Triggers and Cravings

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2023-07-28 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
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Why Do I Crave Alcohol?
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Alcohol cravings often occur as an automatic response to a trigger. Our brain remembers positive experiences associated with alcohol and sends signals, or cravings, to encourage the behavior.

25 min read

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Cravings are slippery — and yet we know exactly what they are. Ever found yourself reaching for that wine bottle or considering another cold one more often than you’d like? Well, you’re not alone. Many people wonder, “Why the heck do I crave alcohol?”

In The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, British author and addiction specialist Allen Carr gives one of the most spot-on descriptions of cravings, calling them “an empty, insecure feeling” similar to hunger. Unlike hunger, however, there’s often an uneasy flavor to it: you want something, but you don’t want to want it. Worse yet, giving in to cravings tends to make them appear more and more frequently.

When it comes to alcohol cravings, it’s not just about wanting an “aah” moment after a long day, or trying to drown out a bad one. The truth is that alcohol cravings are a mix of biology, psychology, and social environments. So today we’re pulling the curtain back on those cravings and giving you some tools to handle them! Let’s uncover the four main mechanisms behind cravings and explore some ways to handle them.

1. Biology and Brain Chemistry: The Body’s Tug of War

Our brain likes to feel good. When we drink alcohol, it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals pleasure and reward. Over time, and with regular consumption, the brain starts to associate alcohol with that lovely dopamine surge. When we don’t drink, the brain goes, “Hey, where’s my feel-good chemical?” This can lead to cravings.

We often think of our brains as sophisticated command centers, always rational and analytical. And while that might be true about the prefrontal cortex, the more primitive “lizard brain” behind the reward circuit is a lot like an eager toddler in a candy store when it comes to seeking pleasure. How is this pleasure-seeking system linked to our alcohol cravings?

Dopamine: The Star of the Show

When we do something enjoyable — such as eating a delicious meal, laughing at a joke, or yes, drinking alcohol — our brain releases dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. When we consume alcohol, dopamine floods our brain, and over time, our brain starts to think, “Hey, alcohol equals a good time!”

Research shows that with repeated alcohol consumption, the brain starts anticipating the dopamine surge. So even before we take that first sip, just the thought of drinking can get our dopamine factories revved up! It’s like when we think about a chocolate cake in the middle of the night — even without tasting it, we can already feel that sweet delight.

Adaptation: A Double-Edged Sword

Our brains are also masters of adaptation. Drink regularly, and the brain thinks it's getting too much of a good thing. In response, it might produce less dopamine over time or reduce the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. The result? We need more alcohol to achieve the same “feel-good” effect. It's a bit like needing more and more coffee to wake up if we’re regular caffeine consumers.

When we try to cut back or quit, the brain objects, looking for its dopamine surge. With the absence of regular alcohol-induced dopamine releases, we might feel down or experience a mood dip. That's the brain urging you to get back to your old ways, otherwise known as the withdrawal effect.

2. The Emotional Band-Aid: When Feelings Meet Booze

As much as we’d like to deny it, our emotions play a huge role in many of our choices. From the clothes we wear based on our mood, to the comfort food we reach for after a tough day, our feelings often steer the ship. The relationship between emotions and alcohol is no different.

For some, alcohol becomes a trusted ally against stress, sadness, or anxiety. But here's the catch: while it seems to provide temporary relief, it doesn’t fix the root cause of these emotions. Over time, we might find ourselves craving a drink whenever these feelings emerge, because the brain has made a connection: “Feeling down? Alcohol will fix it!”

In this way, alcohol serves as an instant emotional band-aid. Had a rough day? A drink might make it feel better. Feeling anxious about an upcoming event? A little booze might take the edge off. Over time, this pattern can create a more ingrained reflex in the brain: a negative emotion surfaces, and we instinctively reach for a drink to “soothe” it without giving it a second thought.

Why It Seems To Work (But Doesn’t Really)

Since alcohol is a depressant that slows the nervous system, the initial effects often do, in fact, feel calming. But here's the twist: while the immediate effects might seem relaxing, in the long run, science shows that alcohol can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s like using a leaking bucket to carry water: it might seem helpful initially, but we’re losing more than we’re gaining as the brain’s natural neurotransmitter levels tip in the other direction.

In addition to depleting our dopamine levels over time, the brain overcompensates by releasing dynorphin to counteract the excessive release of dopamine. Instead of producing pleasure, dynorphin does the opposite: it decreases dopamine production, inducing feelings of dysphoria. This is the brain's way of keeping us chemically and emotionally balanced.

The Cycle of Emotion-Driven Drinking

Over time, with repeated exposure to pleasurable stimuli, the brain releases more and more dynorphin to counteract the high dopamine levels. This reduces the overall sensitivity of the brain's reward system, making it harder to feel pleasure from everyday activities and potentially leading to a cycle of increased substance use to reach the original high.

Here’s the cycle many folks find themselves in: they drink to cope with an emotion, the effects of the drink wear off, and they’re left with the same (or heightened) emotional distress, leading them to drink again. It's a loop that can be hard to break, especially if the underlying emotional triggers aren’t addressed.

Diagram about the common triggers for alcohol cravings
Building New Emotional Connections

The good news? Just as our brain can create associations between emotions and drinking, it can also learn new associations. This means we can train the brain to link challenging emotions with healthier coping strategies — talking to a friend, indulging in a hobby, or simply taking a few deep breaths. We are ultimately in the driver’s seat as far as our response to emotions, and by understanding the reasons behind our cravings and building new, positive associations, we’re taking charge of our journey.

3. Social Environments: It’s Everywhere!

Let's be real: we live in a culture where alcohol is often the centerpiece of social activities. From dinners to celebrations, to watching a football game — it's there. 

These scenarios can create associations between fun times and alcohol in our minds. When invited to such events, the brain jumps in with a nudge: “You’ll have more fun with a drink!” Over time, this cements the idea that to celebrate, commemorate, or even commiserate, a drink must be in hand, creating social cues around booze.

Ever been to a gathering where everyone is holding a drink and felt a bit out of place without one? That's social cue activation in play. Sometimes, it's not even a genuine craving, but the pressure to fit in that drives us to pick up a glass. It's a little like wearing a certain fashion because everyone else is doing it, even if it's not quite "you." (That said, it’s important to note that we should never feel obligated to drink, no matter what others around us are doing. Social pressures can make things tricky, but in most cases people will respect our decisions — and if they don’t, chances are the reason has to do with their own struggles or insecurities.)

The Mirror Effect

One reason we are naturally driven to “fit in” has to do with mirror neurons — the neurological mechanism behind empathy that helps us pick up on the emotions and actions of those around us by triggering the corresponding pathways in the brain even though we’re not experiencing the same stimuli directly. When everyone is laughing, clinking glasses, and sipping away, our brains want in. So even if we weren't initially in the mood for a drink, our mirror neurons can change our mind.

Setting Boundaries and Shifting Perspectives

This doesn’t mean you should start avoiding every social scenario with alcohol. Instead, recognize these influences and set boundaries. Your boundary can be choosing a non-alcoholic drink that you genuinely enjoy, or focusing on the conversations and connections instead of the drink in hand.

Navigating social waters where alcohol is omnipresent can be a tad challenging. But as with any challenge, it's also an opportunity — a chance to listen to your inner voice, set your course, and dance to your own tune, even if it's a bit different from the crowd's. After all, being authentically you is always in style!

4. Habit Loop: Routine in Play

Finally, one of the “stickiest” causes of cravings has to do with the habit loop. Have a routine of wine with dinner? Or a beer after mowing the lawn? These can become habitual. When a habit is formed, the brain switches to autopilot. The moment you sit for dinner or finish mowing, the brain signals it’s time for that drink.

While habits are related to the neurochemical reward circuit, emotional triggers, and social pressures we discussed earlier, they can be even trickier to address since they can extend beyond those factors. Even in the absence of a physical “need” for alcohol, an emotion that we want to escape, or a social situation driving us to conform, drinking can become ingrained in our lives as something that we “do” on a regular basis — with or without an identifiable “reason.”

The Three-Step Dance of Habits

Habits generally follow a three-step loop:

  • Cue. This is a trigger that initiates the behavior. For instance, finishing a workday might signal it's time to unwind.
  • Routine. This is the actual behavior or action. In our context, it could be pouring and sipping on a drink.
  • Reward. The outcome that your brain enjoys and wants to remember for the future. With alcohol, it might be a feeling of relaxation or euphoria.

This loop, once established, can be hard to break because it's been reinforced over time. It becomes an automatic response.

Why? Our brains are efficiency experts. When a pattern is repeated often enough, the brain conserves energy by turning that sequence into a habit. That's why, after driving home countless times, you might pull into your driveway and wonder, "How did I get here so quickly?" It’s the same thing with alcohol. If we regularly have a drink at a particular time or situation, the brain goes into autopilot.

Hijacking the Habit Loop

The mere fact that a habit has formed doesn't mean that it’s set in stone. The trick is to recognize the cue and replace the routine while still achieving a similar reward. If the cue is stress and the routine is drinking, for instance, we can replace drinking with a short meditation session, a walk, or listening to some favorite tunes — anything that provides relaxation (the reward).

Habits shape our days in more ways than we might realize. By understanding the rhythm of our routines and being proactive, we can rewire our habits to help steer us toward our goals.

Goodbye, Cravings!

Now that we have a better idea of what drives our cravings, let’s chart a new course of action!

Here are some ideas for dealing with cravings when they strike:

  • Mindful awareness. Start by recognizing your craving without judging it. “Oh, there’s that craving again.” By acknowledging it without acting on it, you can let the urge pass.
  • Train the brain with new rewards. Recall the dopamine-driven reward system? To counterbalance the pleasure associated with alcohol, find alternative sources of dopamine. Perhaps it’s a delicious mocktail, a piece of dark chocolate, or a five-minute dance break! Whatever it is, the new experience can give your brain the pleasurable hits it craves, sans alcohol.
  • Emotional journaling. Tap into the power of self-awareness. Whenever you feel the urge to drink, jot down the emotion you're experiencing. By tracking patterns over time, you'll develop a clearer picture of emotional triggers, empowering you to address them directly.
  • Shuffle the habit deck. The next time that habitual drinking cue strikes, shake things up to replace the routine. Maybe sip some herbal tea or head out for a brisk walk. Disrupting the familiar loop can recalibrate the brain's automatic responses over time.
  • Engage with dynorphin knowledge. Acknowledge the power of dynorphin. When you feel that post-high low, remind yourself it's a natural brain response, not a genuine need for more alcohol. This awareness can prevent overconsumption in pursuit of a diminishing pleasure return.
  • Stay active. Engaging in physical activity, whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or a weightlifting session, can help in releasing endorphins — another one of those feel-good chemicals — and act as a distraction to reduce the intensity of the craving.
  • Taste adventures. Explore teas from around the world. The diverse flavors and rituals associated with tea preparation can become a fascinating replacement for the alcohol tasting experience.

In addition to learning how to deal with cravings directly, it helps to restructure your daily life to make it easier to stay on track:

  • Design social situations. Planning to attend a gathering? Arrive prepared. Carry your favorite non-alcoholic drink or, better yet, introduce a fun mocktail for everyone. When you're the trendsetter, it's easier to sidestep the pull of alcohol-focused social cues.
  • Set visual goals. Create a visual representation of your alcohol-free days, such as a calendar where you mark off each successful day. Watching your progress can be motivating and offers a tangible reminder of your determination and growth.
  • Mini challenges. Set up mini challenges for yourself. For instance, for every day you resist a craving, add an extra minute to your morning jog or meditation session, or an extra page to your reading. It's a way to celebrate your victory while also boosting another aspect of your wellness.
  • Create alcohol-free zones. Dedicate certain areas of your home, like the bedroom or the study, as alcohol-free zones. This physical separation can act as a reminder and barrier against impulsive drinking.
  • Declutter. Rid your environment of excessive alcohol. Having fewer bottles around can reduce the visual cues that spark a craving.
  • Digital detox. Sometimes, seeing others indulge in drinks on social media can trigger cravings. Designate specific times in your week for a digital detox. Use this time to connect with nature, read, or pursue other offline hobbies.
  • Manage stress. Find healthier ways to deal with stress. This might mean deep-breathing exercises, meditation, a few quick jumping jacks, or a simple hobby like painting or reading.
  • Build a support squad. There's incredible strength in numbers. Connect with people who share your goal of reducing alcohol intake. Whether you join an online group, attend support meetings, or simply rope in a friend, cheerleaders can make the journey smoother.

