Cravings are part of alcohol abuse recovery and can be overwhelming for many addicts. Even people in long-term recovery report that they still get cravings. Cravings can spark from an emotional trigger or situation that causes the person to want a drink or something they encounter physically, such as an advertisement for a Mexican restaurant featuring a frosty margarita. Learning to deal with alcohol cravings and identify situations when they can arise is an important part of early recovery therapy and a relapse prevention plan.
Planning Ahead Keeps You in Control
Understand that it’s normal to have urges to drink. You aren’t a bad or weak person for these. It may help to remember that a craving only lasts about 15 minutes, so part of your relapse prevention plan can include healthy ways to distract yourself during intense cravings.
Many people benefit from a recognize -> avoid -> cope response for urges. First, identify when you have a craving, and take a minute to consider what’s going on right now that’s making you want a drink. Are you experiencing a physical trigger? Or, are you feeling an emotion that usually led you to drink in the past? Understanding your personal triggers helps you understand why you have a craving, and identifying what’s signaling and urge to drink allows you to cope with the situation or leave it altogether.
Understanding Your Triggers
The “avoid” step can be easier if the trigger is physical – seeing an alcohol commercial or driving by a bar you used to frequent can trigger a craving. If you identify the urge as being based on something external, walk away from it, if possible. Now, you’ve learned more about your external triggers to drink, and you can take action to avoid certain places in the future, making your recovery stronger.
However, sometimes urges to drink are internal, emotional triggers that, in the past, you dealt with by drinking. This is where the “cope” strategy comes into play. You may not be able to leave a physical situation, such as encountering a stressful situation at work. And, you cannot walk away from emotions that are triggering you. Instead, rely on coping mechanisms you learned in therapy, including identifying the emotion and working through how you’re feeling, such as journaling or meditating.
Analyzing Your Urges and Triggers
Many treatment programs include relapse prevention strategies, helping addicts understand what caused them to drink. Emotional trauma and undiagnosed mental illness are common in alcoholics, and many people self-medicate with alcohol. Self-reflection in recovery isn’t just what you do in treatment. It’s ongoing and part of learning how to deal with life stressors and upsetting emotions in healthy ways.
Keep a journal, and note your feelings each day. If you had an urge to drink, write down the situation and how you felt. Over time, you should start seeing patterns emerge, connecting your cravings with certain situations, places, emotions, and people.
Consistent therapy can teach you how to cope with triggering situations and help ease the expression of your mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.
Do You Need Help With Alcohol Recovery?
If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol abuse, and thousands enter treatment each year. We offer several alcohol addiction programs at Hickory Treatment Centers, including medical detox and therapy, to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.