Managing Alcohol Cravings, Urges & Obsession

Alcohol Cravings, Urges & Obsession

Managing & Coping With Alcohol Cravings

It’s normal to experience cravings during the alcohol recovery process, they will become less frequent and less intense with time. You can overcome any craving, urge or obsession to drink. Here is a practical guide to overcoming the obsession to drink. These strategies and techniques help many people to effectively manage their cravings and urges. You never have to drink again.

[ Download This Alcohol Cravings, Urges & Obsessions Guide in PDF Format >> ]

Pick Up the Phone

Nothing is more effective in overcoming a craving or urge to drink than talking to someone in recovery. Speaking to someone who understands what you’re going through can provide valuable encouragement and perspective. Pick up the phone before you pick up a drink.

  • Call us on 0800 009 6675
  • Call the AA Helpline on 0800 9177 650 (You don’t need to attend AA to call and talk to someone)
  • Call a friend or family member but call someone. Cravings and urges pass, so pick up the phone, it can stop you from picking up a drink and ruining your sobriety.

Make A Call Before Drinking

Pause and Acknowledge

When you experience a craving, pause for a moment and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Recognise that cravings are temporary and that you have the power to choose how to respond.

Think Consequences

Can you remember what drinking was like? It doesn’t work and never will. There’s a reason you stopped. Relapsing can have numerous consequences, both short, immediate and long-term. Relapse can:

  • restart the horrendous cycle of alcohol misuse leading to increased tolerance, and dependence, and escalates alcohol-seeking behaviours.
  • take you right back to the carnage where you left off when you stopped drinking.
  • results in chronic health, stress on your heart and other organs, and can cause all kinds of brain and memory problems. And, it can – and might just – kill you, particularly if you resume heavy alcohol use after a period of abstinence.
  • brings about feelings of guilt, shame and failure, eroding self-esteem and triggering further drinking use as a coping mechanism.
  • cause severe anxiety and depression, which will probably lead to further drinking to avoid
  • strain relationships with partners and other loved ones, leading to more trust issues and emotional turmoil, pain for them and can end relationships.
  • disrupt work or academic responsibilities, jeopardising financial stability and future opportunities. Overall, addiction relapse perpetuates a cycle of suffering and setbacks, highlighting the critical importance of ongoing support and relapse prevention strategies in recovery efforts.

Remember why you stopped the last time and call someone before picking up a drink.

Eat Something Sweet

Often, a craving or urge to drink is caused by low blood sugar levels, particularly if you have stopped drinking recently. The rise in blood sugar will help overcome short-term urges and cravings as well as distract you. It’s always a good idea to keep some sweets, chocolate, biscuits or fruit around during detox and early recovery. Go eat something sweet – any chocolate or biscuits in the cupboard? Maybe a banana or a juicy nectarine?

Are You Thirsty?

When you become thirsty, the body sends a signal to the brain to go get a drink. And, in early recovery your pathways will be wired to get an alcoholic drink. Sometimes cravings or urges are simply your body telling your head that you’re thirsty. If you have some fruit juice or pop around, go drink that, otherwise get a large glass of water and drink all of it.

Use Distraction Techniques

Distract yourself from the craving by engaging in a different activity or task. This could be something as simple as going for a walk, listening to music or practising deep breathing exercises. Remember that washing that needs to be hung up or the grass that needs cut or that phone call to your sister, brother, aunt or niece?

Breathe Through It

A popular breathing technique for managing anxiety is called diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You can close your eyes if it helps you relax.
  2. Place Your Hand on Your Stomach: Place one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage, and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Inhale Slowly Through Your Nose: Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. As you inhale, focus on allowing your stomach to rise, pushing your hand out, while keeping your chest relatively still.
  4. Exhale Slowly Through Your Mouth: Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your stomach to fall inward. Try to make your exhale longer than your inhale, if possible.
  5. Repeat: Continue to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, focusing on the rise and fall of your stomach. Aim to do this for several breaths or for a few minutes.

Relaxation and breathing techniques can get you through cravings

Delay Gratification

Tell yourself that you will wait for a certain amount of time before giving in to the craving. Often, cravings will subside on their own if you can delay acting on them. They are like waves and there will be an intense crest, but it will subside. Why not tell yourself you can have a drink tomorrow if you are still craving?

Use Visualisation

Picture yourself successfully resisting the craving and imagine how proud you will feel afterward. You can also visualise the negative consequences (see above) of giving in to the craving to reinforce your motivation to resist. Visualising yourself free from alcohol and in sobriety in 6 months times is often an amazing image. See below for a guide visualization.

