thanksgiving

 

 

Tips for Handling the Urge
to Drink during Holiday Season

Plan ahead to stay in control

The words “urge” and “craving” refer to a broad range of thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions that tempt you to drink, even though you have at least some desire not to. You may feel an uncomfortable pull in two directions or sense a loss of control.

Fortunately, urges to drink are short-lived, predictable, and controllable. With time, and by practicing new responses, you’ll find that your urges to drink will lose strength, and you’ll gain confidence in your ability to deal with urges that may still arise at times. If you are having a very difficult time with urges, or do not make progress with the strategies after a few weeks, then consult a doctor or therapist for support.

Recognize two types of “triggers”

An urge to drink can be set off by external triggers in the environment and internal ones within yourself.

  • External triggers are people, places, things, or times of day that offer drinking opportunities or remind you of drinking. These “high-risk situations” are more obvious, predictable, and avoidable than internal triggers.
  • Internal triggers can be puzzling because the urge to drink just seems to “pop up.” But if you pause to think about it when it happens, you’ll find that the urge may have been 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 nervousness.

Consider tracking and analyzing your urges to drink for a couple of weeks. This will help you become more aware of when and how you experience urges, what triggers them, and ways to avoid or control them.

Avoid high-risk situations

In many cases, your best strategy will be to avoid taking the chance that you’ll have an urge, then slip and drink. At home, keep little or no alcohol. Socially, avoid activities involving drinking. If you feel guilty about turning down an invitation, remind yourself that you are not necessarily talking about “forever.” When the urges subside or become more manageable, you may decide to ease gradually into some situations you now choose to avoid. In the meantime, you can stay connected with friends by suggesting alternate activities that don’t involve drinking.

Cope with triggers you can’t avoid

It’s not possible to avoid all high-risk situations or to block internal triggers, so you’ll need a range of strategies to handle urges to drink. Here are some options:

  1. Remind yourself of your reasons for making a change. Carry your top reasons on a wallet card or in an electronic message that you can access easily, such as a mobile phone notepad entry or a saved email.
  2. If you are going to a party, plan ahead what you will drink
    Some ideas are to bring a bottle of sparkling cider to your host as a gift. Other drinks may be cranberry and club soda. If you know in advance, it solidifies your decision.
  3. Talk it through with someone you trust. Have a trusted friend on standby for a phone call, or bring one along to high-risk situations.
  4. Distract yourself with a healthy, alternative activity. For different situations, come up with engaging short, mid-range, and longer options, like texting or calling someone, watching short online videos, lifting weights to music, showering, meditating, taking a walk, or doing a hobby.
  5. Challenge the thought that drives the urge. Stop it, analyze the error in it, and replace it. Example: “It couldn’t hurt to have one little drink. WAIT a minute—what am I thinking? One could hurt, as I’ve seen ‘just one’ lead to lots more. I am sticking with my choice not to drink.”
  6. Ride it out without giving in. Instead of fighting an urge, accept it as normal and temporary. As you ride it out, keep in mind that it will soon crest like an ocean wave and pass.
  7. Leave high-risk situations quickly and gracefully. It helps to plan your escape in advance.
  8. Go to a 12 step meeting or other self-help group
    Research has shown that you will be influenced by the people you spend time with so stay close to those who are most supportive of your healthy way of life!

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