Cravings are wants or feelings reminding about how it would feel to have a drink. Urges are a strong push causing you to take action to drink. You can't control the thoughts that pop into your head during the day, but you can control how you react to those thoughts. 

According to a 2014 study on Pharmacological Approaches to Reducing Urges in Patients with Alcohol Use Disorders, there are numerous challenges people face when it comes to all kinds of urges. However, with the right strategies, you can learn how to manage them successfully.

So, the next time you feel an urge, don't tell yourself to stop thinking about it. Instead, use these strategies to help you cope. 

Notice the Discomfort

The first step to managing your urges is to notice the discomfort that may happen. Focus your awareness on this internal trigger. What feelings did you have right before the urge started?

It's likely to be any range of negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, restlessness, feeling incompetent, or unworthy. When you become aware of your trigger, it's easier to stop yourself from reacting to an urge.

Keep a Journal

Once you're aware of the emotion that triggers you, write it down, regardless of whether you gave into the urge or not. Similarly, taking note of what was going on in your life at the time can help you understand your needs.

For example:

  • What was the time of day?

  • What were you doing?

  • Who were the people with you?

  • How did you feel when you noticed your internal trigger?

Write in your journal right away so that you don't forget how you were feeling. It will take time to get this right, but as you keep practicing, you'll get better at noticing, observing, and putting your thoughts into words.

Explore Your Sensations

Notice how your body feels in those moments. Do your fingers twitch, or your chest tighten? Do you get butterflies? Stay with those feelings and become aware of them. When you're able to acknowledge and explore the sensations you are having, they lose their power. 

Beware of Liminal Moments

Liminal moments are those transitions from one thing to another that occur throughout your day. These moments are when you should be extra cautious about reverting to old comfortable habits because you're more likely to feel urges. A good example is when someone grabs their phone in between tasks only to get stuck on it for half an hour when they should be working. 

Use the liminal moments to apply the ten-minute rule. That means waiting for ten-minutes before giving in to the urge. Reassess the need after the ten minutes if necessary. 

This rule works not just for substance use but for when you feel the urge to grab your phone to scroll through social media, eat something unhealthy or binge-watch a Netflix show. It gives you more control over your urges instead of just reacting to them.

These strategies will help you find relief from internal triggers in a reflective rather than reactive way.