enjoying holidays with family

How to Manage Alcohol Cravings Over the Holidays

Alcohol cravings can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate, especially for individuals new to recovery. Whether due to social situations, stress, or habitual triggers, alcohol cravings require self-awareness, coping strategies, and a supportive environment. 

As we approach the holiday season, being able to manage alcohol cravings is more important than ever. Here are some effective techniques to help overcome these cravings. 

Identify Triggers and Patterns

Understanding the triggers that lead to alcohol cravings is the first step in managing them effectively. Reflect on situations, emotions, or environments that typically prompt the desire to drink. Do you notice that you want to reach for a drink after talking to a specific person or being at a certain place?

Common triggers for individuals in recovery include:

  • Stress
  • Social gatherings
  • Certain people
  • Emotions like loneliness or boredom
  • Specific times of the day 

Recognizing these triggers empowers you to anticipate and prepare for them proactively. Remember, the holidays bring about unique triggers that you may not be used to. Be prepared! 

Develop Coping Mechanisms

Once triggers are identified, cultivate alternative coping mechanisms to replace the urge to drink. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or hobbies that distract and soothe the mind. Physical exercise is also a powerful way to alleviate stress and improve mood, serving as a healthy outlet for managing cravings.

Another coping strategy is to play the tape forward. This involves playing out what would happen if you gave in and had that drink. You would probably have another drink, and another, potentially leading you back down the path of addiction. 

Build a Support System

Seek support from friends, family, or support groups dedicated to sobriety. Having a network of individuals who understand and empathize with your journey can provide invaluable encouragement and accountability. Online communities, support hotlines, or local support groups offer a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and receive guidance during challenging times. 

Practice Mindfulness and Distraction Techniques

Mindfulness techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or mindful breathing, help redirect focus away from cravings and into the present moment. Cravings are not permanent – they come and go. Being able to distract yourself is a powerful way to ride the wave until the craving passes.

You can also try distracting yourself with activities that require concentration, like reading, painting, cooking, or doing puzzles. This way, you’re diverting attention away from cravings and putting it into something else. 

Modify Your Environment

Make changes to your environment to minimize exposure to triggers. This could involve avoiding places or social circles that encourage drinking, removing alcohol from your home, or restructuring routines to reduce opportunities for alcohol consumption. It’s easier to manage your cravings when you surround yourself with the right people. 

Things get a little trickier during the holidays, as alcohol tends to show up in more places. Keep this in mind as you make decisions to attend certain parties or reconnect with certain friends or loved ones you haven’t seen in a while. 

Seek Professional Help if Needed

If you feel like you cannot control your alcohol cravings, seek professional help. It’s perfectly normal to need more support at certain times. Mental health professionals, therapists, or counselors specializing in addiction can provide personalized strategies, therapy, and guidance tailored to your specific situation. In some cases, medications or therapies designed to reduce alcohol cravings might also be recommended.

Practice Self-Compassion and Patience

Recovery is a journey that requires patience and self-compassion. Acknowledge the progress made and celebrate small victories. Understand that setbacks are a natural part of the process, and use them as learning opportunities, not reasons for discouragement. Be kind to yourself – treat yourself like you would a best friend. 

Alcohol Recovery: Taking One Day at a Time

Alcohol cravings can present significant challenges, but with determination, self-awareness, and effective strategies, managing these cravings becomes more achievable. Remember, seeking support, cultivating healthy habits, and being patient with yourself are key components of successfully navigating alcohol cravings on the path towards a healthier and happier life. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact the admissions team at Awakenings Treatment Center. We have convenient and flexible outpatient programs that can support you in your time of need.