Choosing to quit drinking is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Without alcohol, your physical health will improve, your focus and concentration will increase, and you’ll be able to maintain healthier relationships with loved ones. Unfortunately, alcohol cravings can happen at any time, whether you expect them to or not.
You may be triggered by the smell of something strong at a birthday party, or it could be from the sound of glasses clinking together as a waiter removes them from a table. Cravings can make it challenging to live a sober lifestyle, but not impossible. Let’s discover why your brain craves alcohol and healthy ways to cope.
Why Do You Crave Alcohol?
Alcohol cravings are a result of how the substance affects the brain. As you consume alcohol, it triggers a flood of dopamine in the brain to help you feel good. At the same time, alcohol changes your neurological pathways, including the glutamate system. This system is responsible for your plasticity, memory and ability to learn.
Continuing to drink long-term manipulates the brain’s neuroplasticity. Your brain learns that it needs alcohol to function normally and creates memories that associate alcohol with rewards like surges of dopamine. So, when your senses experience something that they associate positively with alcohol consumption (the smell of your drink of choice or sounds similar to those of your go-to bar), your brain sends out signals — cravings — to encourage you to go back to your old drinking behavior.
Ways to Manage Alcohol Cravings
The good news is cravings can diminish and become easier to manage as you progress through your recovery. However, it’s important to know how best to cope with cravings if and when they appear.
First and foremost, identify what your cravings are. Did you used to drink to help you relax? Stress may be a trigger for your cravings. Did you drink to give you more confidence? Maybe anticipation of a first date or interview makes you want to drink. Maintaining a “cravings log” can help you track the time of day you experience a craving, where you were, how you were feeling, who you were with, what you were doing and how intense your desire was. This log will help you to better see what’s causing your cravings, so you can avoid them.
Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can focus on activities that can prevent you from giving in to cravings and relapsing. For example, exercise is a natural way to release endorphins in the brain to help you feel good without alcohol. Whenever you’re tempted to drink, try to take a break from what you’re doing to go to the gym, go outside for a run or to participate in an online exercise video.
Other experiential activities like meditation, arts and crafts, puzzle making and playing an instrument can also help you keep your cravings at bay. These behaviors focus the mind and can serve as distractions away from your desire to drink.
How Not to Cope with Cravings
It’s also useful to know how not to cope with alcohol cravings. For example, do your best to not obsess over your craving. If you can’t get your mind off alcohol, call your sponsor, a friend who has gone through the same experience or a mental health professional to talk through the cravings until they pass. They can help you look at the trigger from a different angle and facilitate new ways to cope with this craving in the future.
It’s also important to not replace one addiction with another. It can be easy to want to distract yourself with nicotine, sex or even food. However, these behaviors can become addictions, themselves. Instead, focus on healthy and positive activities that focus your body and mind on something other than a destructive behavior.
Fortunately, the brain has an amazing ability to heal, given proper time and care. Seeking evidence-based and holistic treatment – like what is offered at The Raleigh House – can help your brain heal from alcohol abuse and give you relapse-prevention techniques you can learn and practice in recovery.
Find Healing from Alcohol Addiction at The Raleigh House
While it can be a scary and stressful situation, you don’t have to feel alone when you’re trying to cope with alcohol cravings. The Raleigh House offers a safe, judgment-free atmosphere to
recover from alcohol addiction, no matter if you recently relapsed or are struggling with alcohol addiction for the first time.
We provide evidence-based treatment, as well as, experiential therapies designed to heal all of you — body, mind and spirit. Through our gold standard continuum of care that includes alcohol detox, residential treatment and outpatient treatment, we can help you achieve lasting recovery.
Your cravings don’t have to control or define you. There is hope, and you can find it at The Raleigh House. Reach out to our admissions team today to learn how you can rewrite your story after alcohol addiction.