Overcoming the Urge to Drink Alcohol

Overcoming the Urge to Drink Alcohol

If you’ve ever tried to stop drinking alcohol, you may feel like the persistent cravings are the hardest part. After all, how can you move on from something that’s on your mind all the time?

The good news is that with the right strategies and support, you can successfully overcome these cravings and regain control over your relationship with alcohol. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore effective techniques to help you stop the urge to drink alcohol and create a plan that works for you.

Understanding Alcohol Cravings and Triggers

To effectively manage alcohol cravings, it's important to understand why they occur and what triggers them. Cravings can be categorized into two types: external triggers and internal triggers. External triggers are people, places, things, or times of day that remind you of drinking or offer opportunities to drink. On the other hand, internal triggers are thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that prompt the urge to drink.

Tracking and analyzing your urges to drink can help you identify patterns and gain insight into your triggers. Consider keeping a journal to record when and why you experience cravings. By recognizing your triggers, you can then work on knowing how to stop the urge to drink alcohol.

Plan Ahead to Stay in Control to Stop the Urge to Drink Alcohol

As you embark on your journey to stop drinking or reduce your alcohol consumption, it's essential to plan ahead and develop strategies to stay in control when cravings arise. One effective approach is the "recognize-avoid-cope" method commonly used in cognitive-behavioral therapy. This approach involves recognizing the urge to drink, avoiding tempting situations, and developing coping strategies to deal with cravings.

To implement this approach, you can:

Recognize the Urge to Drink Alcohol

When an urge to drink arises, it's important to acknowledge and recognize it. Understand that cravings are temporary and will eventually pass. Remind yourself of your commitment to change and focus on the reasons why you want to stop drinking or cut back. Carry a list of your top reasons with you as a reminder of your goals.

Avoid Tempting Situations

One effective strategy to manage cravings is to avoid the situations that trigger them. At home, remove all alcohol or keep it to a minimum to reduce the temptation to drink. Socially, steer clear of activities or events that revolve around alcohol. If you feel guilty about declining invitations, remember that it's not a permanent choice. Once you feel more confident in handling cravings, you can gradually reintroduce situations you previously avoided.

Cope with Triggers You Can't Avoid

While it's not possible to avoid all tempting situations or internal triggers, there are several strategies you can employ to cope with cravings:

  • Remind yourself of your reasons for making a change. Keep a wallet card or a digital message with your top reasons easily accessible.
  • Talk to someone you trust when cravings hit. Having a supportive friend or loved one to reach out to can provide encouragement and help distract you from the urge to drink.
  • Engage in healthy alternative activities to distract yourself. Create a list of short, mid-range, and longer options such as calling a friend, watching videos, exercising, meditating, or pursuing hobbies.
  • Challenge the thoughts driving the urge to drink. Analyze the irrationality of those thoughts and replace them with more rational and supportive ones.
  • Ride out the craving without giving in. Accept that the urge is temporary and will eventually fade away, similar to an ocean wave.
  • Plan your escape route for tempting situations. If you find yourself in an environment that triggers cravings, have a plan in place to leave gracefully and quickly.

Developing Coping Strategies

In addition to the recognize-avoid-cope approach, there are other coping strategies you can utilize to manage alcohol cravings effectively. These strategies focus on self-care, building a support system, and seeking professional help when needed.

Prioritize Self-Care

Quitting alcohol can be a stressful process, and taking care of yourself is crucial during this time. Prioritize your physical and emotional well-being by:

  • Staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity to boost your mood and energy levels.
  • Ensuring you get sufficient sleep to support your overall health.
  • Rediscovering hobbies and activities that provide joy and fulfillment, helping to distract you from the urge to drink.
  • Practicing self-compassion and avoiding self-judgment if you experience setbacks along the way.

Build a Support System

Having a strong support system can greatly enhance your success in managing alcohol cravings. Consider the following sources of support:

  1. Trusted friends or family members who are understanding and supportive of your decision to stop the urge to drink alcohol.
  2. Sober communities or support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, where you can connect with others who share similar experiences.
  3. Online support groups or forums that provide a safe space for discussing challenges and receiving encouragement.
  4. Therapists or counselors specializing in addiction treatment who can provide professional guidance and support throughout your journey.

Seek Professional Help

If you find it challenging to manage your cravings or if you feel overwhelmed during the process of cutting back or quitting alcohol, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Healthcare professionals can offer additional strategies and interventions tailored to your specific needs. They may also prescribe non-addictive medications that can help to stop the urge to drink alcohol or lessen the rewarding effects of alcohol.

Remember, everyone's journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Be patient with yourself and stay committed to your goal of overcoming the urge to drink alcohol.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the health effects of drinking alcohol?

Drinking alcohol can have various health effects, even in moderate amounts. It can disrupt sleep, cause digestive issues, memory problems, increased anxiety and depression, and lead to conflicts in relationships. Long-term excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and impaired cognitive function.

Q: How much alcohol is considered safe to drink?

The recommended limits for moderate drinking are up to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink per day for women. It's important to note that these limits refer to standard drink sizes, which contain approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. It's crucial to be aware of the alcohol content in different beverages and to monitor your consumption accordingly.

Q: What are the risks associated with drinking alcohol excessively?

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a wide range of health problems, including liver disease, addiction, cardiovascular issues, mental health disorders, and an increased risk of accidents and injuries. It can also have a negative impact on personal relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life.

Q: How can I tell if I have an alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a diagnosable medical condition characterized by a problematic pattern of alcohol consumption. Symptoms may include a strong craving or compulsion to drink, difficulty controlling alcohol intake, withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit, and continued alcohol use despite negative consequences. If you suspect you may have an AUD, it's important to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Conclusion: How to Stop the Urge to Drink Alcohol

Overcoming the urge to drink alcohol requires a combination of self-awareness, effective coping strategies, and a strong support system. By recognizing your triggers, planning ahead, and prioritizing self-care, you can successfully manage cravings and regain control over your relationship with alcohol. Remember, seeking professional help is always an option if you need additional support along the way to know how to stop the urge to drink alcohol. Stay committed to your goals and embrace the positive changes that come with a healthier, alcohol-free lifestyle.


Healthline - 9 Ways to Manage Alcohol Cravings

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Learn the facts

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol's Effects on the Body

The smarter way to stay accountable
Real-time group support and personalized feedback to help you overcome addiction — no matter how many times you’ve tried.
Learn Morean iphone with the text identify where boundaries may have slipped

Find Effective, Evidence-Based Treatment in the Relay Program for Alcohol Addiction

There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on alcohol. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay's addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change - at home, at your own pace. To each new program member, we provide a personalized recovery plan, a peer support group, progress tracking, journaling, and intelligent insights about your behavior patterns, all within a simple and secure mobile app Our proven approach helps program members achieve the best chance at long-term recovery without the time or expense of rehab or therapy. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at

relay logo

Get connected and stay accountable
with peers

Join a team

A better way to recovery, right in your pocket.

a cell phone with a text message on the screen