What to Do When the Urge to Drink Returns

For many recovering alcoholics, stopping all consumption of alcohol is the easy part. After an initial detox period that often includes uncomfortable even unbearable physical symptoms, an alcoholic will get sober and begin the process of rebuilding their life in recovery. Getting sober is not the same as staying sober, however, and all recovering alcoholics will experience strong cravings and urges to drink not just once or twice, but several times during their journey toward long-term recovery. Those urges will be particularly strong when they encounter certain triggers, such as stresses or social situations where other people are drinking.

Take steps to avoid the triggers that support an urge to drink. This can be as simple as avoiding people and places that a recovering alcoholic previously associated with their drinking, or as difficult as changing jobs to reduce stress levels that came with a prior job. If those triggers cannot be avoided, a recovering alcoholic will need to learn to distract themselves and to change their focus away from the trigger that increases an urge to drink.

Finding a sympathetic friend who can offer support is a good start. A recovering alcoholic will understandably not want to involve everyone in his recovery, but they may be able to ask one or two designated “wing men” to come to their assistance when the urge to drink begins to build. If friends are not available to help, then they can try to increase their level of awareness of their situation and teach themselves to make conscious decisions about their actions, rather than simply succumbing to the urges. A greater awareness of thoughts and feelings will also help a recovering alcoholic in other ways to achieve long-term sobriety. When an urge or some more general negative sensation presents itself, a recovering alcoholic can use this technique to challenge the negativity and to move forward on a more positive path.

Cravings and urges often pass after a short period of time, even in the presence of strong triggers. A recovering alcoholic who learns how to delay his response to an urge to drink will sometimes find that, after a few minutes, he no longer senses a desire to drink. During that delay, he can implement other resistance techniques that will help to prevent the urge from returning.


Smarmore Castle Private Clinic knows that real change is possible. If you are ready to learn how to live sober from alcohol, our residential treatment programmes will show you how. Employing the proven Castle Craig model, our programmes are statistically successful. For information, call us today: +353 41 214 5111

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