How to Control Alcohol Cravings

How to Control Alcohol Cravings

Are you struggling to control your alcohol cravings? Do you find it challenging to resist the urge to drink, even when you know it's not in your best interest? You're not alone. Alcohol cravings are a common experience for individuals who are trying to cut back on their drinking or maintain sobriety.

Understanding what alcohol cravings are and learning effective strategies to manage alcohol cravings is crucial for long-term recovery. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes of alcohol cravings, the duration of cravings, and various techniques to control and decrease them.

Understanding Alcohol Cravings

Alcohol cravings are intense urges or desires to consume alcohol, even when there is a conscious effort to abstain. These cravings can manifest as a combination of thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions that drive the desire to drink. They can be triggered by various factors, including external cues like people, places, or things associated with drinking, as well as internal triggers such as stress, negative emotions, or physical discomfort.

Recognizing the signs of alcohol cravings is essential for effectively dealing with them. Common symptoms include an overwhelming urge to drink, difficulty concentrating on anything else, and experiencing negative emotions like anxiety or irritability. It's important to remember that experiencing cravings does not indicate failure or weakness but is a normal part of the recovery process.

How Long Do Alcohol Cravings Last?

The duration of alcohol cravings can vary from person to person. There is no fixed timeline for how long cravings will last as it depends on individual factors such as the severity of alcohol use disorder and the length of time since the last drink. Typically, cravings last for a few minutes, but they can feel intense and challenging to resist during that time. Remember, cravings are temporary, and with the right strategies, you can decrease alcohol cravings.

Strategies to Control Alcohol Cravings

Managing and controlling alcohol cravings requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the physiological and psychological aspects of addiction. Here are some effective strategies to help you decrease alcohol cravings and regain control over your recovery journey:

1. Acknowledge the Craving

The first step on how to control alcohol cravings is to acknowledge their presence. Recognize that cravings are a normal part of the recovery process and that they will pass. Remind yourself that cravings are temporary and do not have to dictate your actions. By acknowledging the craving, you can create a mental space to resist the urge to drink.

2. Distract Yourself

Distraction techniques can be highly effective in controlling alcohol cravings. Engage in activities that divert your attention away from the craving. Go for a walk, call a supportive friend or family member, or engage in a hobby that you enjoy. By redirecting your focus, you can reduce the intensity of the craving and ride it out until it subsides.

3. Practice Stress Management

Mastering stress management is key to dealing with alcohol cravings, as stress often triggers the urge to drink. Learning effective stress management techniques can help you cope with cravings and reduce the risk of relapse. Explore stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in physical exercise. Find healthy ways to manage stress and replace the urge to drink with positive coping mechanisms.

4. Identify and Avoid Triggers

Identifying and avoiding personal triggers is a critical strategy in how to control alcohol cravings. Take time to identify the people, places, or situations that make you more susceptible to cravings. Once you have identified these triggers, make a conscious effort to avoid them whenever possible. Create a supportive environment that minimizes exposure to alcohol-related cues and temptations.

5. Develop Coping Strategies

Developing personalized coping strategies can empower you to manage alcohol cravings effectively. Explore techniques such as urge surfing, where you ride out the craving without giving in to the urge to drink. Challenge the thoughts that drive the craving and replace them with more rational and empowering beliefs. Seek support from your support network or attend support group meetings to gain insights and guidance from others who have faced similar challenges.

6. Create a Strong Support Network

Building a strong support network is vital in dealing with alcohol cravings. Surround yourself with individuals who understand and support your recovery goals. This can include friends, family members, or fellow individuals in recovery. Share your struggles and successes with them, seek their advice, and lean on them during difficult times. Having a supportive community can provide encouragement and accountability, making it easier to navigate cravings.

7. How to Control Alcohol Cravings Through Self-Care

Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is essential in controlling alcohol cravings. Prioritize self-care activities that promote overall health and reduce stress. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. By prioritizing self-care, you strengthen your resilience and create a solid foundation for maintaining sobriety.

8. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is key to managing alcohol cravings effectively. Focus on small, attainable milestones rather than overwhelming yourself with the idea of complete abstinence forever. Celebrate each accomplishment and use it as motivation to continue on your recovery journey. Remember that progress takes time, and setbacks are a natural part of the process. Be kind to yourself and stay committed to your goals.


9. Stay Mindful and Present

Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present and aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can assist in observing cravings without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, you can develop a greater understanding of your triggers and cravings, allowing you to respond to them in a more conscious and intentional manner.

10. Engage in Healthy Alternatives

Replace the habit of drinking with healthy alternatives. Find activities or hobbies that provide a sense of fulfillment and joy. Explore new interests, join a sports team, take up an artistic pursuit, or volunteer for a cause you care about. Engaging in positive and fulfilling activities can fill the void left by alcohol and reduce the intensity of cravings.

11. Celebrate Milestones and Progress

Recognize and celebrate your milestones and progress along your recovery journey. Whether it's a week, a month, or a year of sobriety, each accomplishment is significant. Reward yourself with non-alcoholic treats or engage in activities that bring you joy. By celebrating your successes, you reinforce positive behavior and build confidence in your ability to control alcohol cravings.

12. Seek Professional Help

If you’re still asking yourself, “How do I control my alcohol cravings?” or experience frequent and intense cravings, seeking professional help is crucial. A healthcare professional or addiction specialist can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs. They may recommend evidence-based interventions such as medication-assisted treatment or cognitive-behavioral therapy to address cravings and support your recovery journey.


Managing alcohol cravings is an ongoing process that requires commitment, self-awareness, and the implementation of effective strategies. By acknowledging cravings, distracting yourself, practicing stress management, identifying triggers, developing coping strategies, seeking professional help, building a support network, practicing self-care, setting realistic goals, staying mindful, engaging in healthy alternatives, and celebrating milestones, you can regain control over your cravings and maintain long-term sobriety. Remember, recovery is a journey, and each step forward is a testament to your strength and resilience. You have the power to conquer alcohol cravings and live a fulfilling, alcohol-free life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, reach out to a healthcare professional or addiction specialist for guidance and support. Recovery is possible, and help is available.


National Institutes of Health (.gov) - How to Stop Alcohol Cravings - Handling the Urges to Drink

Priory - Ways to Stop Alcohol Cravings

Oxford Treatment Center - How to Manage Alcohol Cravings

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