How to stop alcohol cravings – triggers

So how to stop alcohol cravings, and I am not talking about a major issue with alcohol here or am I?

The thing is that once people start labeling people who drink alcohol then it can cause all sorts of issues.

This is one of the biggest questions I get asked on the blog.

I can understand why!

The problem with labels is that we often become the label when really we are trying to sort out a behavior or a habit and the two things are very different indeed.

Once a habit becomes who we are then the issue becomes harder to sort.

Take these two sentences for example:

I am a big drinker versus sometimes I have two many glasses of wine.

One labels you as a big drinker and nearly an alcoholic and the other one is a habit. It’s the same scenario but very different emotions are attached.

However one of the areas you can really focus on is “triggers” as this can help us focus on the behaviour rather then identity of the person drinking. This can even be true about eating a big cake.

Addictions come in all sort of forms not just drinking!

Food Addictions

As a coach I have worked with my clients over the years on what triggers the behaviour, (not the person) in all sorts of areas of their lives including work, home, hobbies, addictions.

Of course, I have had to look at my own triggers as well otherwise I may not be living with liver disease even when I was just a social wine drinker!

What’s a trigger in terms of behaviour?

I actually love triggers as once you realize something is a trigger that leads to a behavior you start to deal with it as part of the problem without beating yourself up!

In other words it is more than who you are!

And that’s very important!

Alcohol and Triggers

Let’s think of it in an easy equation A means B or C because of D.

What? Stay with me!

So there is a direct link to having a glass of alcohol (and in many cases that may be fine) however the problem starts when you begin depending solely on the trigger and it becomes a habit.

It is an automatic response in other words. You don’t actually have to think about it!

We might think triggers are something massive but very often they can really be small things and then over time they get bigger and more dramatic.

Nuts anyone?

For example, I had one coaching client who had to have a drink whenever she saw peanuts.

Now this may at first seem a bit weird but I was yes I totally get it.

Why?

Because over the years bars have them as so called snacks in full sight and the popular snack is of course covered in salt and therefore you get thirsty. So you go to the bar and drink more alcohol.

Bar snacks and Alcohol

The good thing that happened to the “bar snack” was the news report that said as people stuck their fingertips in to get the nuts they were then covered in all sorts of material.

I won’t go into the details here, but I am sure don’t need to let your imagination go away that far to imagine what I am talking about!

My review of alcohol free beer top 5 choice to go with those nut cravings is here

So it can be nut, crisp or anything that you associate with alcohol. However, you might take a step towards a glass of wine triggered by stress, or a conversation with your boss.

In fact the list of triggers are actually endless depending on the person.

It can be as simple as a Friday night film or TV programme and why wine drinking becomes a habit. Before you know it is a bottle of wine or even two!

It easy done!

My review of favorite alcohol free wine is here

By the way I used to hate alcohol free wine but they have now mastered the art in some but not all the brands! Its worth a go.

So what did you tell me are the top triggers for alcohol ? Well here are a few and some may surprise you especially for a blog that promotes alcohol free drinks!

Go Alcohol Free – Or maybe not!

Now this is a bit of a controversial one as even with liver disease I am a big advocate of alcohol free drink.

The thing is if there was more choice and better tasting options social attitudes would change and we know from current university studies if people are giving good options they will take them especially around alcohol.

However, for some people the temptation of an alcoholic drink increases if they do the same behaviour even though the drink is totally alcohol free.

Now the trigger could be the drink or just the social element of the brain in a bar but it’s important to know that alcoholic free options are not for everyone.

Especially if they could lead to you drinking alcohol and it affects your health.

Bars and Triggers for Alcohol

Now as a social drinker I didn’t really have that issue. I guess it was just a habit mixed with stress and genetics that made my liver fail.

So for me I know alcohol would kill me so I just don’t touch it and that actually includes most products with alcohol including medicines by way.

Find out why some medicines have alcohol in them and what you can do about it.

So if the alcohol free drink is a trigger just be honest with yourself about it.

