Struggling to hold on to your sobriety? These tips on what to do when you want to drink will help you stay sober
It would be great if cravings for alcohol stopped once you complete rehab, but unfortunately, alcohol addiction doesn’t work that way. Alcoholics in recovery face triggers as they go throughout their daily lives that can create a strong urge to drink. Knowing what to do when you want to drink allows you to plan relapse prevention strategies ahead of time that will make it easier for you to maintain sobriety. To help you in your efforts to remain sober, we have some helpful tips adapted from advice for alcoholics in recovery from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. These tips will help you hold on to your sobriety even in the most challenging environment.
- Remind yourself why you got sober
If you find yourself fighting a craving and wondering how to stay sober, focus on your reasons for entering recovery and getting sober in the first place. Write down your top reasons for getting and staying sober, or create a list of the pros and cons of drinking. Keep the lists on your phone or in your wallet where you can easily reach it anytime the urge to drink becomes strong. Concentrating on your reasons for staying clean will serve to root you in sobriety and help you resist the temptation to drink.
- Distract yourself
Instead of focusing on your desire for alcohol, distract yourself in a healthy way by engaging in a proactive alternative activity. Plan out a variety of engrossing activities that you can focus your energies on, so you always have something you can get involved in no matter when or where the urge to drink strikes. Call a friend, meditate, exercise, participate in a sport or hobby you love, or get lost in a good book or video.
- Talk to someone you trust
Talking to a supportive person when you want to drink is one of the best ways to stay sober . Your support person may be your sponsor from a twelve-step group, another member of your recovery support network, or a trusted friend or family member. Whether the person understands what you are going through because they have been there themselves or simply is willing to listen and support you, having someone to turn to can help you stay strong in the face of temptation.
- Challenge the impulse
If you find yourself thinking of rationalizations for why you could start drinking again, challenge the impulses and think them all the way through. Formulate answers to these impulses to prevent insidious thoughts from weakening your resolve to stay sober. For example, when thoughts such as “after that day, I deserve a drink,” start creeping in, harden your resolve. Counter those thoughts with the attitudes and tools you learned in rehab , as in, “No, I deserve to keep the sobriety I’ve worked so hard for.”
- Ride out the urge
“Urge surfing” is another technique that can help you stay sober when you want to drink. Instead of denying your craving for alcohol or trying to ignore it, think of it as an ocean wave that you can ride as it crests, breaks, and ebbs away. Direct your attention inward and take an inventory of how you are experiencing the craving for alcohol. Focus on a single area where you are experiencing the urge and describe the sensation. Repeat with every area of your body where the craving is, noticing how the craving comes and goes in waves. While the goal is to experience the urge to drink in a different way, many people find their craving disappears as they perform this exercise.
- Make an escape
If you find yourself in a situation that is triggering your need to drink, don’t be afraid to leave. Dealing with the consequences that may come from leaving is better that losing your sobriety. It is a good idea to have an escape plan in place anytime you attend a social event. Drive yourself or attend with a sober friend so you can leave at a moment’s notice.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.