Beyond the Craving

Understanding why we crave alcohol is the first step in navigating and managing these urges. By getting to know our triggers and equipping ourselves with actionable steps, we’re setting a foundation for a healthier, more empowered relationship with alcohol.

There’s even better news. It’s easy to see alcohol cravings as nagging adversaries, incessantly reminding us of a past we might want to leave behind. But what if we flipped the script? What if, nestled within these urges, there was a powerful opportunity waiting to be harnessed?

Transforming Cravings Into Catalysts

Managing cravings, in all their persistent tug and pull, offers us a unique chance to reclaim control of our lives. Each time we face a craving head-on, it becomes more than just resisting temptation. It turns into a conscious choice to prioritize our well-being, our dreams, and our future.

Every craving we overcome is a stepping stone, an evolution towards a life more vibrant, authentic, and fulfilling than ever before. We are not only saying “no” to alcohol. We're also saying a resounding "yes" to personal growth, new hobbies, and deeper connections. It's all about adding layers of richness, building resilience, and crafting a life narrative filled with intent and purpose.

So as we forge ahead, let's remember that cravings, once seen as setbacks, can actually be the very catalysts that propel us into a future brighter and better than anything we've known before — a beautiful journey of self-discovery and unparalleled growth!

Cravings are slippery — and yet we know exactly what they are. Ever found yourself reaching for that wine bottle or considering another cold one more often than you’d like? Well, you’re not alone. Many people wonder, “Why the heck do I crave alcohol?”

In The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, British author and addiction specialist Allen Carr gives one of the most spot-on descriptions of cravings, calling them “an empty, insecure feeling” similar to hunger. Unlike hunger, however, there’s often an uneasy flavor to it: you want something, but you don’t want to want it. Worse yet, giving in to cravings tends to make them appear more and more frequently.

When it comes to alcohol cravings, it’s not just about wanting an “aah” moment after a long day, or trying to drown out a bad one. The truth is that alcohol cravings are a mix of biology, psychology, and social environments. So today we’re pulling the curtain back on those cravings and giving you some tools to handle them! Let’s uncover the four main mechanisms behind cravings and explore some ways to handle them.

1. Biology and Brain Chemistry: The Body’s Tug of War

Our brain likes to feel good. When we drink alcohol, it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals pleasure and reward. Over time, and with regular consumption, the brain starts to associate alcohol with that lovely dopamine surge. When we don’t drink, the brain goes, “Hey, where’s my feel-good chemical?” This can lead to cravings.

We often think of our brains as sophisticated command centers, always rational and analytical. And while that might be true about the prefrontal cortex, the more primitive “lizard brain” behind the reward circuit is a lot like an eager toddler in a candy store when it comes to seeking pleasure. How is this pleasure-seeking system linked to our alcohol cravings?

Dopamine: The Star of the Show

When we do something enjoyable — such as eating a delicious meal, laughing at a joke, or yes, drinking alcohol — our brain releases dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. When we consume alcohol, dopamine floods our brain, and over time, our brain starts to think, “Hey, alcohol equals a good time!”

Research shows that with repeated alcohol consumption, the brain starts anticipating the dopamine surge. So even before we take that first sip, just the thought of drinking can get our dopamine factories revved up! It’s like when we think about a chocolate cake in the middle of the night — even without tasting it, we can already feel that sweet delight.

Adaptation: A Double-Edged Sword

Our brains are also masters of adaptation. Drink regularly, and the brain thinks it's getting too much of a good thing. In response, it might produce less dopamine over time or reduce the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. The result? We need more alcohol to achieve the same “feel-good” effect. It's a bit like needing more and more coffee to wake up if we’re regular caffeine consumers.

When we try to cut back or quit, the brain objects, looking for its dopamine surge. With the absence of regular alcohol-induced dopamine releases, we might feel down or experience a mood dip. That's the brain urging you to get back to your old ways, otherwise known as the withdrawal effect.

2. The Emotional Band-Aid: When Feelings Meet Booze

As much as we’d like to deny it, our emotions play a huge role in many of our choices. From the clothes we wear based on our mood, to the comfort food we reach for after a tough day, our feelings often steer the ship. The relationship between emotions and alcohol is no different.

For some, alcohol becomes a trusted ally against stress, sadness, or anxiety. But here's the catch: while it seems to provide temporary relief, it doesn’t fix the root cause of these emotions. Over time, we might find ourselves craving a drink whenever these feelings emerge, because the brain has made a connection: “Feeling down? Alcohol will fix it!”

In this way, alcohol serves as an instant emotional band-aid. Had a rough day? A drink might make it feel better. Feeling anxious about an upcoming event? A little booze might take the edge off. Over time, this pattern can create a more ingrained reflex in the brain: a negative emotion surfaces, and we instinctively reach for a drink to “soothe” it without giving it a second thought.

Why It Seems To Work (But Doesn’t Really)

Since alcohol is a depressant that slows the nervous system, the initial effects often do, in fact, feel calming. But here's the twist: while the immediate effects might seem relaxing, in the long run, science shows that alcohol can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s like using a leaking bucket to carry water: it might seem helpful initially, but we’re losing more than we’re gaining as the brain’s natural neurotransmitter levels tip in the other direction.

In addition to depleting our dopamine levels over time, the brain overcompensates by releasing dynorphin to counteract the excessive release of dopamine. Instead of producing pleasure, dynorphin does the opposite: it decreases dopamine production, inducing feelings of dysphoria. This is the brain's way of keeping us chemically and emotionally balanced.

The Cycle of Emotion-Driven Drinking

Over time, with repeated exposure to pleasurable stimuli, the brain releases more and more dynorphin to counteract the high dopamine levels. This reduces the overall sensitivity of the brain's reward system, making it harder to feel pleasure from everyday activities and potentially leading to a cycle of increased substance use to reach the original high.

Here’s the cycle many folks find themselves in: they drink to cope with an emotion, the effects of the drink wear off, and they’re left with the same (or heightened) emotional distress, leading them to drink again. It's a loop that can be hard to break, especially if the underlying emotional triggers aren’t addressed.

Diagram about the common triggers for alcohol cravings
Building New Emotional Connections

The good news? Just as our brain can create associations between emotions and drinking, it can also learn new associations. This means we can train the brain to link challenging emotions with healthier coping strategies — talking to a friend, indulging in a hobby, or simply taking a few deep breaths. We are ultimately in the driver’s seat as far as our response to emotions, and by understanding the reasons behind our cravings and building new, positive associations, we’re taking charge of our journey.

3. Social Environments: It’s Everywhere!

Let's be real: we live in a culture where alcohol is often the centerpiece of social activities. From dinners to celebrations, to watching a football game — it's there. 

These scenarios can create associations between fun times and alcohol in our minds. When invited to such events, the brain jumps in with a nudge: “You’ll have more fun with a drink!” Over time, this cements the idea that to celebrate, commemorate, or even commiserate, a drink must be in hand, creating social cues around booze.

Ever been to a gathering where everyone is holding a drink and felt a bit out of place without one? That's social cue activation in play. Sometimes, it's not even a genuine craving, but the pressure to fit in that drives us to pick up a glass. It's a little like wearing a certain fashion because everyone else is doing it, even if it's not quite "you." (That said, it’s important to note that we should never feel obligated to drink, no matter what others around us are doing. Social pressures can make things tricky, but in most cases people will respect our decisions — and if they don’t, chances are the reason has to do with their own struggles or insecurities.)

The Mirror Effect

One reason we are naturally driven to “fit in” has to do with mirror neurons — the neurological mechanism behind empathy that helps us pick up on the emotions and actions of those around us by triggering the corresponding pathways in the brain even though we’re not experiencing the same stimuli directly. When everyone is laughing, clinking glasses, and sipping away, our brains want in. So even if we weren't initially in the mood for a drink, our mirror neurons can change our mind.

Setting Boundaries and Shifting Perspectives

This doesn’t mean you should start avoiding every social scenario with alcohol. Instead, recognize these influences and set boundaries. Your boundary can be choosing a non-alcoholic drink that you genuinely enjoy, or focusing on the conversations and connections instead of the drink in hand.

Navigating social waters where alcohol is omnipresent can be a tad challenging. But as with any challenge, it's also an opportunity — a chance to listen to your inner voice, set your course, and dance to your own tune, even if it's a bit different from the crowd's. After all, being authentically you is always in style!

4. Habit Loop: Routine in Play

Finally, one of the “stickiest” causes of cravings has to do with the habit loop. Have a routine of wine with dinner? Or a beer after mowing the lawn? These can become habitual. When a habit is formed, the brain switches to autopilot. The moment you sit for dinner or finish mowing, the brain signals it’s time for that drink.

While habits are related to the neurochemical reward circuit, emotional triggers, and social pressures we discussed earlier, they can be even trickier to address since they can extend beyond those factors. Even in the absence of a physical “need” for alcohol, an emotion that we want to escape, or a social situation driving us to conform, drinking can become ingrained in our lives as something that we “do” on a regular basis — with or without an identifiable “reason.”

The Three-Step Dance of Habits

Habits generally follow a three-step loop:

  • Cue. This is a trigger that initiates the behavior. For instance, finishing a workday might signal it's time to unwind.
  • Routine. This is the actual behavior or action. In our context, it could be pouring and sipping on a drink.
  • Reward. The outcome that your brain enjoys and wants to remember for the future. With alcohol, it might be a feeling of relaxation or euphoria.

This loop, once established, can be hard to break because it's been reinforced over time. It becomes an automatic response.

Why? Our brains are efficiency experts. When a pattern is repeated often enough, the brain conserves energy by turning that sequence into a habit. That's why, after driving home countless times, you might pull into your driveway and wonder, "How did I get here so quickly?" It’s the same thing with alcohol. If we regularly have a drink at a particular time or situation, the brain goes into autopilot.

Hijacking the Habit Loop

The mere fact that a habit has formed doesn't mean that it’s set in stone. The trick is to recognize the cue and replace the routine while still achieving a similar reward. If the cue is stress and the routine is drinking, for instance, we can replace drinking with a short meditation session, a walk, or listening to some favorite tunes — anything that provides relaxation (the reward).

Habits shape our days in more ways than we might realize. By understanding the rhythm of our routines and being proactive, we can rewire our habits to help steer us toward our goals.

Goodbye, Cravings!

Now that we have a better idea of what drives our cravings, let’s chart a new course of action!

Here are some ideas for dealing with cravings when they strike:

  • Mindful awareness. Start by recognizing your craving without judging it. “Oh, there’s that craving again.” By acknowledging it without acting on it, you can let the urge pass.
  • Train the brain with new rewards. Recall the dopamine-driven reward system? To counterbalance the pleasure associated with alcohol, find alternative sources of dopamine. Perhaps it’s a delicious mocktail, a piece of dark chocolate, or a five-minute dance break! Whatever it is, the new experience can give your brain the pleasurable hits it craves, sans alcohol.
  • Emotional journaling. Tap into the power of self-awareness. Whenever you feel the urge to drink, jot down the emotion you're experiencing. By tracking patterns over time, you'll develop a clearer picture of emotional triggers, empowering you to address them directly.
  • Shuffle the habit deck. The next time that habitual drinking cue strikes, shake things up to replace the routine. Maybe sip some herbal tea or head out for a brisk walk. Disrupting the familiar loop can recalibrate the brain's automatic responses over time.
  • Engage with dynorphin knowledge. Acknowledge the power of dynorphin. When you feel that post-high low, remind yourself it's a natural brain response, not a genuine need for more alcohol. This awareness can prevent overconsumption in pursuit of a diminishing pleasure return.
  • Stay active. Engaging in physical activity, whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or a weightlifting session, can help in releasing endorphins — another one of those feel-good chemicals — and act as a distraction to reduce the intensity of the craving.
  • Taste adventures. Explore teas from around the world. The diverse flavors and rituals associated with tea preparation can become a fascinating replacement for the alcohol tasting experience.