Again social interaction does not help here and neither do bars, restaurants or pubs truly do their bit despite their commitment to offer no or low alternatives.

I know a guy who was a random connection and never had a drink issue at all. He went into a pub one day and asked what alcohol free options were available ( because he just fancied it ) and the reaction could not have been more negative.

Plus they did not have any options either. He ended up having a full alcohol filled pint of beer and whereas he was happy with that he said to me straight away “I see what you mean! You get this all the time don’t you?”

“Very often” I replied!

That’s attitudes to alcohol for you

Chicken and Egg

So there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation going on.

Many transplant advisories say don’t drink alcohol free as they might have a trace of alcohol even though so do bread rolls, a few deserts and orange juice but they fail to mention that. Or of course someone may switch your drink.

I get that as well but they could do that with a glass of cola as I know from being in club on holiday.

Having said that they make a good point in that if it is a trigger you will need to avoid it unless you have gone through the appropriate treatment to be able to resist that or maybe you need to avoid it all together.

You cannot have a liver transplant while still drinking alcohol, they won’t go near you! And that makes total sense its a two-way commitment after all.

Just a big drinker?

Now of course most people say yes but I am just a social drinker but in my experience there is not much of a gap if any between a so called alcoholic and a heavy social drinker.

 

Big drinker verses alcoholic

It just that one of the labels has more emotion attached to them. And more judgment as well even if you don’t drink anymore.

In fact, I think I have been judged more for not drinking than drinking. Its a funny world this alcohol stuff and judgment!

I personally feel alcohol free options have a great role to play but you will only know if it’s a good way to reduce alcohol content for you!

This is regardless of how much of a drinker you are.

Being self-aware is a great tool as is understanding your outcome.

The brain is designed to take shortcuts

If you think about it would be impossible for the brain to do everything and think about it all at once. It would be impossible which is why we have what you could call a conscious mind and a subconscious mind.

The Brain and Alcohol

Remember the brain is programmed by and large to be moving towards pleasure or away from pain. It goes back to our cave days and not the dinosaurs as we were not around at the time contrary of what many believe!

Take the basic premise of learning to ride a bike and yes it has everything to do with alcohol and habits.

When we first start to ride a bike we are in what we call in conscious incompetence, we know that cannot ride very well and of course we may have even fallen off.

Over time, we realize we are getting better at riding a bike so we become consciously aware of that fact and then as time moves on we forget what we are doing consciously and just ride our bike and do it very well.

If you think about it we don’t think about most things, as the brain can’t think about everything at once. That is why it has different functions.

So imagine hundreds, and thousands and millions of neurons in your brain connected to be able to help us take shortcuts and before we know it has become a habit.

If you think about it makes sense and given all the chemical reactions that swirl around when we are drinking alcohol is it any wonder we can get even a little bit addicted to it?

The best example I can give you is of a woodland path that has not been walked on much. It very tiny and we are careful as we walk. Overtime as more people walk along it, it gets biggest and easier to follow.

Think small road in to a motorway or a big autobahn.

Neurons in the Brain Metaphor

It’s how triggers work. We do them once and then over time the brain learns to take a shortcut. And yes the brain has a positive intent at play but sometimes our outcome comes with not so good side effects.

The Need to Relax

This is a biggie and with this issue is it’s almost always the symptom not the cause that we try to address.

The one thing you have told me on the blog is that after a heavy day at the office where you come home you kick your shoes off and grab a glass of wine. Then repeat 5 days a week!

Relax with a glass of wine

Many of you have said in your comments or messages that the one glass is not the issue it’s when it becomes the norm or is no longer a Friday night thing it’s also a Monday night thing as well.

Makes sense right?

So what’s the equation here, it’s simple really. Relax= Alcohol which is fine however if the Equation becomes Relax = Alcohol =Alcohol =Alcohol then there is a potential issue brewing.

No pun intended!

I am not talking the occasional blowout here either it all about habits.

