell JG et al, 1992), indicates that many of the symptoms of craving in the dependent individual are similar to the thought patterns and behaviors of persons with obsessive-compulsive disorder, including recurrent and persistent thoughts about alcohol and the inability of the individual to resist these thoughts and a compulsive drive to consume alcohol and loss of control over that drive.
Wow! That sure explains things, right?
Craving alcohol can occur without any withdrawal symptoms, especially if strong reminders encourage the memory of the pleasurable effects of alcohol or drinking. This is a part of the disease; our body and mind will only remember the good times. We often totally fail to remember any of the destructive parts of our drinking. It is not unusual for a person with addiction to alcohol, to completely forget how horrible they felt the last time they drank, and what terrible situation they found themselves in after drinking.
So when cravings hit, act fast!
Here is the list of 10 tools that helped me the most during the early days of sobriety:
- Physically remove yourself from the situation. This may only include going to the bathroom, another room or just outside.
- Call someone immediately. This literally can be anyone, you do not necessarily need to talk about how you feel, sometimes talking about something completely different is the most helpful to get your mind off the craving.
- Break the time down to little portions. Commit to staying sober for next 1 minute, or 5, or 10 minutes. Wait that time and then do it again until the craving passes.
- Breathe. Try to relax your thoughts by taking deep breaths and focusing on your breathing only.
- Eat something sweet. Because alcohol contains lots of sugar, lack of sugar can often cause the cravings.
- Eat a meal. Sometimes cravings may be confused with hunger.
- Focus on something else. Redirecting your attention to watching TV, or reading aloud will help.
- Repeat a positive affirmation: I can do this, or mantra: This too shall pass. Or the serenity prayer.
- Make a pro/con list of drinking right now. Then in the third column list how the pros and cons would affect you.
- Force yourself to remember your last drunk. Think of the consequences. Imagine the impact on tomorrow, next week, and next month.
Dealing with cravings can be difficult, but the most important part to remember about cravings is that they are temporary. They come and go and they do not last forever! Furthermore with time, cravings will become less and less frequent, and much less difficult to deal with.
Here are two more article that have some great suggestions for coping with cravings:
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