In addition to learning how to deal with cravings directly, it helps to restructure your daily life to make it easier to stay on track:

  • Design social situations. Planning to attend a gathering? Arrive prepared. Carry your favorite non-alcoholic drink or, better yet, introduce a fun mocktail for everyone. When you're the trendsetter, it's easier to sidestep the pull of alcohol-focused social cues.
  • Set visual goals. Create a visual representation of your alcohol-free days, such as a calendar where you mark off each successful day. Watching your progress can be motivating and offers a tangible reminder of your determination and growth.
  • Mini challenges. Set up mini challenges for yourself. For instance, for every day you resist a craving, add an extra minute to your morning jog or meditation session, or an extra page to your reading. It's a way to celebrate your victory while also boosting another aspect of your wellness.
  • Create alcohol-free zones. Dedicate certain areas of your home, like the bedroom or the study, as alcohol-free zones. This physical separation can act as a reminder and barrier against impulsive drinking.
  • Declutter. Rid your environment of excessive alcohol. Having fewer bottles around can reduce the visual cues that spark a craving.
  • Digital detox. Sometimes, seeing others indulge in drinks on social media can trigger cravings. Designate specific times in your week for a digital detox. Use this time to connect with nature, read, or pursue other offline hobbies.
  • Manage stress. Find healthier ways to deal with stress. This might mean deep-breathing exercises, meditation, a few quick jumping jacks, or a simple hobby like painting or reading.
  • Build a support squad. There's incredible strength in numbers. Connect with people who share your goal of reducing alcohol intake. Whether you join an online group, attend support meetings, or simply rope in a friend, cheerleaders can make the journey smoother.

Beyond the Craving

Understanding why we crave alcohol is the first step in navigating and managing these urges. By getting to know our triggers and equipping ourselves with actionable steps, we’re setting a foundation for a healthier, more empowered relationship with alcohol.

There’s even better news. It’s easy to see alcohol cravings as nagging adversaries, incessantly reminding us of a past we might want to leave behind. But what if we flipped the script? What if, nestled within these urges, there was a powerful opportunity waiting to be harnessed?

Transforming Cravings Into Catalysts

Managing cravings, in all their persistent tug and pull, offers us a unique chance to reclaim control of our lives. Each time we face a craving head-on, it becomes more than just resisting temptation. It turns into a conscious choice to prioritize our well-being, our dreams, and our future.

Every craving we overcome is a stepping stone, an evolution towards a life more vibrant, authentic, and fulfilling than ever before. We are not only saying “no” to alcohol. We're also saying a resounding "yes" to personal growth, new hobbies, and deeper connections. It's all about adding layers of richness, building resilience, and crafting a life narrative filled with intent and purpose.

So as we forge ahead, let's remember that cravings, once seen as setbacks, can actually be the very catalysts that propel us into a future brighter and better than anything we've known before — a beautiful journey of self-discovery and unparalleled growth!

Triggers and Cravings
2024-01-02 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
Help! Alcohol Is Ruining My Marriage
This is some text inside of a div block.

Transform your marriage and find your way back to each other with our latest blog on tackling alcohol misuse! Discover practical tips and compassionate insights for a healthier, happier relationship.

19 min read

Improve the Relationships in Your Life by Changing Your Relationship With Alcohol!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today! 

Read Full Article  →

The statistics are sobering: according to American Addiction Centers, verbal abuse in a marriage is twice as likely with alcohol in the mix, while the risk of physical aggression increases 3 to 4 times if either party has been drinking in the last 4 hours. Sadly, children often bear the brunt of the troubles: in 40 to 80% of families where children are physically abused, some form of substance misuse is part of the equation. Costs of intimate partner violence add up to about $12.6 billion a year in the U.S. alone.

Marriage is a partnership, but when alcohol misuse gets mixed in, things can go haywire quickly. Whether you’re living with an alcoholic spouse or you’re the one struggling with alcohol misuse yourself, the challenge can feel overwhelming. However, by understanding the dynamics and adopting some science-based strategies, each partner can help the other steer towards calmer waters.

Part 1. Alcoholic Behavior in Relationships

When it comes to relationships, alcohol can really shake things up. Scientifically speaking, it can alter brain chemistry, leading to changes in behavior by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood regulation, decision-making, and impulse control. The result? Mood swings, aggression, or withdrawal — and a strain on the emotional connection that’s the bedrock of marriage.

For the non-drinking spouse, the repeated stress can trigger a cascade of psychological effects, including anxiety, depression, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Alcohol drives the partners apart, creating an environment where both may feel misunderstood and alone.

Let's take a closer look at how alcohol misuse can affect relationship dynamics:

  • Emotional connection decreases. Alcohol slips into the nooks and crannies of a relationship, dampening the emotional connection between partners. It can make a partner emotionally unavailable or unpredictable, which, in turn, leads to loneliness or frustration.
  • Communication gets off course. Picture trying to have a meaningful conversation while someone keeps changing the topic — that's often what it's like when alcohol misuse is in the mix. Alcohol can lead to misunderstandings, unaddressed issues, and hurtful exchanges that leave both partners feeling unheard and undervalued.
  • Trust issues crop up. With booze in the equation, trust — a relationship cornerstone — can start to erode. This might look like broken promises, unreliable behavior, or deception about drinking habits. 
  • Intimacy takes a nosedive. Intimacy, both emotional and physical, can also suffer. Alcohol can dampen sexual desire and performance, leading to troubles in the bedroom — and beyond.

The Ripple Effect

The effects of alcohol misuse aren’t limited to just the couple — they can ripple out to affect family life, social relationships, and work. It's a chain reaction, with the strain in the marriage leading to tensions in other relationships.

Part 2. For the Partner Struggling With Alcohol Misuse

If you're the one grappling with alcohol misuse, know that your journey towards a healthier lifestyle is pivotal, not just for your own well-being, but for the health of your marriage. It's time to look at this challenge with fresh eyes and a determined heart. Here's how you can make significant strides in the right direction.

  • Acknowledge the challenge. First things first: Recognizing that alcohol is impacting your life and your relationship is a huge step. It's about understanding that your actions have consequences beyond yourself. This realization isn't easy, and it takes courage to admit. 
  • Set personal goals. What does a healthier version of you look like? Maybe it's someone who can enjoy family events without relying on alcohol, or someone who wakes up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. Set tangible, achievable goals for yourself. Whether it's being sober for a day, a week, or a month, each one is a building block towards a larger vision of your health and happiness.
  • Track your progress. Keep a journal or use an app to track how much you drink and how it correlates with your mood and health. Seeing things in black and white can be a powerful motivator!
  • Seek professional guidance. There's no shame in asking for help — it's a wise and brave decision! A therapist or healthcare provider can give you personalized advice and suggest treatment options. These might include therapy sessions, medication, or joining a support group. 
  • Focus on holistic wellness. Your physical, mental, and emotional health are interconnected. Try some activities that nourish all aspects of your well-being — exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature are all excellent choices to give your physical health a boost while sparking a sense of achievement and joy.
  • Communicate openly. Be open with your spouse about your struggles and successes. Honesty fosters trust and understanding and lets your partner be a part of your journey.
  • Remember, you're not alone. Finally, remind yourself that you're not alone in this. Many have walked this path and emerged stronger and healthier than ever! There's a community out there of people who understand and support you.

Part 3. Effects of Living With an Alcoholic Spouse

Living with an alcoholic wife or alcoholic husband can bring on a flood of intense emotions. It's a challenging situation, but your resilience and understanding can make a world of difference! Here's how to navigate this journey while maintaining your own well-being and nurturing your relationship.

  • Acknowledge your feelings. First and foremost, it's important to acknowledge your feelings. It's normal to experience a range of emotions from sadness to anger, frustration, and helplessness. Recognizing and accepting these feelings is not a sign of weakness — it's a healthy way to understand your own needs in the relationship. 
  • Learn about alcohol misuse. Understanding alcohol misuse can be a game changer. It's a complex issue that affects both the brain and behavior. This knowledge can foster empathy and patience, helping you handle the ups and downs more effectively. 
  • Seek support. This journey isn't meant to be walked alone. Seek support from friends, family, or join support groups like Al-Anon, where you can share experiences with others in similar situations. These groups offer both emotional support and practical coping strategies. 
  • Set healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries is crucial. It’s about protecting your well-being while encouraging your spouse to take responsibility for their actions. Boundaries might include not accepting disrespectful behavior or insisting that your spouse does not drink during family times. Boundaries aren’t just about setting rules; they're about creating a safe, respectful environment.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish! It's essential. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself: engaging in a hobby, exercising, or simply enjoying some quiet time. Your mental and physical health are crucial, and nurturing them will help you cope better and bring a positive energy to your relationship.
  • Be realistic. Understand that change takes time, and there may be setbacks along the way. Celebrate small victories and be patient with the process. It's important to remain hopeful — but realistic — about the challenges of recovery from alcohol misuse.

Part 4. Turning the Tide

If this all sounds a bit daunting, there's good news: recognizing these challenges is a huge step towards addressing them. With the right tools, support, and a dash of perseverance, steering your marriage back to a healthier place is absolutely possible.

The Power of Communication

Open, honest communication can be a lifeline when it comes to marriage problems. The right approach can pave the way for mutual support and recovery.

  • Open and honest dialogue. Open and honest dialogue freshens and invigorates your relationship. It's about sharing your thoughts, fears, and hopes in a candid yet respectful way — without blame or criticism. Whether it's sharing how your partner's drinking affects you or discussing your own struggles with alcohol, these conversations are the bedrock of mutual understanding.
  • The right time and place. Timing and setting are key for effective communication. Aim for moments when both of you are calm and free from distractions. This might mean setting aside a specific time to talk when you’re both relaxed, not immediately after a booze-related incident.
  • Listening is as important as speaking. Good communication is a two-way street! Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and then remembering what is being said.
  • Use "I" statements. "I" statements are powerful. They allow you to express your feelings without sounding accusatory or confrontational. For instance, saying "I feel worried when you drink too much" is more effective than saying "You drink too much." It's a way to take ownership of your feelings and invite your partner to understand your perspective without feeling attacked.
  • Non-verbal communication counts! Communication isn’t just about words. Your body language, tone of voice, and even your facial expressions convey volumes. A gentle tone and open posture can set a positive tone for the conversation, making it easier for your partner to open up.
  • Keep it consistent. Make communication a regular part of your relationship. Regular check-ins or scheduled times to talk can help keep the lines of communication open. It’s not just about talking when there’s a problem; it’s about maintaining an ongoing dialogue.

Action Steps for Turning the Tide

Finally, here are some additional action steps to help you and your partner address the challenge of alcohol misuse head-on in your marriage.

