When you’re wondering what to do instead of drinking, it can be hard to focus on anything besides your cravings. While recovery is different for everyone, almost all individuals experience cravings during this process. The most important thing to know is that having the urge to drink does not mean you have to drink.1 Nor are cravings a sign of failure of alcohol rehab. Fortunately, California offers many alternative activities to try instead of drinking.
Four Practices to Stay Sober When You Feel Like Drinking
But even with all the alternative options to alcohol out there, ultimately, it comes down to making a choice. Although sometimes urges can reach an intensity that drowns out your voice of reason. To help you stay on track and avoid relapse, here are four practices to help you handle cravings and stay focused on your goals.
1. Keep a Mantra
It is essential to identify the triggers that make you want to drink. But it is equally important to remember why you decided to quit in the first place. Keep a mantra in place to help you hold onto that reason when cravings hit. Even a simple phrase like, “It’s not worth it,” can disrupt your thoughts and allow you to begin listing reasons why it is far better for you to stay sober than start drinking again.
There may be days when you have a hard time coming up with that list. Hardships do not stop because you got sober, and it can be challenging to handle grief, loss, frustration, and anxiety when your go-to coping mechanism is no longer part of the picture. On these days, remind yourself, “I don’t feel good right now, and things are hard, but I know there are other ways I can get through this.”
Other mantras and helpful reminders include:
- Pain is temporary
- Change takes time
- I choose my actions, not my thoughts
- I have more to live for than this moment
- No matter how bad I feel, I always have a choice
2. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan
You may have already covered relapse prevention in rehab, but it is more than just a one-time process. You will have to cope with triggers throughout recovery, and there may be some completely unexpected triggers and throw you off guard. Do not panic; in fact, accepting that spontaneous urges will arise can give you greater confidence when they do occur.
Make a list of the internal and external triggers you have.2 Internal triggers include depression, anxiety, stress, negative self-talk, self-defeating thoughts, and so on. External triggers can consist of seeing other people drink, certain places, songs, or even pictures. Even relationships with some people can trigger you, and it is okay to remove yourself from them. No one else needs to understand your recovery except you. What matters is that you feel confident in the steps you are taking to prioritize your well-being.
3. Distract Yourself
Cravings do not last forever, no matter how intense they are. You may spend hours contemplating drinking again. Days could pass in a blur as you wrestle with yourself and try to bargain your way into drinking “just one more time.” Do not give in; don’t fight the urge to the point you’re exhausting all your energy and reaching a breaking point. Instead, accept that it is there, know that it’s normal, and give yourself some compassion and understanding. Then, turn to a distraction.
A distraction can be texting a friend, spending time with your pet, making art, writing, exercising, or anything else that gives you a place to direct your attention and energy. For some people, it’s helpful to have a list of activities to do instead of drinking. Just make a list in your phone’s notes, and refer to it when you’re wrestling with the temptation to drink again.
If you have a good friend or sober partner, you can call them when the urge is intense and talk it through. You do not need anyone to convince you to stay sober, but it can be helpful having someone stand as a reminder that you have made it this far and are worth the effort it takes to keep going.
4. Go to Alcohol Rehab in California
Recovery centers have been shown to significantly improve sobriety outcomes, especially when patients choose inpatient rehab programs. If you have not continued individual therapy after alcohol rehab, you may want to consider locating a therapist specializing in substance abuse. California is home to some of the most amazing counselors and therapists in the nation. In addition to helping navigate other emotions and challenges, therapists can also help you develop healthy ways of coping with cravings. You’ll also learn to practice self-forgiveness and love. It requires a great deal of acceptance and courage to go through recovery, and the process is not always linear and certainly not clean.
Therapy gives you an open space to freely express thoughts and feelings you may hold back from other people. It’s a place to set goals, explore fears, and overcome anxiety by talking it through and coming up with actionable responses.
Remember: Your Thoughts Aren’t Commands
Cravings are not in charge of your life. You are. Even though urges may feel demoralizing, you can still push through them and reach a place of peace. With time, they will get easier to manage. Stay mindful and remember you don’t have to go back to old actions because you experience old feelings. If substance abuse affects you or someone you love and want to take the first step toward a brighter and sober life, contact your local hospital or one of our professionals at Ocean Hills Recovery.
Sources: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/overcoming-alcohol-addiction.htm  https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/Triggers.pdf
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.