You Do Not Crave Alcohol. You Crave The Feeling or Relief it Provides.


You Do Not Crave Alcohol. You Crave The Feeling or Relief it Provides.

If you are reading this then there may be a part of you that feels you want to cut back on drinking for a particular reason- maybe for health, improving sleep, better lifestyle habits or all of the above. Alcohol consumption is so ingrained as a normal part of our lives that it could feel difficult to cut back even when we are really motivated to.  It might be because we will feel less “fun” or we won’t have anything to look forward to after a stressful day if we don’t have a drink.  If you resonate with this, we are here to tell you that if you want to cut back on drinking, then you can right now.  You might be surprised to learn that what you are actually craving in these situations is not alcohol. Yes, we said it… you don’t crave alcohol, but the feeling it relieves. 

Whether that’s stress relief or to feel more social because everyone else around you is drinking, it’s not the alcohol, it’s the reward you’re getting from that action. The reality is that every action or habit we perform during the day is laced with an underlying motivation to feel differently than we do in the current moment. 

For example, checking social media to relieve boredom, binge-eating to feel comfort or putting on a jacket to provide warmth. Drinking is no different in that it provides you with a way to feel different the moment you drink it. 

With this in mind, there are 3 strategies that you can implement today that will help not only cut back on drinking, but will empower you while you do it! 

  1. Intention implementation.
    Often, when we try to stop a behavior like drinking, we say “I should cut back on drinking” or “This week I’m not going to drink,” but with no plan in place.  Suddenly, we are working our willpower muscle to get us through the week. However, this muscle tends to get fatigued quickly and as time goes on, motivation is lost, willpower is tired, and we return to happy hour with our co-workers. So, having a good plan beforehand in place is key. 

    An intention implementation is a self-regulatory strategy you make beforehand in the form of an “if-then plan.” Countless studies have shown that implementation intentions are effective in helping people reach their goals. An example would be writing down: “If I want a glass of wine after work, I am going to go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea instead,” Or “If I’m tempted to drink while at home, I will take a bath instead.” This plan will be different for everyone, but powerful in that it takes care the of the potential obstacle before it occurs. 

    However, if you really want this method to work, make sure what you’re replacing drinking with is something that’s easily obtainable and something you enjoy doing. Replacing any habit with something you don’t enjoy or is too difficult to do will never work. For example, if you say “If I’m tempted to drink, then I will go to the gym.” The gym requires changing your clothes, getting in your car, finding parking… etc. There are many steps it takes to do this, so the likelihood of this working as a replacement habit is slim.

    A key is to actually reduce the number of steps it takes for your plan to work such as, “If I feel like drinking, I will go on a walk instead.”  Motivation is something that’s very short lived, so reducing the number of steps it takes to achieve a new behavior is crucial. 

    If you’re going to achieve specific goals, then there needs to be a plan in place for how you will execute them.
  2. Alter your environment.  
    No one can stick to committing to a positive habit in a negative environment. We can tell you first hand that if you go to battle with your willpower against an environment full of triggers, your environment will win every time. Your environment is one of the most powerful influencers of your behavior. From what you come home to, to the people you hang out with, or even the media you’re consuming. Here’s an example from one of our owners and coaches, Stevie.

    “For a period of time in my life, one of my close friends and I were bartenders. So naturally, much of our time was spent at a bar. Our social life with each other was also consumed by drinking. It came to a point when I really wanted to cut back on drinking and focus on a healthy lifestyle. I thought I can still do this and hang out with her. However, every time I did, I ended up having “just one” glass of champagne. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just say “no.” Well, because our relationship was mainly surrounded by drinking- I always kept champagne at the house, we always frequented our favorite restaurants where we knew the bartenders and we had a blast doing it.  She was a trigger for me. So, for a period of time I had made a decision to stop hanging out with her and if I did, it would be at a coffee shop, not a bar and I had to stop keeping champagne in the house. I needed to control my environment and reduce my exposure to the cue’s that were causing my behavior in order to obtain the healthier lifestyle goal I was looking to achieve.”

    Here are a couple of ways to change your environment:
    • Do not keeping alcohol in the house
    • Instead of storing alcohol in the house, store it in the garage
    • Plan an activity in the hours you typically drink (i.e. exercise or a bubble bath)
    • Have yummy non-alcoholic drinks stored in your fridge at all times
    • Do not frequent the same restaurant that you always have happy hour at. The restaurant itself will be a cue to drink.  If you want to go out with friends, pick a new place to go that doesn’t have ingrained “cues” (i.e. doesn’t have the bartender that knows your drink by heart)
  3. Make It Unsatisfying.
    You may be curious about how in the world you can make drinking unsatisfying. With a goal to cut back on drinking, one of the best ways to make drinking unsatisfying is to have an accountability partner that you check in with.  This could be a friend, a family member or even a group of people. 

    There’s no denying that we as humans are social creatures and seek acceptance from others. When we make a commitment to ourselves out loud to someone else, they are now invested in what we want to achieve. The minute they become invested in our goals and believe in us, we feel an internal responsibility to validate why they should believe in us. We want to not only make ourselves proud, but make them proud. It would be unsatisfying to commit a goal, rely on their support and then feel that we not only let ourselves down, but that we let them down as well by not actually doing what we said we would do. 

    A way to make this strategy even more effective is to be in a group of people that share a desire to obtain the same goal. This can be with people from the gym, a group of friends or people from work. Again, being that we are social animals, our need to be accepted and fit in with others has a strong emotional internal response. So, when everyone has the same commitment and motivation, the success rate of accomplishing that goal will be much higher.

Any of these 3 strategies can be applied to any habit, not just to drinking. The best place to start to any habit change is to begin with understanding what the underlying motivation is that’s driving a particular action. 

Again, you do not crave alcohol, you crave to change how you feel in that particular moment. 

If you use these 3 strategies then you will be well on your way to cutting back on drinking and replacing it with other actions that fulfill your real craving and desire – to feel better in that moment.