So could you start to align relaxing by doing other things and creating a habit. I have written about leisure activities here but they really do help if you are cutting down alcohol or giving it up altogether.

Many readers of the blog have the following structures that have worked including :

  • Relaxing with a non alcoholic beer but making sure that is all that is in the fridge.
  • Running a bath
  • Going to straight to the gym or jogging for a long walk
  • Going to a movie
  • Listening to calm music
  • Using self hypnosis as soon as they get in.
  • Taking up a hobby
  • Meeting friends for a coffee even online and talking the day through
  • Hiring a coach and scheduling that meeting at the end a long day
  • Taking up singing lessons

Now some of these may appeal and some may not but the key here is doing anything to break the habit of going straight in from work or even logging off if you work at home and opening the fridge and taking out a glass of wine.

It breaks the cycle!

If you do it often enough that will replace the other cycle but make sure it serves the original process of relaxing. After all that is the positive intent of the brain.

If your brain is telling you to relax then you will need to relax and an honor its attention just not with so much alcohol.

Social Pressure

And this is a biggie and for people the biggest.

If you start to socialize the trigger is friends = drink

It is easily done as much socializing and I include myself in this is where all the chatting, eating and even watching a play can be the trigger for drinking.

Alcohol and Social Pressure

It is interesting that even going to watch a film now, there is a bar or place to get alcohol. So much for a tub of ice cream.

Of course restaurants and beers can be part of the trigger but mainly it’s the expectation and the need to conform that drives us to one more, two or even three!

As a non-drinker now I have even been pressured me to drink even though it could kill me and when I don’t that usual line comes out which “he must have a problem!”

No you idiot my liver will fail and I die, OK? But of course I don’t say that as am very polite as you can imagine.

 

Here people have suggested that alcohol free beers, wine and gin help because they were not challenged as much if they had something in their hand! People just want others to conform!

It may sound crazy but we are very visual characters and therefore what we clock with our eyes matters.

Overtime your friends and work colleagues may actually start to try out your alcohol free choices or at least that has been the anecdotal evidence from people here on the blog.

It seems it is OK not to drink and be a trend setter! I’m personally fine with that!

Alcohol free gin is great and zero calories so you could say you are on a diet and that might be your get out of drinking card.

Ironically people are much more sympathetic to that.

Again creating a leisure activity that does not include alcohol can overtime take away the trigger so laughter or exercise becomes the replacement.

Leisure Activity and Alcohol

Remember we are replacing a habit here and honoring the positive intention. So if the positive intention is enjoying a few drinks with friends, how can you honor that while avoiding the alcohol and keeping you and your friends happy.

I can’t tell you how much importance has to be placed on honoring the minds positive intent otherwise you just replace it with something else!

Food is a biggie

Alcohol and food go together in most circles and you need a strategy for this.

Restaurants don’t help in my view as the range of alcohol free alternatives is boring and sometimes very dull so you end up saying I’ll just have a cola because even an elderflower presse is not on the menu.

Plus they also look at you as if you mad.

Eating Out and Alcohol Can Be A Trigger

I just say I am allergic to alcohol and that sets them off into a health and safety panic and at least I get judged less!

I rang one restaurant and ordered some alcohol free beer and wines ahead. Yes I took action this one Christmas meal out and actually the manager said it was one of their best-sellers.

How much they had actually bought remains a mystery!

They put a beer bucket on the table with bottles of Peroni Liberia which is totally alcohol free and it was a really nice touch! So always email or ring ahead as you will never know what the smarter ones will do for good customer service !

Just knowing you have some great branded alcohol free options can take away that feeling and it is a good strategy for how to stop alcohol cravings.

A more helpful solution.

I am a big fan of hypnosis and have been using it for years. Addiction can come in many forms from TV, to chocolate and extreme sport so it should not be considered a dirty word.

Remember It’s just the brain working perfectly working towards pain and away from pleasure.

