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April 1, 2024

How to Stop Alcohol Cravings

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Working out how to stop alcohol cravings could mean the difference between sustained sobriety and repeated relapse. This guide explores the cause and nature of cravings and shows you how to reduce alcohol cravings. You can also discover how to connect with compassionate and evidence-based treatment for alcohol use disorder.

  • Master stress and emotional challenges: If stress or negative emotions trigger your urge to drink, mastering stress-relief and anxiety-management techniques can be highly beneficial. Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can equip you with the tools to manage stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness without resorting to alcohol use.
  • Connect with loved ones: A call to a trusted friend or family member can significantly bolster your resolve. Engaging in a heartfelt conversation can provide the encouragement, empathy, and connection you need to stop craving alcohol.
  • Wait for 15 minutes: Challenge immediate urges by promising to reevaluate the craving after a brief period of about 15 minutes. In the meantime, distract yourself with a different activity. This delay can make it easier to curb alcohol cravings,
  • Stay grounded in the present: Recognize that stress and tension often amplify cravings. Mindfulness exercises can help you remain focused on the present, easing the craving until it subsides. Techniques to consider include deep breathing, grounding exercises, physical activities like yoga, or simply changing your surroundings to shift your mental state.

Now that you know how to fight alcohol cravings, why do they manifest in the first place?

What Causes Alcohol Cravings?

Prolonged alcohol consumption can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals responsible for communication within the brain. These disruptions can lead to an increased tolerance, requiring more alcohol to achieve previous effects, heightened sensitivity to alcohol’s impact, and a greater chance of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. When abstaining from alcohol, individuals might encounter emotional distress or anxiety, accompanied by intense urges to drink.

Beyond its biochemical effects, alcohol also influences brain patterns through habit formation. Initially, alcohol might serve as a means to enhance mood or alleviate stress, such as:

  • Using alcohol to relax after an argument or a stressful day.
  • Drinking to ease social interactions at gatherings.

This cycle of drinking and experiencing temporary euphoria strengthens the habit, though, as the brain begins to associate alcohol with a reward, eventually triggering cravings in various situations.

Cravings often stem from specific triggers, which can be memories or emotions tied to alcohol use or stressors. These triggers can be broadly categorized into internal and external types:

  • Internal triggers: These are often emotional or physical states that signal the brain’s desire for alcohol – feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, or physical discomfort, for instance.
  • External triggers: These are environmental factors that remind someone of drinking, such as certain locations (bars, restaurants), social events (parties), routine times (end of the workday), or interpersonal conflicts (fights with friends or family members).

Both internal and external triggers play an important part in the emergence of cravings, with most people experiencing a combination of both, provoking a powerful urge to drink.

an image of someone who learning how do you stop the craving for alcohol

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Alcohol Cravings?

Addressing alcohol cravings requires a broad-based approach that’s tailored to individual needs and circumstances. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, some strategies have been proven effective in managing cravings.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

Certain medications have been approved by FDA for treating alcohol dependence, helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone, for example, can block the euphoric effects of alcohol, so reducing the desire to drink, while acamprosate is used to restore the brain’s balance and mitigate cravings in long-term recovery. Consulting with a healthcare provider can determine the most suitable medication based on individual health profiles and recovery goals.

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)

CBT is a highly effective form of psychotherapy that helps people identify and challenge the thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their alcohol use. By developing healthier coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with triggers, CBT can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of cravings.

Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques

Practices such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises can enhance emotion regulation and stress management, reducing the likelihood of someone turning to alcohol in response to stress or negative emotions.

Support groups and peer support

Joining a support group like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery can provide a sense of community and accountability, which can be incredibly valuable in managing cravings. Sharing experiences and strategies with others who understand the challenges of recovery can offer both support and practical advice for dealing with cravings.

Lifestyle changes

Implementing healthy lifestyle changes – regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep – can improve overall well-being and resilience, making it easier to cope with cravings. Engaging with hobbies and activities that provide fulfillment and joy can also serve as positive distractions from cravings.

CM (contingency management)

This form of motivational therapy involves setting up a reward system for abstaining from alcohol. By providing tangible rewards for reaching sobriety milestones, contingency management can enhance motivation and reduce the appeal of alcohol as a source of reward.

Seeking professional help

Consulting with addiction specialists or healthcare providers can offer personalized guidance and support for managing alcohol cravings. Professionals can help in developing comprehensive treatment plans that includes a combination of therapeutic approaches, lifestyle adjustments, and possibly medications.

Ultimately, the most effective treatment for alcohol cravings is one that addresses the underlying causes of alcohol dependence, incorporates a combination of therapeutic strategies, and is tailored to the person’s specific needs and circumstances. Continuous support, both professional and from loved ones, plays a crucial role in sustaining long-term recovery.

Get Treatment to Stop Alcohol Cravings at Gratitude Lodge

Begin your recovery from alcohol abuse the right way with supervised medical detoxification at Gratitude Lodge. Our welcoming and inclusive treatment facilities are located in Newport Beach and Long Beach, CA.

During alcohol detox, medications can help reduce the intensity of cravings, while continuous care mitigates the likelihood of complications or relapse disrupting recovery. After a week or so of detoxification, you can transition to ongoing inpatient treatment at our beachside rehab.

All alcohol addictions are unique, so all Gratitude Lodge treatment programs reflect this by offering personalized treatments that may include:

  • Talk therapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic treatments
  • Aftercare planning

Call 800-994-2184 today and learn how to stop alcohol cravings and recalibrate your life.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.
Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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