Cravings

Giving up drinking will inevitably generate cravings,
especially in high risk situations. Learning to deal with urges and temptations is a very important part of successful change. You experience cravings to drink at different levels of intensity, from the mildest
fleeting thoughts to severely strong urges.

Craving can be stimulated or triggered automatically if you experience certain situations that were strongly associated with patterns of former use. Triggers can include internal states, such as depression, or external cues, such as people, places or objects.

Gradually being exposed to high-risk situations and not getting drunk, with the help of support and good planning, can work to weaken or extinguish such triggers.

Certain old triggers that have not been properly dealt with – such as an old neighbourhood you return to for the first time in years -can remain strong for years. Obviously, especially powerful triggers,
such as the loss of a loved one, will always tend to evoke old habits.

Determination and will power are not often sufficient defenses against cravings. Changing your lifestyle to gain new friends and support, to learn new ways to relax or have fun, and to be a productive and
fulfilled person, these can reduce the dangers of cravings.

You might well make mistakes – relapse, or ‘slip’ – but this is not the end of the world. Learn from these mistakes. You have not failed the overall objective, these things take time and practice.

You can choose to take control of your cravings, so they don’t take control of you. You can decrease cravings by using specific coping strategies. Remember that cravings do not last forever and will decrease in number and strength over time.

Try some of the following suggestions to help you cope:

Behaviour
(what to do)-

Self-monitor
– write out your thoughts/feelings.

Seek support – tell someone what’s going on.

Distract yourself – do something unrelated to drinking or using.

Substitute another substance – eat something or drink something non-alcoholic.

Leave or change the situation.

Relax yourself – a hot bath or deep breaths (whatever suits you).

Delay your decision to drink for 15 minutes, by then it might have passed.

Cognition (what to think)

Normalise the craving – “I’m having a craving to drink, but that’s normal”

Use imagery (visualise being somewhere like a beach)

Use positive self-statements like, “I can cope with it, I’ve been doing well lately, I don’t want to spoil it now”

Thought stopping – don’t let them run away with you, inwardly shout STOP!

Think of the negative consequences

Think of the benefits of NOT drinking