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Dealing with the Urge to Drink

Six tips to resist the urge

As you work towards drinking less, it may not be plain sailing all the way, and that's ok. It's normal to find there are times when you struggle to overcome the urge to drink. Fortunately, these urges are often short-lived, and you have the power to overcome them.

An urge to drink can be caused by different types of trigger:

  • External triggers’ are things in the environment that might make you want to drink. This includes people, places, situations or times of the day that remind you of drinking or offer the chance to drink. These ‘high-risk situations’ are usually quite obvious and can be avoided or adapted to minimise the urges.  
  • Internal triggers happen within yourself: thoughts, feelings and emotions. They are more unpredictable than external triggers, but if you can recognise the urge when it happens, you’ll often be able to see what has triggered it (such as excitement, nervousness, a headache or feeling tense).

Once you spot these triggers, you need to think about the ways you can overcome them. Although it is not possible to block all triggers, there are some things you can try to better handle those urges to drink:

  1. Remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to drink less (e.g. to improve your relationships, feel healthier or be more energised).
  2. Avoid ‘high-risk situations’ or leave them quickly to reduce the urge. For example, you could plan new activities with friends so that drinking isn’t automatically part of your social life.
  3. Distract yourself: call a friend, listen to music, lift some weights, cook a healthy meal or whatever hobby you'd like to do.
  4. Make a swap: see if you can choose a tasty non-alcoholic drink instead, or meet a friend at a coffee shop rather than the pub
  5. Talk through how you are feeling with someone you trust.
  6. Challenge your thinking: when you tell yourself ‘one won’t hurt’, stop and think. Will ‘just one’ lead to many more? Questioning your thoughts can help you make better choices.
  7. Boost your wellbeing: urges to drink may be a sign that you’re feeling stressed, anxious or low. Tackling this could be helpful in reducing the urge to drink. Read more about how to feel good without alcohol

We're here to help

Understanding why you drink and how you can reduce the urges is a great first step in building a healthier relationship with alcohol. If you or someone you know is looking to cut down their alcohol consumption, chat with us today or register for free support and guidance on where to start.


How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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