Alcohol cravings come and go throughout the first months of sobriety. If you are in your first month alcohol-free, whether doing Dry July or a longer stretch, by day 20 most of your nightly cravings for alcohol have likely become manageable. But the occasional devil on your shoulder, that little voice in your head, can come up out of nowhere and make for an uncomfortable internal debate. How do you tackle the cravings for alcohol? How do you beat them back?
Start by identifying why you are really craving. Alcohol is the answer that your brain is giving but what is the question really?
Are you hungry? Are you angry? Are you lonely? Are you tired? It helps to remember that as HALT. read more HALT – 4 Triggers That Slip People Up When They Stop Drinking
HALT, identify the trigger, and find a solution that fits the real craving. Are you craving food, release, interaction, or rest? These two posts are full of ideas from our community on how to answer those cravings – Diffusing the A in HALT or How to Stop Drinking AT people – Filling the Empty Space in Early Sobriety and 25 Things to do With Your Alcohol-Free Time!
When I am triggered, I imagine that I am walking through the woods. The well-worn path is the alcohol path. It is entrenched and deep. In my sobriety, I am paving a new path, right next to the old path. Each time I am triggered and I don’t drink, I imagine lifting a shovel full of dirt (clearing the way for my new path) and throwing it into the old trench. The visual reminds me that my brain is recovering, too. The triggers are nothing more than phantom pain (like an amputee who still feels his foot). This imagery helps me move through the experience without caving.
But what about the conversation in your head? The push and pull between your best intentions and your self-destructive other? Your inner Gollum, Wine Witch, or Snidely? That devil on your shoulder whispers seductively for one more romp before the fun ends.
The conversation in your head is of course between you and yourself – which can be pretty evenly balanced and very hard to win!
Brain ( my inner Gollum): So it’s been a while now, you’ve been good, don’t you fancy a glass of wine?
Brain/ G: Great, when and how are you going to get us some?
Me: I’m not
Brain/ G: WHAT? Why not you said you want some ???? We needs some!
Me: I know what I said but I want to NOT drink more
Brain/ G: I don’t get it, I don’t understand?
Me: You’ll get used to the idea 💡
Brain/ G: I’m going to give you mental cravings you’ll be stuffing your face and climbing the wall before you know it
Me: They’ll settle down, you’ll love our new normal just sit tight
Brain/ G: (Sulking) Humph! I won’t let booze go without a fight
Me: I know but I’ve been training and getting stronger each sober night
Brain/ G: Oh….alright, I do like waking up headache free I suppose
But it doesn’t mean I won’t try again tomorrow
Me: Yes that’s fine, in time you’ll understand that we don’t need wine
Brain/ G: I’ll replay in your mind you relaxing with that wine
Me: I’ll counter it with how I felt nauseous almost every time
Brain/ G: That’s true perhaps it’s not good for you
Me: Yeah brain/ G, who knew?! by Floss
During this quest to be alcohol-free, I remember one very strong compulsion–it wasn’t a craving really, or even a voice, it was like an electric shock to find myself in front of the liquor cabinet, like I’d been transported there without even knowing. It was in response to an upsetting event- and -made me realize the huge tie between alcohol and pouring alcohol all over feelings. I never thought I was that person, but here I was…standing there. It happened so fast it terrified me. So it wasn’t a craving or a voice, it was a lightening-fast bulldozer.
from the author of Tales of a High-Functioning Drinker Told to My Newly Sober Self
Here are some tips and tricks from members of our BOOM Rethink the Drink Community to help you override your inner Gollum when you want to stay sober today:
I think the most important thing with alcohol cravings is not to be frightened of them. A craving won’t kill you. It’s what you do with it that could.
It helps to have a plan or a system, putting measures in place until the craving passes. The main trigger buster for me is if I needed to go to the shop and was craving I told my husband and sent him to the shop instead so I was unable to obtain alcohol.
I did whatever it took to work through it and not give in once I stopped drinking, but it was sometimes REALLY Hard. It was however WORTH IT! I wouldn’t wish to go back to that poisonous, soul-destroying place I was in when I was drinking ever again 😓
more from this member of our community: 4 Years Sober – From Alcohol Dependant to Loving Living Alcohol Free
Yesterday I had a thought about drinking- not really a craving but driving past the liquor store I imagined taking some wine home and drinking it to ease the anxiety around being in lockdown. I then fast forward to the first horrible day after and to tell you the truth I NEVER want to feel that way again.
For me, a craving is that annoying little voice that says, “You seem tense. You need a drink. One won’t hurt.” But the little fucker won’t go away and now has added, “Liquor stores are still open and now they even have places that will deliver booze to your house.” It feels like a rock in your shoe. Every step you take, the reminder is there. To be completely honest, when it doesn’t go away quickly, it tends to win. But on the rare occasion that I can detect it before it gets under my skin, I put it in an imaginary box, close the lid, and refuse to revisit it. Then I try to get my mind on something else.
I think for me, the voice comes first, then is followed by the craving *IF* I entertain the voice. For example, “oh wow that beer looks good, I could have just one right??” At this point I HAVE to shut it down and tell myself “absolutely not.. you don’t really want it and you definitely don’t need it… life is much much better without it, remember how bad it was before?” If I do not do this right away, and let the voice carry on, I start to feel the panic set in, the anxiety, the deprivation of “not being able to have it”, my chest usually gets tight, my cheeks flush, I became very very distracted and unable to focus, breathing gets faster, jaw tightens, hands fidgeting… that kind of thing- this is a craving for me.
