Things to do When You’re Craving a Drink

Utilize this list to change your after-dinner drink routine.

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Photo by Jenny Pace on Unsplash

Dry January? Sober conscious? Generally, examining your relationship with alcohol? Interested in changing patterns of behavior but struggling to figure it out?

I feel you.

Last year, after a string of personal tragedies beginning with the stillbirth of my (only) child, I fell down a rabbit hole of the drinking cycle. I drank to “relax”. I deserved it, damnit! My kid died. On the scale of deserving a drink this one felt off the charts. One drink morphed into three and often more. Then I would wake up in the middle of the night in a complete hang-xiety attack, fueled with shame. I should have known better. Why did I drink so much? I won’t do that again.

Except then I would do it again.

Alcohol is escapism.

Learning this one thing changed my entire outlook on alcohol. I knew I couldn’t drink away the death of my child but I was desperately searching for literally anything that would somehow soften it, even if that softening was temporary. Understanding that our society uses alcohol to avoid processing emotions (even happy ones!) flipped a switch for me. I embarked on a mission to change my behaviors and plug in other activities when I was craving that “escape”.

Journal

I wrote down every time I craved a drink, including what time of day it was and a brief snapshot of the events to that point in the day. This lead me to some deep introspection. Spoiler alert, my drinking to escape habit didn’t start with the loss of my baby. It started years before, I just didn’t see it.

Instead of reaching for a wine glass and a corkscrew, grab a pen and paper. It doesn’t matter what you write. Just that you do it.

Take a Walk

I’m not reinventing the wheel with this list here. I am sure there are plenty of these floating around. The point is, engage your body in some kind of gentle movement.

Doing so will force two reactions. One, the urge to drink will diminish and two, the endorphins from movement will release all the feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc).

Urge Surfing

Urge surfing is a technique utilized to identify and learn patterns of behaviors. Starting with the trigger and riding out the urge like a wave until it passes. Utilizing this tool helped me kick several bad quarantine and grief habits. Read more about it here.

Phone a Friend

I know, it’s a cheesy one. Also not a very “cool” thing to do with the pervasiveness of texting. It worked for me though. Physically holding the phone worked to trick my brain into the same feeling I used to have when holding a wine glass or a heavy bottomed whiskey glass.

Try One of These

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece detailing drinks to try when you are craving alcohol. Not mock-tail recipes either (those are weird).

Commit To Learning Something New

In the age of the internet, there are few things you can’t learn from YouTube University. Pick one and substitute the end of the day drink habit with learning something different.

Several years ago when my husband deployed for the first time, I learned to crochet. I stopped as life got busy and I lost interest in it over time. It was the first thing I picked up when I started to shift my alcohol habits. It kept my brain occupied and the concentration on a tedious craft distracted me from what I was craving.

Accupressure Mat

I am not a new-age guru conspirtuality (a new word I learned that is the conjunction of conspiracy theory and spirituality) believer. You won’t find my kitchen chocked full of essential oils or anything like that. There are such limited studies about the benefits of using an accupressure mat that I cannot even claim any of that either.

But ya’ll (yep, I’m southern AF, sorry about it). This thing has absolutely cured an untold number of tension headaches for me and at a minimum, provided me with enough of a distraction to forget I was even craving a drink in the first place. Call it a placebo effect, but it’s worked for me. A no frills one will cost about 20 bucks.

As I said, I’m not reinventing the wheel here. I struggled (hard) with alcohol. I craved that escapism for a long, long time. I stayed in that cycle of knowing I shouldn’t be drinking, promising myself I would only have 1, consuming a whole bottle of wine, then shaming the hell out of myself about it.

Even if you think this list is all hogwash, claptrap, or plain BS there is no harm in trying at least one. The trick is to commit to attempting long enough to change those formed pathways in your brain that cause you to reach for a drink.

Resident black sheep. Generational trauma explorer. Survivor. Advocate. Old enough to have a skincare routine.

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