  • Seek professional help. Engage with a healthcare provider or a therapist who specializes in addiction. This could involve medically supervised detoxification, individual therapy, couples therapy, and support groups like Al-Anon for the non-drinking spouse. Therapy provides a safe space to explore the issues and learn coping mechanisms while under the guidance of a professional.
  • Create a booze-free home. Remove alcohol from your home environment to eliminate temptation and triggers. While it might seem like a simple step, it is a powerful tangible symbol of solidarity, mutual support, and commitment to a new lifestyle!
  • Establish healthy routines. Incorporate regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep into your daily routine. These habits can improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being, making it easier to cope with any challenges that come up.
  • Set boundaries. Establish clear boundaries around alcohol. Discuss and agree upon these boundaries to make sure they’re specific and realistic. Boundaries might include no drinking during family events or deciding on a plan of action if things don’t go as planned. 
  • Develop a support network. Build a support network of friends, family, and community members who understand what you’re going through. They can provide emotional encouragement and practical help if you need it.
  • Celebrate milestones. Acknowledge and celebrate milestones in your alcohol journey — or your partner’s. Whether it’s one week or one year, recognizing these achievements can boost morale and motivate continued progress. Creating new, booze-free traditions to mark these occasions is a great way to celebrate achievements while bringing you closer and creating new memories.

Wrapping Up

Alcohol misuse can indeed put a strain on marriage, but it doesn’t have to be the narrative of your relationship. With the right tools, understanding, and action, both partners can work towards a healthier, happier union free from the shadow of alcohol.

It’s not just about navigating away from alcohol; it’s about steering towards a shared vision of your life together. Take it one step at a time, support each other, and keep your eyes on the horizon of a fulfilling, alcohol-free future.

The statistics are sobering: according to American Addiction Centers, verbal abuse in a marriage is twice as likely with alcohol in the mix, while the risk of physical aggression increases 3 to 4 times if either party has been drinking in the last 4 hours. Sadly, children often bear the brunt of the troubles: in 40 to 80% of families where children are physically abused, some form of substance misuse is part of the equation. Costs of intimate partner violence add up to about $12.6 billion a year in the U.S. alone.

Marriage is a partnership, but when alcohol misuse gets mixed in, things can go haywire quickly. Whether you’re living with an alcoholic spouse or you’re the one struggling with alcohol misuse yourself, the challenge can feel overwhelming. However, by understanding the dynamics and adopting some science-based strategies, each partner can help the other steer towards calmer waters.

Part 1. Alcoholic Behavior in Relationships

When it comes to relationships, alcohol can really shake things up. Scientifically speaking, it can alter brain chemistry, leading to changes in behavior by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood regulation, decision-making, and impulse control. The result? Mood swings, aggression, or withdrawal — and a strain on the emotional connection that’s the bedrock of marriage.

For the non-drinking spouse, the repeated stress can trigger a cascade of psychological effects, including anxiety, depression, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Alcohol drives the partners apart, creating an environment where both may feel misunderstood and alone.

Let's take a closer look at how alcohol misuse can affect relationship dynamics:

  • Emotional connection decreases. Alcohol slips into the nooks and crannies of a relationship, dampening the emotional connection between partners. It can make a partner emotionally unavailable or unpredictable, which, in turn, leads to loneliness or frustration.
  • Communication gets off course. Picture trying to have a meaningful conversation while someone keeps changing the topic — that's often what it's like when alcohol misuse is in the mix. Alcohol can lead to misunderstandings, unaddressed issues, and hurtful exchanges that leave both partners feeling unheard and undervalued.
  • Trust issues crop up. With booze in the equation, trust — a relationship cornerstone — can start to erode. This might look like broken promises, unreliable behavior, or deception about drinking habits. 
  • Intimacy takes a nosedive. Intimacy, both emotional and physical, can also suffer. Alcohol can dampen sexual desire and performance, leading to troubles in the bedroom — and beyond.

The Ripple Effect

The effects of alcohol misuse aren’t limited to just the couple — they can ripple out to affect family life, social relationships, and work. It's a chain reaction, with the strain in the marriage leading to tensions in other relationships.

Part 2. For the Partner Struggling With Alcohol Misuse

If you're the one grappling with alcohol misuse, know that your journey towards a healthier lifestyle is pivotal, not just for your own well-being, but for the health of your marriage. It's time to look at this challenge with fresh eyes and a determined heart. Here's how you can make significant strides in the right direction.

  • Acknowledge the challenge. First things first: Recognizing that alcohol is impacting your life and your relationship is a huge step. It's about understanding that your actions have consequences beyond yourself. This realization isn't easy, and it takes courage to admit. 
  • Set personal goals. What does a healthier version of you look like? Maybe it's someone who can enjoy family events without relying on alcohol, or someone who wakes up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. Set tangible, achievable goals for yourself. Whether it's being sober for a day, a week, or a month, each one is a building block towards a larger vision of your health and happiness.
  • Track your progress. Keep a journal or use an app to track how much you drink and how it correlates with your mood and health. Seeing things in black and white can be a powerful motivator!
  • Seek professional guidance. There's no shame in asking for help — it's a wise and brave decision! A therapist or healthcare provider can give you personalized advice and suggest treatment options. These might include therapy sessions, medication, or joining a support group. 
  • Focus on holistic wellness. Your physical, mental, and emotional health are interconnected. Try some activities that nourish all aspects of your well-being — exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature are all excellent choices to give your physical health a boost while sparking a sense of achievement and joy.
  • Communicate openly. Be open with your spouse about your struggles and successes. Honesty fosters trust and understanding and lets your partner be a part of your journey.
  • Remember, you're not alone. Finally, remind yourself that you're not alone in this. Many have walked this path and emerged stronger and healthier than ever! There's a community out there of people who understand and support you.

Part 3. Effects of Living With an Alcoholic Spouse

Living with an alcoholic wife or alcoholic husband can bring on a flood of intense emotions. It's a challenging situation, but your resilience and understanding can make a world of difference! Here's how to navigate this journey while maintaining your own well-being and nurturing your relationship.

  • Acknowledge your feelings. First and foremost, it's important to acknowledge your feelings. It's normal to experience a range of emotions from sadness to anger, frustration, and helplessness. Recognizing and accepting these feelings is not a sign of weakness — it's a healthy way to understand your own needs in the relationship. 
  • Learn about alcohol misuse. Understanding alcohol misuse can be a game changer. It's a complex issue that affects both the brain and behavior. This knowledge can foster empathy and patience, helping you handle the ups and downs more effectively. 
  • Seek support. This journey isn't meant to be walked alone. Seek support from friends, family, or join support groups like Al-Anon, where you can share experiences with others in similar situations. These groups offer both emotional support and practical coping strategies. 
  • Set healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries is crucial. It’s about protecting your well-being while encouraging your spouse to take responsibility for their actions. Boundaries might include not accepting disrespectful behavior or insisting that your spouse does not drink during family times. Boundaries aren’t just about setting rules; they're about creating a safe, respectful environment.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish! It's essential. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself: engaging in a hobby, exercising, or simply enjoying some quiet time. Your mental and physical health are crucial, and nurturing them will help you cope better and bring a positive energy to your relationship.
  • Be realistic. Understand that change takes time, and there may be setbacks along the way. Celebrate small victories and be patient with the process. It's important to remain hopeful — but realistic — about the challenges of recovery from alcohol misuse.

Part 4. Turning the Tide

If this all sounds a bit daunting, there's good news: recognizing these challenges is a huge step towards addressing them. With the right tools, support, and a dash of perseverance, steering your marriage back to a healthier place is absolutely possible.

The Power of Communication

Open, honest communication can be a lifeline when it comes to marriage problems. The right approach can pave the way for mutual support and recovery.

  • Open and honest dialogue. Open and honest dialogue freshens and invigorates your relationship. It's about sharing your thoughts, fears, and hopes in a candid yet respectful way — without blame or criticism. Whether it's sharing how your partner's drinking affects you or discussing your own struggles with alcohol, these conversations are the bedrock of mutual understanding.
  • The right time and place. Timing and setting are key for effective communication. Aim for moments when both of you are calm and free from distractions. This might mean setting aside a specific time to talk when you’re both relaxed, not immediately after a booze-related incident.
  • Listening is as important as speaking. Good communication is a two-way street! Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and then remembering what is being said.
  • Use "I" statements. "I" statements are powerful. They allow you to express your feelings without sounding accusatory or confrontational. For instance, saying "I feel worried when you drink too much" is more effective than saying "You drink too much." It's a way to take ownership of your feelings and invite your partner to understand your perspective without feeling attacked.
  • Non-verbal communication counts! Communication isn’t just about words. Your body language, tone of voice, and even your facial expressions convey volumes. A gentle tone and open posture can set a positive tone for the conversation, making it easier for your partner to open up.
  • Keep it consistent. Make communication a regular part of your relationship. Regular check-ins or scheduled times to talk can help keep the lines of communication open. It’s not just about talking when there’s a problem; it’s about maintaining an ongoing dialogue.

Action Steps for Turning the Tide

Finally, here are some additional action steps to help you and your partner address the challenge of alcohol misuse head-on in your marriage.

  • Seek professional help. Engage with a healthcare provider or a therapist who specializes in addiction. This could involve medically supervised detoxification, individual therapy, couples therapy, and support groups like Al-Anon for the non-drinking spouse. Therapy provides a safe space to explore the issues and learn coping mechanisms while under the guidance of a professional.
  • Create a booze-free home. Remove alcohol from your home environment to eliminate temptation and triggers. While it might seem like a simple step, it is a powerful tangible symbol of solidarity, mutual support, and commitment to a new lifestyle!
  • Establish healthy routines. Incorporate regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep into your daily routine. These habits can improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being, making it easier to cope with any challenges that come up.
  • Set boundaries. Establish clear boundaries around alcohol. Discuss and agree upon these boundaries to make sure they’re specific and realistic. Boundaries might include no drinking during family events or deciding on a plan of action if things don’t go as planned. 
  • Develop a support network. Build a support network of friends, family, and community members who understand what you’re going through. They can provide emotional encouragement and practical help if you need it.
  • Celebrate milestones. Acknowledge and celebrate milestones in your alcohol journey — or your partner’s. Whether it’s one week or one year, recognizing these achievements can boost morale and motivate continued progress. Creating new, booze-free traditions to mark these occasions is a great way to celebrate achievements while bringing you closer and creating new memories.

Wrapping Up

Alcohol misuse can indeed put a strain on marriage, but it doesn’t have to be the narrative of your relationship. With the right tools, understanding, and action, both partners can work towards a healthier, happier union free from the shadow of alcohol.

It’s not just about navigating away from alcohol; it’s about steering towards a shared vision of your life together. Take it one step at a time, support each other, and keep your eyes on the horizon of a fulfilling, alcohol-free future.

Triggers and Cravings
2023-10-26 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
Why Do I Have Alcohol Cravings When I'm Stressed?
This is some text inside of a div block.

If we’ve used alcohol to decompress or relax in the past, our brain has formed an association between drinking alcohol with a feeling of relief and reward. So whenever we’re stressed, our brain recalls the positive experience with alcohol and sends a “craving” signal.

10 min read

Rethink Your Alcohol Cravings With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Many of us can probably relate: we’re driving home from a stressful day at the office and can’t wait to walk in the door, uncork a bottle of wine, and plop down on the couch. Or we reach the end of a week from hell and want nothing more than to crack open a cold beer. In other words, when our stress levels spike, so do our alcohol cravings.

There’s a well-established link between stress and alcohol use. In fact, many people who struggle with alcohol misuse report social stressors such as family or workplace conflict as triggers of craving and relapse. But, why do we crave alcohol when we’re stressed? Let’s dive in!

Understanding Why Cravings Happen

drunken man sleeping bar counter

Drinking alcohol activates our brain’s reward system. Like other drugs, alcohol floods our brain with dopamine — that “feel good” chemical that keeps us coming back for more. As soon as we start drinking, our dopamine levels spike, creating a sense of happiness or euphoria and an apparent ease of stress and anxiety.

When we use alcohol to destress, decompress, or relax (as many of us do) our brain begins to form associations. It starts connecting drinking alcohol with a feeling of relief and reward. As we continue to use alcohol in these moments, the association is strengthened in our brain’s pleasure center.

