How to Deal with Alcohol Cravings
To succeed in recovery requires an ability to neutralise cravings for alcohol. Giving into cravings is termed ‘relapse’. Mechanisms for fighting off cravings are termed relapse prevention. Ocean Recovery offers a comprehensive 28-day rehab programme at our alcohol rehab clinic. Here much time is spent arming clients with coping mechanisms to fight cravings for alcohol.
What are cravings?
Cravings typically consist of emotions, thoughts and physical responses causing addicts or those in recovery to continue to drink alcohol. Cravings often force sufferers to act on ‘autopilot’ against their conscious will not to drink. Intense cravings are marked by a loss of control.
What causes triggers?
Cravings are ‘triggered’ by internal and external stimuli taking place in the addict’s everyday life. Emotional and physical events promoting addiction are known as ‘triggers’. Some triggers occur more frequently than others. During our rehab programme a therapist helps clients identify their personal addiction triggers. This knowledge helps clients avoid or management triggers as and when they arise. Thus coping with cravings requires recovered addicts to examine their own life and identify unique and deeply personal triggers making relapse possible. Triggers may be impossible to avoid. Patients are thus taught how to cope with ‘unavoidable triggers’ in ways not involving relapse.
Many non-alcoholic beers actually do have a tiny bit of alcohol in them, and California scientists have stated that the smell and taste can trigger a relapse, so the answer is yes it can.
Types of triggers
There exists many types of cravings, each requiring a different strategy in order to defeat. Patients currently not in recovery must tackle purely physical withdrawal symptoms brought on during detox. Medical assistance is highly recommended as cravings are accompanied by potentially life threating symptoms. Detox is either carried out at home or within a residential rehab clinic.
If you opt for a home detox at least seek the assistance of your GP. Residential rehab means clients receive 24 hour a day medical observation. A number of prescription medications such as chlordiazepoxide/Librium are offered in order to fight off withdrawal symptoms. Such drugs are available for home detox too. However chlordiazepoxide is deadly when mixed with alcohol. Since a home detox carries a high risk of relapse, taking chlordiazepoxide or other benzodiazepine-based prescription drugs could lead to significant health complications.
Once recovery is achieved former addicts must still be able to fight off cravings. Cravings are part and parcel of living in recovery. The good news is cravings experienced in recovery are not as powerful as those experienced during detox. However cravings experienced in recovery are much more subconscious and capable of causing relapse through the ‘back door’. This makes post-recovery cravings particularly dangerous. If you are unable to identify a craving it’s likely you won’t take action before it is too late.
Internal and external triggers of addiction
Cravings due to external triggers are by far the easiest to identify and defeat. Such triggers include interacting with certain people, places and objects. Internal triggers are difficult to identify. Human emotions are infinite and so an attempt to identify all possible internal triggers would be impossible. Such triggers are often a result of negative events occurring in a recovered addict’s everyday life. Triggers result from how the recovered addict interprets these events. Interpretation is subjective and hard to predict. Modern psychotherapy techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy arm clients with coping mechanisms to effectively deal with stressful events occurring in everyday life.
How to deal with triggers giving rise to cravings
If you take part in a structured therapy programme a counsellor helps you identify negative emotions promoting your drinking behaviour. If you have not received therapy it may be difficult to identify personal triggers of addiction yourself. However we attempt to outline basic coping strategies taught on our rehabilitation programme.
WARNING: No attempt is made to personalise the below coping strategies to your particular situation. Since key information may be omitted please be aware the below is not intended to substitute the need for professional therapy.
Now we outline practical steps a recovered addict can take in order to neutralise his or her cravings for alcohol. Note we assume detox has been tackled. Therefore the below advice is applicable only to those now living in recovery.
#1. Know you triggers
Although this point is discussed above we feel it requires repetition given its importance. To know your triggers you must dig deep into your daily thinking. Identifying triggers of addiction is most effectively tackled in therapy. However if you do not have access to a therapist we recommend you keep a written diary of thoughts and emotions arising throughout your day. Note down how you feel when cravings arise. Make a note of situations, people, times of the day or any other external stimuli you feel promotes cravings.
#2. Avoid high risk external triggers
If you’ve completed step #1 correctly you should now know situations, people and other external stimuli giving rise to cravings for alcohol. You are advised to take steps in avoiding these situations. This often requires those in recovery to ‘let down’ their friends. Remind yourself if your ‘friends’ are worth having they will understand your need to stay in recovery. Perhaps learn basic ‘refusal skills’.
#3. Cope with internal triggers
Internal triggers mean thoughts, emotions and even physical stimuli giving rise to cravings. Such triggers are difficult to avoid. You must therefore substitute an avoidance strategy for a coping strategy.
Common coping strategies include:
- Letting trusted others know of your cravings
- Distracting yourself with other activities such as a sport, going to the cinema or going to visit friends/family. Distracting yourself may mean just getting out of the house
- Challenging thoughts giving rise to cravings
- Learning to relax. Why not learn yoga or mindfulness. Both commonly taught on residential rehab programmes
Cognitive behavioural therapy and other forms of modern psychotherapy go to great lengths in teaching coping strategies. The above is intended to act as a taster!
We hope you enjoyed this blog post. At Ocean Recovery we offer a comprehensive alcohol rehabilitation programme. Click here to contact our admissions to team if you wish to learn more about this programme.
John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.
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