For many people who have found themselves dependent on alcohol, learning to live without it is a difficult process. At first, there is the acute withdrawal stage to deal with while you detox. This can be scary, and even dangerous without either using a tapering off method or having medical supervision. However, most people are able to get through the initial detox phase in a safe and healthy way when they are ready to particularly if they talk to a therapist in person or online. They are then faced with life in recovery.
There are various different medical schools of thought on how a recovering alcoholic should approach the rest of their life, with some groups like Alcoholics Anonymous thinking that permanent abstinence is the best way to stay dry, and others like HARM believing that it is possible for someone who has had an alcohol dependency to go back to a healthier social drinking behavior eventually. Whichever route you subscribe to, you do need to ensure that should you ever drink again, it is not as a result of the cravings spurred on by your previous habits.
Here, we take a look at methods people in recovery from alcohol addiction have successfully used to stop themselves responding to cravings and ending up back in a cycle of alcoholism. You can also find some helpful advice on this at Life Transformation Recovery.
One of the main things that cause relapses in alcoholics is boredom. At first, overcoming the addiction is a challenge, and then, experiencing life sober is an interesting time. You feel healthier, you look better, and you have more control over every aspect of your life. However, over time the novelty of sobriety tends to wear off, and this is where the original source of your drinking habit can start to rear its head again. You may feel bored or frustrated, and the solution you previously sought – drinking – can become appealing again.
In order to beat the boredom factor, you need to have something that captures your attention and gives you something new to look forward to each day. Short term, you may find that reading or watching a movie can distract you from immediate cravings, or perhaps playing a video game. As a longer-term strategy, though, it can be good to do something productive, for example, taking up a new sport or hobby, or going back to something you used to like doing before, such as maybe drawing, music or writing.
Sometimes cravings come about as a result of habit. If you usually got over a stressful day at work by hitting a bar or treated yourself to wine after completing something difficult, then it can feel like you are missing out on that when you have given up alcohol. You may also have been in a social group where drinking was a key part of your life together. Avoiding social situations where you will want to drink is an important way to keep yourself sober and temptation-free when you don’t feel you yet have the willpower to go out and not drink. Of course, this can mean some changes in your social life. You may find that you need to see certain friends who are still drinking a lot less often. Alternatively, rather than meeting up with them in the usual spots, you could arrange to see them for morning coffee in a place that doesn’t serve alcohol and spend time with them that way without it becoming an issue when they want to drink and you do not.
Naturally, there will be some events or occasions you cannot avoid, such as weddings or holidays, where other people will be drinking. Have a strategy for these in advance, and if you can, tell other people who will be there that you won’t be drinking and to hold you accountable for that. If you don’t want to discuss the fact you are recovering from alcoholism, it is always an option to simply say you aren’t drinking because you are on a diet or fitness plan and it would interfere with that.
Talk To Someone
People who follow group rehab approaches like Alcoholics Anonymous are allocated sponsors who they can talk to when they feel the urge to drink. Even if you are not using that kind of program, you should have someone in mind you can call or chat to online when you are experiencing cravings. It could be someone who knows about your addiction and who can talk you down from wanting to go and drink alcohol, or if you don’t have anybody you are comfortable talking about that with, just someone you can have a chat with to distract yourself. Feeling lonely is a big trigger for a lot of recovering alcoholics to drink, and so you need to have plans in place for what you will do and who you will talk to if that happens. It may be a friend or family member you can simply call up to feel less alone or even an online friend who has gone through a similar thing who you can chat to by instant message. Reading forums and websites where other recovering alcoholics talk about their experiences can also be a good source of comfort and remind you that you are not alone.
A lot of medical experts believe that exercise is key to recovery from a lot of mental health problems, including the depression and anxiety that can come when an alcoholic or addict is in the early stages of recovery. Getting outside and taking a walk can be a big mood lifter, and if nothing else, it will occupy your body and mind while the craving passes. If you feel up to it, running or cycling can also be great choices.
Cravings do pass, and often within a short time frame. Have plans in mind that you can use when you begin to experience them, and always remind yourself just why you need to stay sober. Good luck on your own recovery journey!