If this association becomes strong enough, even just the thought of having a drink can increase dopamine levels. When we do consume alcohol, even more dopamine is released. As the dopamine continues to ramp up, it can lead to an acceleration of consumption. In other words, what we said would be just one drink to “take the edge off” suddenly becomes several.

Eventually, cravings become an automatic response to a trigger, such as a stressful situation. Our brain immediately remembers the positive experience with alcohol and sends signals, or cravings, that encourage the behavior.

Besides stress, there are many different types of triggers, both internal and external. Internal triggers include memories, thoughts, or other emotions like sadness, anger, or anxiety that prompt the urge to drink. External triggers refer to environmental cues that we link to alcohol, such as particular places, times, people or situations. This is why a craving can occur spontaneously — for instance, by seeing those around us drinking or walking by our favorite bar.

Illustration of body's stress response system

Alcohol’s Effects on Stress

Interestingly, while many of us have learned to turn to alcohol for relaxation and as a way to deal with stress, the relationship between alcohol and stress is complicated. Research indicates that alcohol triggers chemical changes in our brain that lead to short-term relaxation, but long-term stress. Alcohol also changes how our body responds to stress, making it harder to cope without it. 

Here’s how it works: as a depressant, alcohol has the power to calm us down and make us feel more relaxed in the moment. However, alcohol also activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis — a major part of our body’s stress response system. 

The HPA axis regulates metabolism, the immune system, and the autonomous nervous system to help our body maintain homeostasis. Adding alcohol to our system throws off this balance, making it harder to return to a healthy state. 

Alcohol causes higher amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, to be released in our brain, altering its chemistry and resetting what our body considers “normal.” It also shifts our hormonal balance and changes the way our body perceives and responds to stress. 

In fact, studies have found that people who drink heavily are more likely to experience higher anxiety under stress compared to people who don’t drink or who drink in moderation. Although alcohol seems to provide temporary relief from stress, people who drink more will have higher levels of stress over the long term.

How To Stop Alcohol Cravings Linked to Stress

Now that we know that alcohol actually leads to more stress, it’s best to avoid turning to it as a coping mechanism. But, what happens when that craving comes? What are some healthier alternatives to managing stress? And what are some methods to stop alcohol cravings?

We need to be careful not to replace our alcohol craving with something equally addictive, like smoking or gambling. Instead, we should focus on doing things that support our overall health and well-being.

Keep in mind that when a craving for alcohol strikes, it can help to acknowledge it and remind ourselves that it will usually go away in a few minutes. Here are some healthier alternatives to turn to when we’re feeling stressed: 

  • Get moving. Physical activity is one of the most effective tools for managing stress and cravings alike. Even just walking can lead to the release of endorphins, helping ease stress and enhance our mood. Regularly walking outside is particularly beneficial; time in nature has been shown to promote calmness and reduce tension. 



    The key is to find something you enjoy doing, whether that’s going for a run, doing yoga or Tai Chi, or taking a group exercise class. Plus, in the long-term, exercise helps combat the physical effects of stress, keeping your heart healthy and strong. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is another effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety. It’s been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala, part of the brain central to switching on the stress response. Similarly, mindfulness anchors you in the present moment and can help interrupt the stress response by allowing you space to respond instead of react. 



    You can practice mindfulness by bringing awareness to your emotions, allowing them to exist, not judging them, and remembering that they will eventually pass. You can also practice gratitude by making a list of the things you’re thankful for, as this helps train the brain to focus on the positive. 

  • Use relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help lower stress and stop alcohol cravings. These techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping your mind and body relax.

At Reframe, we help people not only cut back on their alcohol consumption, but build healthier habits that lead to enhanced physical and mental well-being. If alcohol has been your go-to stress reliever for years, you’re not alone! Reframe has helped millions of people like you develop a healthier way of living.

Many of us can probably relate: we’re driving home from a stressful day at the office and can’t wait to walk in the door, uncork a bottle of wine, and plop down on the couch. Or we reach the end of a week from hell and want nothing more than to crack open a cold beer. In other words, when our stress levels spike, so do our alcohol cravings.

There’s a well-established link between stress and alcohol use. In fact, many people who struggle with alcohol misuse report social stressors such as family or workplace conflict as triggers of craving and relapse. But, why do we crave alcohol when we’re stressed? Let’s dive in!

Understanding Why Cravings Happen

drunken man sleeping bar counter

Drinking alcohol activates our brain’s reward system. Like other drugs, alcohol floods our brain with dopamine — that “feel good” chemical that keeps us coming back for more. As soon as we start drinking, our dopamine levels spike, creating a sense of happiness or euphoria and an apparent ease of stress and anxiety.

When we use alcohol to destress, decompress, or relax (as many of us do) our brain begins to form associations. It starts connecting drinking alcohol with a feeling of relief and reward. As we continue to use alcohol in these moments, the association is strengthened in our brain’s pleasure center.

If this association becomes strong enough, even just the thought of having a drink can increase dopamine levels. When we do consume alcohol, even more dopamine is released. As the dopamine continues to ramp up, it can lead to an acceleration of consumption. In other words, what we said would be just one drink to “take the edge off” suddenly becomes several.

Eventually, cravings become an automatic response to a trigger, such as a stressful situation. Our brain immediately remembers the positive experience with alcohol and sends signals, or cravings, that encourage the behavior.

Besides stress, there are many different types of triggers, both internal and external. Internal triggers include memories, thoughts, or other emotions like sadness, anger, or anxiety that prompt the urge to drink. External triggers refer to environmental cues that we link to alcohol, such as particular places, times, people or situations. This is why a craving can occur spontaneously — for instance, by seeing those around us drinking or walking by our favorite bar.

Illustration of body's stress response system

Alcohol’s Effects on Stress

Interestingly, while many of us have learned to turn to alcohol for relaxation and as a way to deal with stress, the relationship between alcohol and stress is complicated. Research indicates that alcohol triggers chemical changes in our brain that lead to short-term relaxation, but long-term stress. Alcohol also changes how our body responds to stress, making it harder to cope without it. 

Here’s how it works: as a depressant, alcohol has the power to calm us down and make us feel more relaxed in the moment. However, alcohol also activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis — a major part of our body’s stress response system. 

The HPA axis regulates metabolism, the immune system, and the autonomous nervous system to help our body maintain homeostasis. Adding alcohol to our system throws off this balance, making it harder to return to a healthy state. 

Alcohol causes higher amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, to be released in our brain, altering its chemistry and resetting what our body considers “normal.” It also shifts our hormonal balance and changes the way our body perceives and responds to stress. 

In fact, studies have found that people who drink heavily are more likely to experience higher anxiety under stress compared to people who don’t drink or who drink in moderation. Although alcohol seems to provide temporary relief from stress, people who drink more will have higher levels of stress over the long term.

How To Stop Alcohol Cravings Linked to Stress

Now that we know that alcohol actually leads to more stress, it’s best to avoid turning to it as a coping mechanism. But, what happens when that craving comes? What are some healthier alternatives to managing stress? And what are some methods to stop alcohol cravings?

We need to be careful not to replace our alcohol craving with something equally addictive, like smoking or gambling. Instead, we should focus on doing things that support our overall health and well-being.

Keep in mind that when a craving for alcohol strikes, it can help to acknowledge it and remind ourselves that it will usually go away in a few minutes. Here are some healthier alternatives to turn to when we’re feeling stressed: 

  • Get moving. Physical activity is one of the most effective tools for managing stress and cravings alike. Even just walking can lead to the release of endorphins, helping ease stress and enhance our mood. Regularly walking outside is particularly beneficial; time in nature has been shown to promote calmness and reduce tension. 



    The key is to find something you enjoy doing, whether that’s going for a run, doing yoga or Tai Chi, or taking a group exercise class. Plus, in the long-term, exercise helps combat the physical effects of stress, keeping your heart healthy and strong. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is another effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety. It’s been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala, part of the brain central to switching on the stress response. Similarly, mindfulness anchors you in the present moment and can help interrupt the stress response by allowing you space to respond instead of react. 



    You can practice mindfulness by bringing awareness to your emotions, allowing them to exist, not judging them, and remembering that they will eventually pass. You can also practice gratitude by making a list of the things you’re thankful for, as this helps train the brain to focus on the positive. 

  • Use relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help lower stress and stop alcohol cravings. These techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping your mind and body relax.

At Reframe, we help people not only cut back on their alcohol consumption, but build healthier habits that lead to enhanced physical and mental well-being. If alcohol has been your go-to stress reliever for years, you’re not alone! Reframe has helped millions of people like you develop a healthier way of living.

Triggers and Cravings
2023-10-26 9:00
Triggers and cravings
How To Stop Alcohol Cravings
This is some text inside of a div block.

Alcohol cravings are common. Why exactly do they happen, though? And what can we do about them? Learn the science-backed strategies and insights.

16 min read

Stop Alcohol Cravings With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Are you tired of constantly battling the urge to drink? Do you feel like those pesky cravings come out of nowhere? Is reducing your alcohol consumption starting to feel like an uphill battle? We know exactly how you feel, and we want you to know that you’re not the only one. Tens of millions of people worldwide struggle with alcohol misuse. And alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects over 14 million adults in the U.S. alone

Overcoming alcohol cravings can be a game-changer for our well-being as we cut back on alcohol or quit drinking altogether. It's never too late to take control and break free from the vicious cravings cycle so many of us find ourselves in. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some effective ways to curb our alcohol cravings and kickstart our journey towards a happier, healthier life.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #1: Avoid Triggers

One effective way to stop alcohol cravings is to avoid triggers that may lead to cravings. What are triggers? Triggers are certain situations or emotions that induce strong urges to drink. They can vary from person to person, but some common examples include social events, stress, and boredom. Once we’ve pinpointed our triggers, we can find ways to avoid or cope with them. For instance, if our office’s Friday pizza tradition triggers cravings for beer, we can consider stepping out for lunch that day or bringing a non-alcoholic beverage that we’ll enjoy.

Also, if we typically drink when we’re stressed or anxious, we can instead engage in alcohol-free activities when we feel these emotions. Exercising, meditating, or simply grabbing a tall glass of water can combat the craving. We may consider avoiding or minimizing time in certain social situations or environments where alcohol is present, at least until we feel confident in our ability to resist cravings.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #2: Build a Support System

Another helpful way to combat cravings is to develop a support system. This may include friends, family, or even professional help. It can be challenging to overcome alcohol cravings alone, so having others in our corner to provide encouragement and accountability makes a significant difference. 

Professional help, such as counseling or support groups, can also give us the tools and resources necessary to reduce our alcohol cravings. Therapists can provide us with evidence-based strategies for conquering cravings, and they may refer us to a medical professional if medication is necessary (more on this below). 

We can also find our people through Reframe! The app provides a supportive community of like-minded folks from around the globe through our 24/7 anonymous Forum chat. If we want to surround ourselves with people who “get it” and who can give us helpful insights into our own relationship with alcohol, the Reframe Forum is the place to be.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #3: Develop Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are key to managing cravings (and to navigate life’s ups and downs!). Deep breathing techniques calm our body and mind when cravings pop up. 

Mindfulness also helps us develop more awareness around our cravings and when they are likely to arise. 

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. When it comes to stopping alcohol cravings, this present moment awareness is a powerful tool. Instead of trying to resist the craving, take a moment to observe it with curiosity and without judgment. This allows us to detach from the urge and ultimately reduce its intensity. 

Alcohol Cravings Tip #4: Find (Healthy!) Distractions

Similarly, engaging in activities that provide a sense of satisfaction or pleasure, such as indulging in a favorite hobby or spending time with loved ones, distract us from cravings. When we feel the urge to drink, we can redirect our attention to something enjoyable: reading a book, going for a walk, or playing a game. The key is to find an activity that we find intrinsically engaging and fun. Research actually shows that engaging in pleasurable activities can reduce cravings

Alcohol Cravings Tip #5: Practice Self-Care

A critical component of stopping alcohol cravings is self-care. Many of us might picture luxurious spa days or meditation retreats when we hear that, but self-care is pretty simple. It includes anything that promotes physical and emotional well-being, such as exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep. Taking care of ourselves reduces stress and anxiety, common triggers for alcohol cravings. 