How did I ride out the craving…. I tried everything; distraction, eating chocolate, smoking, drinking an AF drink and also surrendering and allowing myself to feel the anxiety and all the emotions fully… crying, screaming, running around, punching a pillow, curling up in a ball, singing as loudly as possible, calling a funny friend and having them make me laugh until my stomach and face hurt, writing in my journal !
In the first few weeks of sobriety, the alcohol cravings struck very often and a lotta times I wasn’t even aware of the voice starting the process… then I become MUCH more mindful and present in order to catch the voice and shut it down before the cravings hit!
from the author of Breaking Free of Cravings for Alcohol with Mindfulness
The best way to think of alcohol cravings, after the first couple of weeks sober when some cravings are actually physical struggles, is to remember that these cravings are in your head. They are like a switch that you can choose what to do with. Are you going to flip that “Fck it” switch off when it trips on or are you going to drink and find yourself back on square one?
How can you beat the fk it switch? Or How do you turn off alcohol cravings when your brain turns them on?
- When does your fk it switch flick on? Write out a full list. My cravings started around 4:30 pm (earlier on weekends, sometimes more like 12:00 and I think that was boredom and not knowing what to do with myself), when I was at the shops or when I was commuting home from work (that was the worst one).
- What do you need to do to avoid going with fk it when that switch flips? I created obstacles so that I had time to acknowledge what was happening. I then had a choice to go into battle mode or piss head mode. Obstacles meant no shops after 2 pm on the weekdays for about 4 months, no alcohol at home, reduced stressors as much as possible at tricky times (calming music commuting home rather than banging bass) EAT EAT EAT (fk it switch loves an empty tummy) and accept the craving will go of its own accord after about 2 hours. Once this habit is challenged you have weakened it and it will die actually very quickly.
- What fuels the fk it switch? Your inner piss head will be speaking to you. It might not be terribly conscious but once you’ve uncovered it, it will be louder. For example, my inner voice would tell me what a tough Monday I had had. Bull shit it was a normal Monday.
- How can you increase your chances of beating your fk it switch? Accept that things might be uncomfortable (but only for about 2 hours) as it will hook into the muvver of all cravings, you will have to surf that craving and the best way to do that is to look at what is going on mentally and physically with curiosity rather than fear. Re-commit to doing this, post about your intention and what it feels like – google the fuck it switch see what else you can find out about it, ask fellow BOOMERS – the more you know the better. Have a rule WITH NO WIGGLE ROOM that once you are aware that the fk it switch has flipped, you will take 10 minutes to think through the pros and cons of drinking
- Get excited, because once you’ve won through the fk it switch once it weakens the muvver fucker massively. Once you have experienced the fk it switch and then walked away from it you have changed the whole stopping game so that really you are going to win through because you’re strength and conviction have just accelerated through the roof – you’ll hopefully feel incredibly in awe and excited for yourself. Beating down alcohol cravings today makes it easier to beat down alcohol cravings in the future.
- And if you Haven’t read the Fuckit Bucket that would be a good thing to read too The Fuckit Bucket and this would also be a good read How to Quiet that Thirsty Little Voice in Your Head because that is what it’s all about… deciding which voice you’ll feed..
- Time for a sober treat! You’ve earned it! read more Sober Treats – Rewiring your Reward Pathways When You Go Alcohol-Free
from the author of How to Override your Lizard Brain
For me the cravings are definitely a voice in my head, the voice starts off small and nice ‘oh you’ve done so well, a week not drinking, you should celebrate with wine, you deserve it, you don’t really have a problem’, then it gets louder ‘of course you can drink normally like everyone else, just have one, everyone else is drinking, if you don’t people won’t want to be your friend, do it’, then it starts screaming at me ‘drink drink drink just have a bloody drink and then I’ll be quiet, DRINK DRINK DRINK’, honestly it’s a proper screeching in my head. Best way for me to ride them out is to eat anything and everything and go sit in the bath – for hours if necessary, with some nice bubble bath, candles and a book.
more reading Silencing the “Drink Now” voice
If you’re “sober curious” … If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…or if you have stopped drinking and are trying to stick to sober! Talk to Us.
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using
community support 24-7 or sign up and sign in here
Don’t let the shame of the stigma keep you from saying
“I think I have a problem with drinking”
Alcohol cravings for me are simply thoughts. They come and go. I can dismiss ANY thoughts which don’t serve me. Sure we have them here however we are a team. If you experience a craving get on here and post. I had a HUGE craving in Thailand a few months ago. Many here facilitated me acknowledging it and accepting what it was. I moved through it. Cravings are the result of our addiction. They reduce when they’re not fed.
How do you go Sober? ( more reading in blue titles)
B Be accountable Talk to Us We Understand
A Avoid alcohol like the plague Ideas Here
L Let yourself enjoy regular sober treats Ideas Here
A Allow yourself to cry when needed Ideas Here
N Nourish your body with good food Ideas Here
C Create happy & fun memories Ideas Here
E Enjoy the precious moments in your day Ideas Here
W Work hard to get what you want Ideas Here
O Organise things for less stress Ideas Here
R Realise you can’t control it all Ideas Here
K Keep going & prepare for success Ideas Here
S Sleep enough for body & mind rest Sleep Solutions