Struggling with alcohol cravings? Try this 1-minute trick to combat them.
Learn how to stop your alcohol cravings
A craving can hijack your brain. Like a bad case of food poisoning for your mind, it can overtake you and leave you feeling totally powerless. In the moment, the desire for a drink can feel larger than anything else, including your intention to not pick up. So when you get seriously thirsty, what’s a strategy that will save you? If your buddies aren’t answering the phone and you’re staring a bottle down, playing the tape through is a craving crusher that will help. It’s a mental exercise that is easy to do anywhere and at any time.
Let’s set the scene. A craving can strike anywhere.
Let’s say you’re out at a restaurant with friends, and a tray of drinks is brought past your table. You glance down at the menu and notice a cocktail you haven’t heard of before that sounds enticing. It’s enough to make you crave a drink, and after dinner you consider stopping by a bar for a cocktail. Just one tasty cocktail. Right? Your brain is pulsing with this thought as you stop at every light. Are you going to head home or to the bar?
Quick craving-busting strategy to the rescue!
Here’s where you play the tape through. Imagine life as a movie, and your drinking gets the starring role. Play a movie through of how that one tasty cocktail would go for you, based on your past experience. You probably would order a few more at the bar, because one has never been enough for you in the past. And then you might stop at a liquor store on the way home, because you never want the party to stop when you leave the bar after a few. You’d end up spending more than you wanted, not to mention that you’d be driving drunk.
Remember how you drink, consequences you’ve experienced.
You wouldn’t stop at one tasty cocktail. You’d get a bottle and keep the party of one going at home. In the morning, you’d wake up with a splitting headache, wondering why you let yourself do it all again. You had hopes for giving up drinking, and in this movie, you’d be disappointed in yourself, exhausted, and hungover.
After playing that tape through, the single cocktail wouldn’t sound as enticing. A craving bubble can always be burst by a cold, hard serving of reality.
Use this strategy to kick cravings for anything.
Playing the tape through can help with any type of craving, from a hankering for sweets to a cigarette to pills. If your brain is begging you for a quick fix, play that quick fix out to its longer end. It will remind you that immediate gratification has a downside, which doesn’t align with your new long-term goals.
Your mind is a powerful tool against cravings.
Mental exercises are important defenses against picking up a drink because they’re free and easy. They don’t require cell phone reception or changing your physical location. Ideally, you can avoid triggering situations and talk about cravings with a support network of peers. But if a craving strikes and you need a quick tool at your disposal, you can turn your brain from an enemy into an ally. Watch a movie in your mind, and remember that the first drink isn’t ever the last one.
How long does it take for alcohol cravings to go away?
The answer isn’t uniform. For severe alcohol addiction, the withdrawal symptoms can last between five and ten hours following the last drink. For more mild drinkers, this withdrawal phase can last between five and seven days.
So when do alcohol cravings go away? Cravings do lessen over time but it can take some people many years to eliminate them altogether. The worse the addiction, the longer the cravings will last. It also doesn’t help matters if you live in an environment with alcohol.
There aren’t many recovering alcoholics who can pinpoint the exact moment when they alleviated their cravings. There’s also the possibility of experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome which can pop up a few months after your last drink.
Handling the urges to drink will determine your ability to shed alcohol cravings. Distracting yourself with healthy alternatives will keep you on the straight and narrow and get the cravings away even sooner.
This article was reviewed for accuracy by Sherrie Rager, PhD CADC II.