Guided Relaxation & Visualisations

Guided Relaxation For Urges/Cravings

Urge surfing is a technique for managing your unwanted behaviours. While practicing, you will ride out an urge, like a surfer riding a wave. Try this:

  1. Sit back or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes or let your gaze soften.
    brief pause
  2. Much like an ocean wave an urge will gradually gain strength, peak and then fade away.
    brief pause
  3. When an urge is growing or at its peak, it often feels as if it will never go away. You might feel discomfort or like you have to act on the urge. Remember, these are just feelings and feelings are not facts.
    brief pause
  4. Notice where you are on the wave of your urge. Is the urge gaining strength, peaking or beginning to fade?
    20-30 second pause
  5. Remind yourself that urges are temporary. No matter how intense your urge, it will eventually weaken and disappear, even if you don’t act upon it.
    10 second pause
  6. The goal of urge surfing isn’t to change your thoughts and feelings. Instead, you will try to accept whatever you are experiencing.
    brief pause
  7. Take a moment to notice your thoughts. Simply observe the words or images in your mind.
    30-45 second pause
  8. Shift your attention to your feelings. You might have uncomfortable feelings, such as anger, temptation, or guilt. Even uncomfortable feelings are okay.
    30-45 second pause

Box Breathing (Square Breathing)

This is a clinically proven technique for overcoming anxiety, and it works wonders for cravings and urges to drink alcohol.

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold the air in your lungs for 4, then slowly exhale for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds.
  2. Repeat this, focusing on your breath and the air travelling in and out of your lungs.

VIDEO: Dr Andrew Huberman explains how to reduce stress and anxiety using the “physiological sigh” technique.

Guided Visualisation For Urges/Cravings

Here is a relaxation technique called visualisation. This will help you to ride out your urge. Combine it with the guided relaxation above for an amazing solution to cravings/urges.

  1. Use all your senses to imagine the following scene.
    brief pause
  2. Imagine you’re standing on a beautiful sandy beach. You feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and a gentle breeze on your skin.
    15-25 second pause
  3. You begin to walk slowly down the shore. With each step, the sand crunches beneath your feet.
    15-25 second pause
  4. Birds sing in the distance, and ocean waves rumble steadily along the shore.
    15-25 second pause
  5. You take a step toward the ocean and stand at the edge of the surf. Cool water rushes over the top of your feet.
    15-25 second pause
  6. The air is warm and smells salty.
    15-25 second pause
  7. You look out toward the ocean and notice the water contains every shade of blue and green. When the waves peak, they shimmer in the sunlight, before disappearing onto the shore.
    30 second pause
  8. You continue standing on the shore, taking in the sensations of the beach, the ocean, and the waves.
    60-90 second pause
  9. The waves in the ocean are just like your urge. They are powerful for a short time, but before long they peak, and then fade away. You don’t have to suppress your urge or try to change it. It will simply fade away on its own.
    brief pause
  10. Now, begin to focus on your breathing. For the next few minutes, you’ll practice taking slow, deep breaths, which will help reduce stress and anxiety and overcome cravings

Elongating The Exhalation

You can also try this variation of box breathing where we gradually elongate the out breath or exhale. This sends a signal to your brain that you are in no danger and stops stress hormones being released, creating calm. When inhaling, focus on filling your lungs with air fully and extending your tummy.

    • Inhale, 2, 3, 4
    • Hold, 2, 3, 4
    • Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    • Inhale, 2, 3, 4
    • Hold, 2, 3, 4
    • Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    • Inhale
      5 second pause
    • Hold
      4 second pause
    • Exhale
      6 second pause
    • Inhale
      5 second pause
    • Hold
      4 second pause
    • Exhale
      6 second pause

Continue practising on your own for a few minutes. During deep breathing, it’s normal for your mind to wander. When you notice this happening, simply return your attention to your breathing, noticing how it feels to take slow, deep breaths. Before continuing your day, take one more moment to observe your thoughts and feelings. Notice if your urge has changed. When you feel ready to do so, open your eyes and stretch.

Reach Out Before You Drink

We hope these tips and techniques for overcoming the urge to drink are helpful. We encourage you to reach out to us before picking up a drink and we welcome it. We are usually around, so please call us on 0800 009 6675 if you get the urge to drink and we will do everything we can to help you overcome the craving and obsession.

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Benefits Of Home Detox

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There’s nothing more precious than being able to heal with the support of your loved ones, in the familiar environment of your own home. Savour the convenience of being able to maintain your daily routine, work, or simply spend quality time with your loved ones throughout the detox programme.

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Our team comprises individuals who have either personally battled addiction or have witnessed a loved one struggle with it. We ensure we understand your needs at the deepest level to keep you safe and make your recovery efficient.

Safe and Comfortable

A medical detoxification helps to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms, whether physical or mental. For long-term heavy alcoholics and heavy drinkers, sudden withdrawal can be dangerous, and the psychological cravings can be overwhelming.

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Home alcohol detox is much cheaper than attending a detox clinic or rehab. It is the best value form of private detox treatment, simply because there are no residential costs associated with inpatient. It really is worth the cost to live a life free form alcohol.

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