Hypnosis can be use effectively on how the mind works to also reduce alcohol consumption and anything we might be addicted to! Of course the danger is we replace one bad habit with another and that would never do!

Hypnosis including self hypnosis done well can really help and I have partnered up with one of the best therapists in the business called Mark Tyrrel who has devised a great online programme that you can use anywhere as long as you can find a quiet place for half an hour or so,

It can be used on a tablet, desktop or even your mobile.

There is an affiliate link below which helps contribute to the site but of course you get charged the same.

Just click on the banner below and if you go ahead and use I you would love to know your results so please come back and make a comment.

 

So overall those triggers need watching

Keep a diary of what you think your triggers are as a way to know what your drivers are.

In any coaching programme knowing where you are before you go somewhere else is always key.

In fact, I would say that awareness of any kind is helpful but especially in how to stop alcohol cravings from relaxation to social pressure and remember the aim here is to replace one habit with a better one.

Or at least acknowledge and honor the positive intent of the craving

It will be doing something for you on some level. I would love your thoughts on how to stop alcohol cravings so please message me below on what is working for you, I love reading your comments.

 

 

8 thoughts on “How to stop alcohol cravings”

  1. Hey Phil. Very Important article. Lot of people forget that you don’t need to be alcoholic to have problems with alcohol. Especially now, with covid, quarantine ale all related issues we need to be more careful then ever. Thank you very much for this post, I cant express how crucial it is to remind to people ways of dealing with stress without help of too many drinks.

    Reply
    • Hey Cognito, thanks so much for your very thoughful article commet . 

      I have not touched on covid much on the blog but you are so right, it does have an effect on drinking and research is starting to bear that out. Lockdowns everywhere add to the mental health issues and sometimes this leads to more consumption of alcohol. 

      I thought your comment was very insightful. Thanks for reading how to stop alcohol cravings. It is much appreciated, all the best, Phil

      Reply
  2. Hi Phil 

    Thank you for your post “How to stop alcohol cravings – triggers”. You nailed it with this post. The triggers to forming the habit of drinking are truly the signals that we should be able to recognize and then effectively deal with. In terms of taste, alcohol-related beverages many times do not taste that well. Fortunately, there are some alternatives to alcoholic drinks that really taste well. 

    Our minds like you correctly point out are powerful, what will we not achieve if we can consciously direct all that power in the right direction? History is filled with examples of the power of sober thinking. One of the most difficult things in life is to have a life partner who is a heavy drinker. Most times that person hates you for pointing to the problem. 

    Keep up the good work. 

    All the best 

    Louis Munro

    Reply
    • Hi Louis, very wise words and plenty of insight in your comment so thanks for adding this to the blog. I love your history examples and your partner insight is first class. It was a pleasure to read and have this as a resource on the article.

      I really appreciate you taking time out to comment on how to stop alcohol cravings. All the very best, Phil

      Reply
  3. Heya Phil, 

    Excellent article. Addiction aside from being a neurological disposition based around heavy dependency is brought about by the repetition of behaviors which you find to be remedying a deep seated pain or trauma. Identifying the issue through identifying the source of discomfort is a super important facet of recovery. A lot of AA and 12 step style programs will usually tell you to “face the demon”, as it were.

    Reply
    • Hey thanks  so much for your insight and what a great comment. Plenty of real value in there.  I think the AA approach is really interesting and I guess its one personally I have no experience of. 

      I guess I think that anything that embeds a habit as an identity can sometimes have the opposite effect. I know they have done great work though. I really appreciate you stopping by, great value and helpful. All the very best, Phil

      Reply
  4. Hello there, thank you for sharing this wonderful information and I have been my glad that there is some really good information online for all of us at see and make the best of and this is one very good information you have here for us all. This alcohol has damaged a lot of fo people and sooner they understand that it’s not the best the Heathier they will ne

    Reply
    • Hey Sean, thanks so much for reading the post and I appreciate the sentiments. Its always good to get some feedback. I appreciate it, all the very best, Phil

      Reply

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