For individuals recovering from alcohol abuse, managing alcohol cravings can be a daily struggle. Here are seven strategies to help prevent relapse. Experts recommend recognizing triggers, avoiding high-risk situations, communicating effectively, building a support network, eating a nutritious diet, exercising and enjoying healthy, fun activities.
An urge to drink can be set off by external or internal triggers. Recognizing these and avoiding them are key to quitting drinking and maintaining long-term sobriety. In many cases, getting involved in other activities can help.1
External triggers: People, places, things or times of the day associated with drinking opportunities or behaviors can easily cause relapse. High-risk situations are more obvious, predictable and avoidable than internal triggers.1
Internal triggers: An urge to drink may feel like it arises out of thin air, However, these triggers are typically set off by a fleeting thought, a positive emotion such as excitement, a negative emotion such as frustration or a physical sensation such as a headache, tension or anxiety.1
The best strategy to prevent drinking is to avoid high-risk situations. Do not buy or keep alcohol at home. Family members can assist in this by not drinking alcohol at home or in the presence of loved ones in recovery. Avoid social situations in which alcohol is served. If you feel guilty about turning down an invitation, remind yourself that one day you may have the willpower to abstain when others are drinking around you. Avoid stopping by bars, even if you tell yourself it will only be for a few minutes. It is also ill advised to get together with old drinking buddies. Stay connected to other friends and suggest activities that don’t involve drinking.1
Understanding alcoholism can help family members be more supportive and help you avoid triggers. It is best to have a conversation with your spouse, partner and other family members right after rehab and periodically thereafter so they understand the different aspects of recovery and associated challenges. Communicating effectively not only means expressing your views calmly and clearly, but listening to your family’s concerns.
Surround yourself with positive influences and people who help build your confidence and self-esteem. Without this support, it is difficult to make the necessary life changes required for long-term sobriety. The availability of a healthy social network is particularly vital during the early months of recovery. Ongoing attendance at support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and regular meetings with your sponsor are also key to maintaining sobriety.2
Proper nutrition and hydration are key to the healing process because they help restore both physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. Macro- and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to depression, anxiety and low energy, all of which can trigger a relapse.3 Some foods are better at improving digestion, promoting steady blood sugar throughout the day and supporting brain chemistry. Healthy digestion optimizes the absorption of amino acids, vitamins and minerals to help reduce cravings. Steady blood sugar normalizes insulin and leptin, the hormones responsible for regulating hunger. 4 Eating adequate lean protein helps ensure the brain produces optimal levels of neurotransmitters associated with reward and feelings of well-being.
Individualized nutrition counseling and comprehensive nutrition education programs have been found to improve three-month sobriety success rates in people with substance use issues.5 A nutritionist who understands the particular needs of alcohol recovery can help create attainable meal plans and nutrition strategies. If you wish to get started on your own, here are a few helpful tips.3
Getting involved in physical activity may be a good way to replace self-destructive behaviors because exercise is believed to stimulate some of the same circuits and neurotransmitters in the brain as many addictive substances.8 As with nutrition, starting out slowly is more likely to result in sticking to your new exercise routine. Walking is a great place to begin and an activity you can do outside or inside on walking tracks or even at shopping malls. An optimal routine should focus on both cardiovascular exercise and strength training.
It is common for alcoholics to give up activities they once found enjoyable. Part of recovery is about rediscovering hobbies and activities from one’s past and developing new interests. This will help alleviate boredom, which can trigger relapse and enable you to pursue fulfilling, healthier alternatives. The sky is the limit on the types of hobbies one can pursue — antiquing, arts and crafts, cooking, reading, going to movies and team sports are just a few of the ways one can enjoy leisure time and meet new friends.
Keep in mind there is not a universal best way to quit drinking long term. You may need to experiment until you find a combination of strategies that works best for your unique situation.
© 2017 Addiction Treatment | Elements Behavioral Health | Drug Rehab Treatment Centers. All Rights Reserved.