Now that you are no longer drinking, your body is going through some changes, both physically and emotionally. Since alcohol is a powerfully addictive drug that is toxic, your body had to make some physical changes to keep you from being poisoned. Your body's chemistry, especially that of your liver, had to change to keep you alive while you were drinking. However, once your body chemistry changed to accommodate the presence of alcohol, it cannot be un-changed. This is why you are experiencing physical cravings for alcohol; your body wants it back! These cravings are most intense in the first six months of abstinence from alcohol. Thus, this is when most relapses occur. Here's how you can beat alcohol cravings today, right now:
What about your psychological craving for alcohol? This type of craving occurs because when you were drinking, you had an established routine for when, where, and with whom you drank. Now that you are not doing this daily routine, your emotions are confused. We do many things on "autopilot" and never realize it! When we stop or alter our routine, we feel a psychological need to go back to that routine where we were comfortable. Here's how you can defeat psychological cravings today, right now:
- Cravings occur on a Bell curve: they start out mild, grow in intensity until they peak, and then gradually they return to the "baseline" of no cravings. When you feel craving begin, now you know what's going to happen – you're ahead of the game right there! As your craving peaks in about 30 minutes, do something else. Anything; exercise, go to your recovery group's web site and talk through your craving, call a friend, read your email, go to a movie, read a book, watch TV, just get your mind onto something else. The craving will begin to recede slowly, and soon it will be gone altogether. This process takes about an hour. Keep telling yourself "I won't give in. This is going to pass." And it will! Your self-confidence will be raised significantly as you enjoy this success.
- If you continue to feel intense cravings and are afraid you will relapse, ask your physician to prescribe a drug called Campral for you. This medication greatly reduces, or completely eliminates, alcohol cravings. If Campral isn't available where you live, you can find it easily in a mail-order pharmacy.
These techniques won't work for you unless you put them into action. Change doesn't happen by itself; you are fully in charge of the changes in your non-drinking life. Use your power now and defeat physical and psychological cravings
- Understand what you're dealing with. It is not the alcohol that you're craving, it's the habit and routine that you built around alcohol use that is causing the craving. The obvious solution to this type of craving is to make a new routine that does not involve drinking. The fancy psychological term for this process is that first you must use "pattern interruption," which simply means that you stop drinking. However, you must have another behavior to do instead of drinking; this is called "pattern development." You can't just leave a big hole in your life without filling it with something else; this is a sure-fire relapse trigger.
- There's an old saying in recovery: "If you hang around a barber shop long enough, sooner or later you're going to end up getting a haircut." To beat psychological cravings now, stay away from the people, places or situations that were part of your drinking routine. Stay out of bars and clubs. Don't hang out with your former drinking buddies; make some new friends and develop new interests. If you are stressed or angry, and accustomed to drinking in these situations, read a book or complete a workbook on anger and stress management. Just fill the hole where drinking used to be!