Curbing alcohol cravings

Curbing alcohol cravings can be a good thought however it needs help and a strategy, Even me thinking “cravings” can produce more and more of them. So here are a few strategies if like me you can’t drink alcohol or you just choose not to. Try them on for size, have fun with them and notice the difference. After I left hospital having had a bad reaction to alcohol the craving went straight away but having said that people are social beings and situations can always bring them on, after all we are human in our behaviors.

Say thanks to the cravings

I don’t know if you have ever heard of the phrase “what you resist persists?”. So if I said to you “don’t think of a red boat”. What do you think of? Yes you guessed it, a red boat! The mind can not process negatives so if you spend more time thinking of what you don’t want to feel rather than what you want to feel it’s not a great strategy.

I love it when people say to me, “I don’t want you so think this about me” and yet you had not had that thought until they said it to you. People are funny even though they know I can’t drink they will plant that thought. So my sister will say “oh I had some lovely wine at this festival sorry to mention it”. The thought had not actually occurred to me or that I would be bothered until she mentioned it. It’s simply the science of the brain.

So with all that in mind, avoid resistance and acknowledge your craving. By resisting it you will spend more time thinking about it, building up all those wired paths making them bigger and bigger so say thank you and let them pass.

The science behind the cravings

Firstly I am not a neuroscientist but I do have some inside knowledge as a coach. One thing I do know is that our brain is full of neurons that link together hundreds, thousands and millions in fact. When the outside data goes in it’s stored so we recognize this data next time we see it and we then carry out the task at hand. Another glass of wine for an example.

Now we are programmed from the earliest times around food and safety then as time moves on we are driven towards pleasure and away from pain.

So if the next alcoholic drink out with mates is going to cause pleasure the brain can shortcut that response and go straight to it. After all, it worked last time. So if you imagine the first time you do something it’s a very small path in a field that is covered in grass. Over time as you continue to make that journey the grass moves aside and the path gets bigger and bigger.

This is a great example of repetitive behaviour and how the neural pathways grow as a result. So pleasure, fantastic I know a shortcut for that. Bang and your in!

Of course there is the chemical reaction going on with your body when you repeat pleasure and you feel it and get that sense of enjoyment. So understanding how your brain works can really help you to understand your craving and begin to do something about it.

Know your Cravings

There is a feature on UK radio called amongst other things called the Top Ten at Ten others call it Pick of the Pops. It’s a very simple programming idea because yes it is about past hits and where they got to in the charts but it’s also about bringing back those memories.

The brain is hooked as we search for the years, what we were doing and the memory that goes with it, both happy and sad. So in essence they change your state and each song is a trigger. So if you think about curbing alcohol cravings what are you triggers? Here are some to get you started :

  • Friends visiting
  • Late night film
  • Stress at work
  • The smell of a bar
  • Food
  • The clinking of glasses

Now break out your triggers into senses

  • Visual
  • A feeling, so touching
  • Tasting
  • Smelling
  • Hearing

Which sense do you use with the most cravings attached to them because knowing that can really help. So if the trigger is a picture adjust the picture so making it black and white or far away. Try to shrink the feeling, adding a different taste or turning the volume down on your internal dialogue. Doing this can help you stop replacing one craving for another which can also happen.

Social Pressure

This is a bigger issue and one of the reasons I created Research has shown that if you create more alternatives to alcohol and I mean interesting ones you are more likely to choose them. The choices at the moment are really bad, but it’s getting better and the more of us that champion them the more we will see and taste.

I don’t mean the bad stuff that used to be around either! If those options are there it makes the cravings linked to social pressure easier to deal with. So if you have a 0.0 beer in your hand or glass of chilled presse the pressure drops and the brain can begin to form a habit. If you avoid those, “oh no are you OK moments” but with choice you can say yes I am fine and just move on.

In my experience people move on or search places that do have the options for you, which can create a whole new set of issues especially when you just want to eat!

Have an action plan

So review the above and really understand your cravings, it can sometimes be the catalyst for moving forward. Take a look at the 0.0% abv options by searching on this site and see what jumps out for you. It could help take the social pressure off for you. You are also taking a big step forward in curbing your alcohol cravings and becoming ill, if you are stressed like I was, alcohol can have a major impact on the body. It’s also an antidepressant so if you think you are relaxing you are probably not.

Do comment and join the discussion as I would love to know your experience, advice and thoughts. I always reply to everyone.



8 thoughts on “Curbing alcohol cravings”

  1. Phil, this is a good article, useful for anyone struggling with alcohol cravings. I do agree with your tips on learning about the triggers. they are part of therapeutic insights. often time the problem lies both with the patient and the therapist or whoever the alcoholic patient is communicating with. meaning that a clear concise explanation of what is at stake as far as alcohol cravings are concerned, and the best way to quell the cravings coupled with the patient’s willingness to comply is where the main issue lies from my understanding.

    I will add here that with some of the lessons I personally have learned during this Pandemic lockdown, Social distancing can be an effective coping mechanism for alcohol cravings. Not going out for social activities where alcohol of different brands are being served, lack of partying, shopping, and so forth can calm the cravings progressively which points to your  0.0 beer in hand concept. 

    The truth is that life is so hard for some people, and as a result, they are using anything as a short-cut to numb the negative emotions. Unfortunately, some of the coping mechanisms are destructive and habit forming like In the case of drinking, or smoking etc. Thanks for sharing this.


    • Hey Favorme, thanks so much for this and your point about the lockdown is well made. The seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is built within us I guess.  Your thoughts are really valued and I know readers will enjoy reading them. Thanks again for taking time out to add to the comments, thoughts and adding your own insights which are really valuable. Much appreciated, Phil

  2. Hi, Phil! You’re so right about the psychology of phrases like “don’t think about ____”. I hadn’t really thought of that concept applied to cravings before. This article is such a detailed way to break down cravings and addiction. I thought it was very helpful to see the science of alcohol cravings dissected in such a digestible way. This could help a lot of people. I’m a college student and have many friends who struggle with alcohol addiction but tend to deny its existence. I will, at the right times, be sure to show them this article or share with them what I’ve read. Thank you!

    • Hey Maria, thanks so much for this great feedback, Its important I get people, talking and sharing views. I appreciate you taking time out to share, Phil

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this post here. To be honest, being able to curb alcohol cravings is a good idea and can really be a good thing in a long while. Though not many people can actually say no to alcohol very easily and learning the way to say it is the best way to go about it. Thank you so much for sharing this here

  4. Good morning, Thank you very much for sharing this post here. Curb alcohol cravings can really be a good thing, if you think about in long term, for yourself and also for your health. A lot of people could say “NO” to alcohol very easily, but how would they do, and would they do it? I know sometimes it’s hard to say no when stay with your friends, while watching football match… etc. But I did it! I did not touch alcohol for at least 5 years, and now I feel like I don’t need it anymore.  Thank you so much for your post, so that I can share my experience here today.

    • Thanks Ling, it is great to hear your story. This is an important thing to share with the audience. I really appreciate you taking time out to comment. Phil


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