It's essential to note that stopping alcohol cravings and reducing alcohol consumption requires a gradual process. Abruptly cutting back on alcohol (especially if we’ve been drinking heavily) can sometimes lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous without medical supervision. That’s why we recommend cutting down by no more than 10% per week. Professional support can guide us in safely reducing or ending our alcohol consumption over time, as well.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #6: Consider Medication

For some of us, reducing or eliminating alcohol might require medical intervention. And that’s okay! Medication can offer a helping hand as we build new coping mechanisms. In the initial stages of going alcohol-free or cutting back, certain medications have been shown to suppress alcohol cravings:

  • Naltrexone: This medication works by blocking the euphoric effects and feelings of intoxication, reducing the desire to drink. Instead of getting pleasure from alcohol, people on naltrexone often find that the appeal lessens over time.

  • Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate is believed to restore the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that get altered by prolonged alcohol use. It may decrease our urge to drink, especially for those of us who are committed to abstinence.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): Unlike the previous two medications which reduce cravings, disulfiram causes unpleasant effects upon alcohol consumption: flushing, nausea, and headaches. This negative reinforcement can deter drinking.


However, it's important to note that these medications aren't magic. They work best in conjunction with other treatments, such as counseling. Moreover, they might have contraindications with other medications or medical conditions. Before considering these options, it's essential to discuss with a healthcare professional who can provide guidance on potential risks, benefits, and monitoring.

Taking a comprehensive approach, which may include medication, can enhance our chances of successfully curbing those alcohol cravings and setting ourselves on a healthier path.

Medications for alcohol cravings a solution to suppress the urge

Stopping Alcohol Cravings Through Nutrition

We’re not here to tout one diet over another, and we know that dietary preferences will vary. However, optimal nutrition is key to stopping alcohol cravings and improving our overall health. Here are a few nutrition-related changes that can keep pesky cravings at bay. 

Alcohol Cravings and Low Blood Sugar

When our blood sugar dips too low, we face a greater risk of cravings. Our bodies know that alcohol quickly spikes our glucose levels, bringing about a quick state change. However, long-term heavy alcohol use puts us at higher risk for frequent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which means our blood sugar may already be imbalanced when we remove alcohol. This is why a nutritious diet and healthy eating habits are essential for curbing cravings. 

Focus on whole foods: healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts), protein (chicken, eggs, fish), complex carbohydrates (quinoa, brown rice, beans, legumes), fruits, and vegetables. Avoid or limit processed foods, as these can lead to further blood sugar imbalances.  

Balanced Meals and Snacks

When choosing what to eat, focus on hitting three categories with each meal and snack: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut and keeps us full. Protein and healthy fats also encourage satiety. Snacks high in refined sugar, refined carbs (i.e., white bread or crackers), or saturated fats don’t check all of the nutritional boxes that keep us satiated and properly fueling our bodies. When our food intake is balanced and covers several categories, we can stay focused and energized throughout the day. And this means fewer cravings! 

Avoid Skipping Meals

It can be tempting to skip meals, especially if we’re swamped at work or have many nagging responsibilities. Unfortunately, skipping meals only makes us hangry and leads to poor concentration. Eating at regular intervals is especially important for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day. We should aim to eat something with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats every three to four hours to keep our blood sugar stable and avoid those dreaded hunger-related mood swings. This also keeps our metabolism firing, which maintains a healthy body weight. And, of course, it’ll keep us from falling into the cravings trap. 

Say Yes to Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason: by keeping our blood sugar levels from dropping too low, it reduces cravings. 

The key is to choose our first meal of the day wisely. We can make improvements to our breakfast by making sure it’s balanced and full of protein. When we “break” our body’s overnight “fast” with a nutritious and satisfying meal, we provide fuel and energy for a good day. Eggs, protein smoothies, oatmeal with a little nut butter mixed in — all of these are excellent options for a breakfast that properly fuels us. When we’re appropriately nourished, we’re less likely to succumb to cravings.

Conquer Alcohol Cravings Gradually

When tweaking dietary habits (or any habit, for that matter), always start small. When doing something new, like changing our relationship with alcohol, we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with drastic changes in too many other areas, such as nutrition. Pick just one area — like eating meals at regular intervals, grabbing a balanced afternoon snack, or meal prepping on the weekends — and see how that feels. We should carry on with the changes that support our ability to stave off cravings and adjust the ones that don’t. We’ll be surprised at how much a change in our eating habits can affect how often — and how intensely — we experience alcohol cravings. 

Alcohol Cravings: Progress, Not Perfection

Reducing alcohol cravings and changing our relationship with alcohol is a personal process that requires dedication and motivation. Slips and setbacks are normal, and we shouldn’t be discouraged if we encounter them. 

Work on one coping strategy at a time as you quit alcohol or reduce your intake. For instance, start with a mindfulness practice or make adjustments to your diet. With each change, you’ll fortify yourself against the pull of cravings and grow stronger each day. Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can reduce your desire for alcohol and improve your overall well-being.

And remember: it’s also okay to seek help from a medical professional or mental health expert. Changing our relationship with alcohol requires a multifaceted approach, and there’s nothing wrong with needing outside help. You are worth the effort and you deserve to live your healthiest and most empowered life! Let’s get there together, one conquered craving at a time. 

Are you tired of constantly battling the urge to drink? Do you feel like those pesky cravings come out of nowhere? Is reducing your alcohol consumption starting to feel like an uphill battle? We know exactly how you feel, and we want you to know that you’re not the only one. Tens of millions of people worldwide struggle with alcohol misuse. And alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects over 14 million adults in the U.S. alone

Overcoming alcohol cravings can be a game-changer for our well-being as we cut back on alcohol or quit drinking altogether. It's never too late to take control and break free from the vicious cravings cycle so many of us find ourselves in. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some effective ways to curb our alcohol cravings and kickstart our journey towards a happier, healthier life.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #1: Avoid Triggers

One effective way to stop alcohol cravings is to avoid triggers that may lead to cravings. What are triggers? Triggers are certain situations or emotions that induce strong urges to drink. They can vary from person to person, but some common examples include social events, stress, and boredom. Once we’ve pinpointed our triggers, we can find ways to avoid or cope with them. For instance, if our office’s Friday pizza tradition triggers cravings for beer, we can consider stepping out for lunch that day or bringing a non-alcoholic beverage that we’ll enjoy.

Also, if we typically drink when we’re stressed or anxious, we can instead engage in alcohol-free activities when we feel these emotions. Exercising, meditating, or simply grabbing a tall glass of water can combat the craving. We may consider avoiding or minimizing time in certain social situations or environments where alcohol is present, at least until we feel confident in our ability to resist cravings.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #2: Build a Support System

Another helpful way to combat cravings is to develop a support system. This may include friends, family, or even professional help. It can be challenging to overcome alcohol cravings alone, so having others in our corner to provide encouragement and accountability makes a significant difference. 

Professional help, such as counseling or support groups, can also give us the tools and resources necessary to reduce our alcohol cravings. Therapists can provide us with evidence-based strategies for conquering cravings, and they may refer us to a medical professional if medication is necessary (more on this below). 

We can also find our people through Reframe! The app provides a supportive community of like-minded folks from around the globe through our 24/7 anonymous Forum chat. If we want to surround ourselves with people who “get it” and who can give us helpful insights into our own relationship with alcohol, the Reframe Forum is the place to be.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #3: Develop Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are key to managing cravings (and to navigate life’s ups and downs!). Deep breathing techniques calm our body and mind when cravings pop up. 

Mindfulness also helps us develop more awareness around our cravings and when they are likely to arise. 

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. When it comes to stopping alcohol cravings, this present moment awareness is a powerful tool. Instead of trying to resist the craving, take a moment to observe it with curiosity and without judgment. This allows us to detach from the urge and ultimately reduce its intensity. 

Alcohol Cravings Tip #4: Find (Healthy!) Distractions

Similarly, engaging in activities that provide a sense of satisfaction or pleasure, such as indulging in a favorite hobby or spending time with loved ones, distract us from cravings. When we feel the urge to drink, we can redirect our attention to something enjoyable: reading a book, going for a walk, or playing a game. The key is to find an activity that we find intrinsically engaging and fun. Research actually shows that engaging in pleasurable activities can reduce cravings

Alcohol Cravings Tip #5: Practice Self-Care

A critical component of stopping alcohol cravings is self-care. Many of us might picture luxurious spa days or meditation retreats when we hear that, but self-care is pretty simple. It includes anything that promotes physical and emotional well-being, such as exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep. Taking care of ourselves reduces stress and anxiety, common triggers for alcohol cravings. 

It's essential to note that stopping alcohol cravings and reducing alcohol consumption requires a gradual process. Abruptly cutting back on alcohol (especially if we’ve been drinking heavily) can sometimes lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous without medical supervision. That’s why we recommend cutting down by no more than 10% per week. Professional support can guide us in safely reducing or ending our alcohol consumption over time, as well.

Alcohol Cravings Tip #6: Consider Medication

For some of us, reducing or eliminating alcohol might require medical intervention. And that’s okay! Medication can offer a helping hand as we build new coping mechanisms. In the initial stages of going alcohol-free or cutting back, certain medications have been shown to suppress alcohol cravings:

  • Naltrexone: This medication works by blocking the euphoric effects and feelings of intoxication, reducing the desire to drink. Instead of getting pleasure from alcohol, people on naltrexone often find that the appeal lessens over time.

  • Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate is believed to restore the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that get altered by prolonged alcohol use. It may decrease our urge to drink, especially for those of us who are committed to abstinence.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): Unlike the previous two medications which reduce cravings, disulfiram causes unpleasant effects upon alcohol consumption: flushing, nausea, and headaches. This negative reinforcement can deter drinking.


However, it's important to note that these medications aren't magic. They work best in conjunction with other treatments, such as counseling. Moreover, they might have contraindications with other medications or medical conditions. Before considering these options, it's essential to discuss with a healthcare professional who can provide guidance on potential risks, benefits, and monitoring.

Taking a comprehensive approach, which may include medication, can enhance our chances of successfully curbing those alcohol cravings and setting ourselves on a healthier path.

Medications for alcohol cravings a solution to suppress the urge

Stopping Alcohol Cravings Through Nutrition

We’re not here to tout one diet over another, and we know that dietary preferences will vary. However, optimal nutrition is key to stopping alcohol cravings and improving our overall health. Here are a few nutrition-related changes that can keep pesky cravings at bay. 

Alcohol Cravings and Low Blood Sugar

When our blood sugar dips too low, we face a greater risk of cravings. Our bodies know that alcohol quickly spikes our glucose levels, bringing about a quick state change. However, long-term heavy alcohol use puts us at higher risk for frequent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which means our blood sugar may already be imbalanced when we remove alcohol. This is why a nutritious diet and healthy eating habits are essential for curbing cravings. 

Focus on whole foods: healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts), protein (chicken, eggs, fish), complex carbohydrates (quinoa, brown rice, beans, legumes), fruits, and vegetables. Avoid or limit processed foods, as these can lead to further blood sugar imbalances.  

Balanced Meals and Snacks

When choosing what to eat, focus on hitting three categories with each meal and snack: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut and keeps us full. Protein and healthy fats also encourage satiety. Snacks high in refined sugar, refined carbs (i.e., white bread or crackers), or saturated fats don’t check all of the nutritional boxes that keep us satiated and properly fueling our bodies. When our food intake is balanced and covers several categories, we can stay focused and energized throughout the day. And this means fewer cravings! 

