Helping An Alcoholic Get Help – Cravings for alcohol are very common in people who are trying to cut down on their drinking. Here we explore what cravings are, why we get them, and how to manage alcohol cravings.

Page medically reviewed by Claire Rimmer (BA (Hons), Dip.Psychology, FDAD (NCAC)), Lead Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Altrincham, in June 2022.

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help

Making the decision to cut back on your drinking, or stop drinking altogether, is a really positive step towards a much healthier lifestyle. However, reducing your alcohol intake may lead you to crave alcohol. These can be quite intense and powerful, especially if you are in the early days of your addiction recovery.

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The good news is that cravings usually only occur for a short period of time, and if you can distract yourself and ‘ride it out’, you can continue on your path to wellness.

Craving for alcohol feels like an overwhelming urge to drink alcohol. Your cravings may be so strong that you find it hard to concentrate or think about anything else until the craving is over. You may also experience other troublesome or unpleasant symptoms in addition to your cravings. These can include anxiety, sleep problems, irritability, low energy and poor appetite.

Cravings are common in the early stages of recovery and you may experience them on and off for a number of years. A typical craving usually lasts for a few minutes.

There are three main reasons why you may experience cravings when you reduce your drinking or stop drinking altogether. These are:

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Frequent drinking can build up a tolerance for alcohol in your body. This means you need to drink more to feel ‘drunk’ and you are likely to be much more prone to experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These can include feelings of anxiety, irritability, nausea and headaches, as well as intense cravings for alcohol.

Cravings can also be triggered by situations or emotions. For example, you may crave alcohol when you are in a certain bar where you have been drinking, when you are at a party or when you are on holiday. Likewise, internal triggers like stress can also lead you to crave alcohol and the relaxed feeling you used to achieve when you had a drink.

Habits are often quick to form and can be hard to break. If you have developed a habit of drinking after a long day at work, or to celebrate the start of the weekend, you may find yourself craving alcohol at these times. This is because these scenarios can act as a cue to drink.

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help

“When you​​​​ start to put in rules and conditions, that in itself is a warning sign that something is going on, try to control it. Even if you start justifying it yourself by saying ‘well that was a bad day’, or ‘it’s getting close to the weekend’.

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Knowing that the craving is only temporary and will go away on its own can help you get through it without reaching for a drink. Acknowledge this natural sensation and remind yourself that it will go away.

It’s a good idea to make a list of things you can do when a craving hits. Distractions can include:

These distractions can help you focus on something other than the craving so you can get through it.

If stress or other difficult emotions are triggers for your cravings, it’s a good idea to learn some stress or anxiety-reducing techniques to help you deal with these emotions. These can include activities such as mindfulness, meditation or yoga. Learning coping strategies to use when you feel stressed, upset, anxious or angry means you are less likely to reach out to an alcoholic when you feel this way.

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“Make sure you eat regular, healthy meals and hydrate yourself, avoid alcohol which can lead to depression and worsen anxiety. It’s very easy to engage in unhealthy habits when you’re stressed – such as overeating, watching too much TV and don’t engage in physical exercise Keep up good sleep habits because quality sleep has an incredibly restorative function that many of us marginalize at our peril.

This is especially important if you are in early recovery from addiction. By recognizing and avoiding the places and situations that make you want to drink, you can reduce your chances of slipping up. Stay away from pubs and bars, plan social activities that do not contain alcohol and remove alcohol from your home. By planning ahead, you can ensure that you stay in control.

It is important to understand that if you are new to sobriety, or are still drinking small amounts of alcohol while trying to cut back, it is likely that your cravings are down after withdrawal. This is your body’s physical response to having less alcohol in your system. In this situation, the best thing you can do is seek professional support to help you withdraw safely and under medical supervision. An alcohol detox is an effective way to achieve this.

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help

If you struggle with your cravings for alcohol and find that the urge to continue drinking has become too much for you, you may need specialist support. This is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. Seeking help is a brave step forward.

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Your first port of call may be for you to talk to your GP about your cravings and other symptoms. They can give advice and point you in the direction of specialist rehab, if appropriate.

Alternatively, you can contact a private provider directly, such as Priory. Our world-class alcohol addiction treatment programs offer round-the-clock support, helping you take steps toward a full and lasting recovery. We offer a free addiction evaluation, medically assisted detoxification, one-on-one and group therapy, family support and free aftercare for 12 months. We also offer flexible treatment options, including day care and outpatient addiction treatment if you just need ongoing support to manage your cravings, as opposed to intensive residential rehab.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help you beat your alcohol cravings and achieve the healthy, alcohol-free life you deserve.

World-class addiction treatment makes recovery possible with Priory. Book a FREE ASSESSMENT or call us on 0330 056 6023 to speak to one of our compassionate team today. Harmful alcohol consumption does not always appear in plain sight. Here are some signs that a loved one may be hiding their alcohol use.

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Many people with a drinking problem become good at hiding or minimizing it. As a concerned family member or friend, it can be difficult to spot a loved one’s problem with drinking when they go to great lengths to hide it.

In this article we will outline some of the most important signs of a secret drinker, and whether these could be a sign of harmful alcohol use.

If someone hides, downplays or conceals the amount of alcohol they consume, it could be a sign that they are hiding a drinking problem. It can leave you, as a concerned friend, unsure of the true extent of their problem.

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help

Secret drinking is just one of many potential signs of alcoholism, but it does not automatically mean that this person has an addiction to alcohol. It also does not mean that someone who is not a secret drinker cannot suffer from alcoholism. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and the symptoms they show will vary.

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An important distinction to keep in mind is binge drinking vs alcohol addiction. Many secret drinkers are engaged in harmful drinking, but would still not be considered within the more medical construction of alcohol addiction (or alcoholism). Alcoholism is likely to include other common signs of alcoholism as well.

There are also some common alcohol addiction behaviors to look out for, which can be another indicator of the extent of a loved one’s problem.

For example, have you ever noticed a decrease in their inhibitions or impulse control? Anger and reckless or dangerous behavior can be a sign of alcohol changing how we behave. Another important thing to watch for is a drop in motivation. They may lose interest in things they once loved, or struggle to motivate themselves at work.

Due to the nature of secret drinking, it can be difficult to know what your loved one is experiencing and how serious their problem is. The most important thing to remember is that the previous harmful use is recognized and addressed the better results for their recovery. If you​​​​​​are in doubt that your loved one has a drinking problem, help them recognize it before they develop a physical dependence.

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The reasons some may have for hiding the extent of their alcohol use can be varied and complex. They may protect their loved ones so they don’t worry, feel shame or guilt about how much they drink, or want to hide their addiction from their employer to avoid damaging their career.

They may simply be in denial about their alcohol problem. Admitting that you have a problem with alcohol and need support is a brave step to take.

Billy Henderson, addiction treatment manager at Priory Hospital Glasgow, gives some advice about what someone

Helping An Alcoholic Get Help


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