Avoid Skipping Meals

It can be tempting to skip meals, especially if we’re swamped at work or have many nagging responsibilities. Unfortunately, skipping meals only makes us hangry and leads to poor concentration. Eating at regular intervals is especially important for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day. We should aim to eat something with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats every three to four hours to keep our blood sugar stable and avoid those dreaded hunger-related mood swings. This also keeps our metabolism firing, which maintains a healthy body weight. And, of course, it’ll keep us from falling into the cravings trap. 

Say Yes to Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason: by keeping our blood sugar levels from dropping too low, it reduces cravings. 

The key is to choose our first meal of the day wisely. We can make improvements to our breakfast by making sure it’s balanced and full of protein. When we “break” our body’s overnight “fast” with a nutritious and satisfying meal, we provide fuel and energy for a good day. Eggs, protein smoothies, oatmeal with a little nut butter mixed in — all of these are excellent options for a breakfast that properly fuels us. When we’re appropriately nourished, we’re less likely to succumb to cravings.

Conquer Alcohol Cravings Gradually

When tweaking dietary habits (or any habit, for that matter), always start small. When doing something new, like changing our relationship with alcohol, we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with drastic changes in too many other areas, such as nutrition. Pick just one area — like eating meals at regular intervals, grabbing a balanced afternoon snack, or meal prepping on the weekends — and see how that feels. We should carry on with the changes that support our ability to stave off cravings and adjust the ones that don’t. We’ll be surprised at how much a change in our eating habits can affect how often — and how intensely — we experience alcohol cravings. 

Alcohol Cravings: Progress, Not Perfection

Reducing alcohol cravings and changing our relationship with alcohol is a personal process that requires dedication and motivation. Slips and setbacks are normal, and we shouldn’t be discouraged if we encounter them. 

Work on one coping strategy at a time as you quit alcohol or reduce your intake. For instance, start with a mindfulness practice or make adjustments to your diet. With each change, you’ll fortify yourself against the pull of cravings and grow stronger each day. Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can reduce your desire for alcohol and improve your overall well-being.

And remember: it’s also okay to seek help from a medical professional or mental health expert. Changing our relationship with alcohol requires a multifaceted approach, and there’s nothing wrong with needing outside help. You are worth the effort and you deserve to live your healthiest and most empowered life! Let’s get there together, one conquered craving at a time. 

Triggers and Cravings
2023-10-05 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
HALT: Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness
This is some text inside of a div block.

HALT at the start: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Learn the science behind these triggers and master cravings. Turn HALT into a tool for healthier habits.

18 min read

Unlock the Healthiest YOU With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

It's Friday night, and you're at a bar with your friends. The atmosphere is filled with laughter and banter; the drinks are flowing. But as you sip on that cocktail, there's a subtle nudge in the back of your mind reminding you of your recent commitment to reduce your alcohol intake. Yet something about this setting, this night, makes it hard to resist that next drink.

There’s no getting around it: the environmental factors and emotional states we find ourselves in often serve as triggers for undesirable habits, such as excessive drinking. Research shows that understanding these triggers and implementing coping strategies can aid in cutting back or quitting altogether. One such effective strategy is HALT — an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Any of these HALT states impacts our ability to make and stick to our drinking goals.

HALT's Components and Neurobiology

While HALT serves as an easy-to-remember acronym, each of its components — hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness — holds profound implications for self-control and decision-making. Understanding these in depth adds layers to the practical utility of the HALT framework, making it a nuanced tool for self-regulation.

Hunger and Ghrelin: More Than Just a Growling Stomach

When hungry, the stomach produces the hormone ghrelin, signaling the brain it’s time to eat. But ghrelin has other roles; it also influences the dopamine pathways, which play a vital part in decision-making and risk assessment. Elevated ghrelin levels can tilt the balance in favor of immediate gratification over long-term benefits. This mechanism explains why poor food choices — or even poor choices regarding alcohol consumption — are more likely when hungry.

Anger and Adrenaline: The Fire Within

Anger triggers a fight-or-flight response, releasing adrenaline and other catecholamines. These biochemical changes prepare the body for rapid action, but they are less useful for thoughtful decision-making. Increased adrenaline reduces the operational efficacy of the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s “CEO”), lowering inhibitory control. This is why an angry person is more likely to make impulsive decisions, such as consuming more alcohol than intended.

Loneliness and Cortisol: The Stress Hormone

Feeling lonely or socially isolated can increase cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone.” Elevated cortisol levels, particularly when chronic, can disrupt synaptic regulation, impairing memory and concentration. High cortisol also affects the amygdala, making us more susceptible to emotional decision-making and risk-taking behavior. This cortisol-amygdala interaction may make loneliness a significant trigger for giving in to cravings.

Tiredness and Brain Function: A Weary Pathway

Adequate rest is crucial for optimal brain function, especially for the prefrontal cortex. Lack of sleep has been shown to impair cognitive functions like attention, working memory, and impulse control. In this state of reduced cognitive resources, our ability to make considered choices is compromised, and the likelihood of succumbing to cravings increases.

Why HALT Works

Given how each component of HALT can impair decision-making capabilities, stopping to assess our emotional and physical state can reboot our brain. By identifying and addressing these specific states, we can restore some balance to the neural pathways and hormones that play a crucial role in self-control. The key is awareness and timely intervention, and this is where HALT excels.

The Downsides of Traditional Coping Mechanisms

Willpower has been glorified as the golden ticket to self-control and positive change. Yet, time and again, even the most determined individuals find themselves grappling with the same behavioral pitfalls. Why? The answer lies in the fundamental limitations of traditional coping mechanisms, which often fail to account for the intricate relationship between emotional states and neural pathways.

The Illusion of Willpower: It's Not a Constant

Contrary to popular belief, willpower is not an inexhaustible resource; it's more like a battery that drains over the day. Psychological research has identified a phenomenon known as "ego depletion," which suggests that self-control and willpower are finite resources that get used up throughout the day. Ego depletion means that relying solely on willpower to combat triggers can be a risky proposition, especially as the day wears on and our reserves run low.

Environmental Avoidance: The Incomplete Strategy

The "out of sight, out of mind" strategy suggests that avoiding triggers —  by steering clear of bars or social situations where alcohol is present — can help manage cravings. While this method can provide temporary relief, it's not a real solution. It doesn’t address the internal emotional states, such as loneliness or anger, that may fuel our cravings in the first place. So even if external triggers are eliminated, the internal triggers remain, always lurking in the background.

Cognitive Missteps: The Rationalization Trap

Another common coping mechanism is rationalization, in which people convince themselves that indulging "just this once" won't have long-term consequences. This thought process arises from cognitive distortions that occur when the impulse-driven regions of the brain gain the upper hand over the logical, prefrontal cortex. The brain tricks itself into making exceptions, which can quickly escalate into old habits.

Emotional Escapism: Not a Viable Solution

Many people resort to alternative sources of instant gratification to suppress cravings, whether it's binge-watching TV or indulging in junk food. These activities may offer a momentary escape but fail to address the stress or emotional vacuum that triggered the craving. Emotional escapism offers a short-term fix but neglects the underlying issue, making it a less effective coping mechanism in the long run.

The HALT Alternative: A Comprehensive Approach

What sets HALT apart is its focus on identifying and tackling the root emotional and physical states contributing to cravings. By offering a more nuanced understanding of ourselves in any given moment, HALT allows for a more effective, personalized strategy to manage triggers. It bridges the gap between emotional states and neural pathways, offering a more holistic and sustainable approach to behavior modification.

Implementing HALT

While understanding the science behind HALT and its effectiveness is enlightening, the real magic begins when this framework is personalized and made actionable. Thankfully, with modern technology and some old-fashioned discipline, adopting HALT into our daily lives can be a game-changer in the fight against cravings and unhealthy habits.

1. Keep a HALT Journal

Ever found yourself craving a drink but couldn't pinpoint exactly why? That’s where the HALT journal comes into play. Keeping a pocket-sized notebook or using a dedicated app (like Reframe!) to track instances when cravings strike can serve as an emotional compass. Note the time, the situation, and your emotional state. Did the craving hit during a stressful work meeting? Or perhaps during a moment of loneliness over the weekend? 

By cataloging these instances, patterns begin to emerge, helping us identify the specific emotional states that most often lead to cravings. Over time, this self-monitoring becomes an invaluable resource for preemptive action. For example, if our feelings of loneliness often trigger cravings, we can take proactive steps to address that emotional state, such as planning social activities or speaking with a therapist.

2. Master Self-Control

If HALT serves as the emotional compass, the five-minute rule is the equivalent of "stopping to ask for directions." When a craving hits, rather than acting on impulse, wait for just five minutes. During this pause, consult your HALT journal. Does the current craving align with a previously identified emotional state? If so, this awareness alone can often reduce the urge to indulge, returning control to the rational part of the brain. These five minutes grant a moment of clarity amid emotional turbulence.

3. Keep Snacks on Hand


Hunger is a tricky emotional state: it's both physiological and psychological. When hunger strikes, the brain's ability to make rational decisions diminishes, making it more likely to give in to cravings. The solution? Keep healthy snacks like fruit or protein bars on hand. Having these easily accessible snacks serves a dual purpose: they both satiate the hunger and distract from the craving. Over time, the brain starts associating these healthy alternatives with the feeling of hunger, rewiring neural pathways and making cravings easier to bypass.

4. Learn To Manage Anger


Anger can compromise judgment and trigger cravings. While it’s a natural emotion, how we handle anger can make all the difference. Practicing deep-breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 technique — inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale completely through the mouth for 8 seconds — can help calm the nervous system and provide emotional clarity. Additionally, creating physical distance from the trigger situation often equates to emotional distance. Leaving the room or stepping outside for some fresh air can allow the emotional storm to subside, offering perspective and reducing impulsivity.

5. Lean Into Your Support Network


Loneliness is more than an emotional state; it can trigger various unhealthy habits, including drinking. One effective way to counteract this emotional state is to establish a list of friends or family who can offer emotional support. Feeling isolated? Reach out for a chat! Sometimes, even a brief conversation can provide that emotional pivot needed to shift focus away from cravings. And these conversations serve a dual purpose: they fulfill the need for human connection and also act as a distraction from the craving itself.


6. Fight Tiredness With Endorphins


Tiredness might seem like the least harmful trigger among HALT's quartet, but its impact shouldn't be underestimated. When feeling low on energy, performing quick physical activities like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even a brisk walk around the block can make a world of difference. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. These endorphins can wake up the mind, divert attention from cravings, and inject a burst of energy to carry on with the day.


7. Embrace Digital Tools


In today's digital age, help can be just a tap away. The Reframe app has evidence-backed cravings tools to help you resist the urge to drink. Whether it's a guided meditation, a quick breathing exercise, or even a lesson in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, our app can be an incredibly handy resource. By having our app at the ready, the immediate urge to act on a craving can be replaced by a more constructive, health-conscious activity, offering another layer of defense in the battle against bad habits.

Hope on the Horizon

There's something exhilarating about embarking on a journey toward betterment. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; challenges will inevitably pop up, testing your resolve and dedication. But that's what makes the journey worthwhile. Armed with HALT and a range of personalized strategies, each obstacle becomes a stepping stone toward a healthier, happier life.

Setbacks? Sure, they'll happen. But rather than viewing them as failures, see them as learning opportunities. Each day is a new chance to make choices that are aligned with better health and well-being. With each correct choice, the dream of a healthier, more fulfilling life stops being a dream and starts becoming reality. So why wait? Every day is another chance to make the choices that bring you closer to your goals. 

It's Friday night, and you're at a bar with your friends. The atmosphere is filled with laughter and banter; the drinks are flowing. But as you sip on that cocktail, there's a subtle nudge in the back of your mind reminding you of your recent commitment to reduce your alcohol intake. Yet something about this setting, this night, makes it hard to resist that next drink.

There’s no getting around it: the environmental factors and emotional states we find ourselves in often serve as triggers for undesirable habits, such as excessive drinking. Research shows that understanding these triggers and implementing coping strategies can aid in cutting back or quitting altogether. One such effective strategy is HALT — an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Any of these HALT states impacts our ability to make and stick to our drinking goals.

HALT's Components and Neurobiology

While HALT serves as an easy-to-remember acronym, each of its components — hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness — holds profound implications for self-control and decision-making. Understanding these in depth adds layers to the practical utility of the HALT framework, making it a nuanced tool for self-regulation.

Hunger and Ghrelin: More Than Just a Growling Stomach

When hungry, the stomach produces the hormone ghrelin, signaling the brain it’s time to eat. But ghrelin has other roles; it also influences the dopamine pathways, which play a vital part in decision-making and risk assessment. Elevated ghrelin levels can tilt the balance in favor of immediate gratification over long-term benefits. This mechanism explains why poor food choices — or even poor choices regarding alcohol consumption — are more likely when hungry.

Anger and Adrenaline: The Fire Within

Anger triggers a fight-or-flight response, releasing adrenaline and other catecholamines. These biochemical changes prepare the body for rapid action, but they are less useful for thoughtful decision-making. Increased adrenaline reduces the operational efficacy of the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s “CEO”), lowering inhibitory control. This is why an angry person is more likely to make impulsive decisions, such as consuming more alcohol than intended.

Loneliness and Cortisol: The Stress Hormone

Feeling lonely or socially isolated can increase cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone.” Elevated cortisol levels, particularly when chronic, can disrupt synaptic regulation, impairing memory and concentration. High cortisol also affects the amygdala, making us more susceptible to emotional decision-making and risk-taking behavior. This cortisol-amygdala interaction may make loneliness a significant trigger for giving in to cravings.

Tiredness and Brain Function: A Weary Pathway

Adequate rest is crucial for optimal brain function, especially for the prefrontal cortex. Lack of sleep has been shown to impair cognitive functions like attention, working memory, and impulse control. In this state of reduced cognitive resources, our ability to make considered choices is compromised, and the likelihood of succumbing to cravings increases.

Why HALT Works

Given how each component of HALT can impair decision-making capabilities, stopping to assess our emotional and physical state can reboot our brain. By identifying and addressing these specific states, we can restore some balance to the neural pathways and hormones that play a crucial role in self-control. The key is awareness and timely intervention, and this is where HALT excels.

The Downsides of Traditional Coping Mechanisms

Willpower has been glorified as the golden ticket to self-control and positive change. Yet, time and again, even the most determined individuals find themselves grappling with the same behavioral pitfalls. Why? The answer lies in the fundamental limitations of traditional coping mechanisms, which often fail to account for the intricate relationship between emotional states and neural pathways.

The Illusion of Willpower: It's Not a Constant

Contrary to popular belief, willpower is not an inexhaustible resource; it's more like a battery that drains over the day. Psychological research has identified a phenomenon known as "ego depletion," which suggests that self-control and willpower are finite resources that get used up throughout the day. Ego depletion means that relying solely on willpower to combat triggers can be a risky proposition, especially as the day wears on and our reserves run low.

Environmental Avoidance: The Incomplete Strategy

The "out of sight, out of mind" strategy suggests that avoiding triggers —  by steering clear of bars or social situations where alcohol is present — can help manage cravings. While this method can provide temporary relief, it's not a real solution. It doesn’t address the internal emotional states, such as loneliness or anger, that may fuel our cravings in the first place. So even if external triggers are eliminated, the internal triggers remain, always lurking in the background.

Cognitive Missteps: The Rationalization Trap

Another common coping mechanism is rationalization, in which people convince themselves that indulging "just this once" won't have long-term consequences. This thought process arises from cognitive distortions that occur when the impulse-driven regions of the brain gain the upper hand over the logical, prefrontal cortex. The brain tricks itself into making exceptions, which can quickly escalate into old habits.

Emotional Escapism: Not a Viable Solution

Many people resort to alternative sources of instant gratification to suppress cravings, whether it's binge-watching TV or indulging in junk food. These activities may offer a momentary escape but fail to address the stress or emotional vacuum that triggered the craving. Emotional escapism offers a short-term fix but neglects the underlying issue, making it a less effective coping mechanism in the long run.

The HALT Alternative: A Comprehensive Approach

What sets HALT apart is its focus on identifying and tackling the root emotional and physical states contributing to cravings. By offering a more nuanced understanding of ourselves in any given moment, HALT allows for a more effective, personalized strategy to manage triggers. It bridges the gap between emotional states and neural pathways, offering a more holistic and sustainable approach to behavior modification.

Implementing HALT

While understanding the science behind HALT and its effectiveness is enlightening, the real magic begins when this framework is personalized and made actionable. Thankfully, with modern technology and some old-fashioned discipline, adopting HALT into our daily lives can be a game-changer in the fight against cravings and unhealthy habits.

1. Keep a HALT Journal

Ever found yourself craving a drink but couldn't pinpoint exactly why? That’s where the HALT journal comes into play. Keeping a pocket-sized notebook or using a dedicated app (like Reframe!) to track instances when cravings strike can serve as an emotional compass. Note the time, the situation, and your emotional state. Did the craving hit during a stressful work meeting? Or perhaps during a moment of loneliness over the weekend? 

By cataloging these instances, patterns begin to emerge, helping us identify the specific emotional states that most often lead to cravings. Over time, this self-monitoring becomes an invaluable resource for preemptive action. For example, if our feelings of loneliness often trigger cravings, we can take proactive steps to address that emotional state, such as planning social activities or speaking with a therapist.

2. Master Self-Control

If HALT serves as the emotional compass, the five-minute rule is the equivalent of "stopping to ask for directions." When a craving hits, rather than acting on impulse, wait for just five minutes. During this pause, consult your HALT journal. Does the current craving align with a previously identified emotional state? If so, this awareness alone can often reduce the urge to indulge, returning control to the rational part of the brain. These five minutes grant a moment of clarity amid emotional turbulence.

3. Keep Snacks on Hand


Hunger is a tricky emotional state: it's both physiological and psychological. When hunger strikes, the brain's ability to make rational decisions diminishes, making it more likely to give in to cravings. The solution? Keep healthy snacks like fruit or protein bars on hand. Having these easily accessible snacks serves a dual purpose: they both satiate the hunger and distract from the craving. Over time, the brain starts associating these healthy alternatives with the feeling of hunger, rewiring neural pathways and making cravings easier to bypass.

4. Learn To Manage Anger


Anger can compromise judgment and trigger cravings. While it’s a natural emotion, how we handle anger can make all the difference. Practicing deep-breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 technique — inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale completely through the mouth for 8 seconds — can help calm the nervous system and provide emotional clarity. Additionally, creating physical distance from the trigger situation often equates to emotional distance. Leaving the room or stepping outside for some fresh air can allow the emotional storm to subside, offering perspective and reducing impulsivity.

5. Lean Into Your Support Network


Loneliness is more than an emotional state; it can trigger various unhealthy habits, including drinking. One effective way to counteract this emotional state is to establish a list of friends or family who can offer emotional support. Feeling isolated? Reach out for a chat! Sometimes, even a brief conversation can provide that emotional pivot needed to shift focus away from cravings. And these conversations serve a dual purpose: they fulfill the need for human connection and also act as a distraction from the craving itself.


6. Fight Tiredness With Endorphins


Tiredness might seem like the least harmful trigger among HALT's quartet, but its impact shouldn't be underestimated. When feeling low on energy, performing quick physical activities like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even a brisk walk around the block can make a world of difference. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. These endorphins can wake up the mind, divert attention from cravings, and inject a burst of energy to carry on with the day.


7. Embrace Digital Tools


In today's digital age, help can be just a tap away. The Reframe app has evidence-backed cravings tools to help you resist the urge to drink. Whether it's a guided meditation, a quick breathing exercise, or even a lesson in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, our app can be an incredibly handy resource. By having our app at the ready, the immediate urge to act on a craving can be replaced by a more constructive, health-conscious activity, offering another layer of defense in the battle against bad habits.

Hope on the Horizon

There's something exhilarating about embarking on a journey toward betterment. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; challenges will inevitably pop up, testing your resolve and dedication. But that's what makes the journey worthwhile. Armed with HALT and a range of personalized strategies, each obstacle becomes a stepping stone toward a healthier, happier life.

Setbacks? Sure, they'll happen. But rather than viewing them as failures, see them as learning opportunities. Each day is a new chance to make choices that are aligned with better health and well-being. With each correct choice, the dream of a healthier, more fulfilling life stops being a dream and starts becoming reality. So why wait? Every day is another chance to make the choices that bring you closer to your goals. 

Triggers and Cravings
2023-08-30 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
Why Do I Get the "Drunchies" After Drinking Alcohol?
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Find yourself reaching for french fries, pizza, or a bag of chips at the end of a long night of drinking? Gain insight into why we experience the “drunchies” after consuming alcohol, and learn how to prevent it.

18 min read

Take Control of Your Health With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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You’ve been doing well all week. You’ve been exercising, eating healthy meals full of lean protein and vegetables, and drinking lots of water. But then Friday rolls around. You meet some friends for happy hour after work, and you eat a solid meal while drinking several cocktails. The night carries on and by the time you head home, you suddenly feel ravenous. You feel like you haven’t eaten for days and want to consume all the things you so diligently avoided during the week: pizza, fried foods, chips, and sweets. What’s going on?  

In this post, we’ll explore why we experience the “drunk munchies”— the “drunchies” — after drinking. We’ll also look at how the “drunchies” affect our health, and what we can do to avoid them. Let’s get started!

What Are the “Drunchies” and What Causes Them?

The “drunchies” are cravings for foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrates after a session of moderate to heavy drinking. Pizza, french fries, or potato or tortilla chips are typically at the top of the list. Doritos Locos Tacos combo, anyone? 

This is a common experience for those who drink: one survey found that 82% of Americans are self-proclaimed drunken snackers (and more than 50% regret it the next day!). 

Interestingly, even if we consumed food before or during drinking, we still might experience a ravenous hunger later that has us reaching for those fatty foods. Why? 

Researchers have found that alcohol stimulates the same neurons in our brain that our body triggers when it goes into starvation mode. More specifically, the agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons — special neurons in our brain that deal with hunger and other functions — are activated during intoxication. 

In other words, our brain actually thinks it’s starving while under the influence of alcohol. Instead of our body saying, “I just got a lot of calories, so I have fuel and am full,” the opposite occurs. Although calories have been ingested, our brain encourages more food intake.

Similarly, studies have shown that alcohol intake encourages our brain to release galanin — a neurochemical that promotes a need for fatty foods. In fact, when we wake up after a night of drinking, the galanin levels in our brain are typically much higher than usual. This helps explain not only our late night jaunts for pizza, but also our cravings for a huge breakfast sandwich the morning after drinking. 

The Way Our Body Processes Alcohol Also Plays a Role

The “drunchies” can also be explained by examining how our body processes alcohol. We typically think of alcoholic beverages — especially beer — as being full of carbohydrates. As such, we assume that they raise our blood glucose level. However, unlike with carbohydrates, alcohol doesn’t turn to sugar in our body. In fact, while sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods raise our blood glucose levels, alcohol actually has the opposite effect: it makes our blood sugar drop. 

Here’s how it works: our liver is in charge of turning foods into energy for our cells, usually in the form of glucose. Alcohol, however, primarily gets broken down in the liver — and since it’s considered a toxin, our body works extra hard to get rid of it. 

While our liver is working on breaking down the alcohol, it isn’t doing its other jobs effectively, including regulating the amount of glucose in our blood. This is why our blood glucose can end up dropping. While we’re drinking, our blood sugar drops even when we eat foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates. 

Simply put, the moment alcohol enters our bloodstream, our liver drops everything else to focus on detoxifying the harmful substance. And even when our liver does break down the alcohol, it’s converted into carbon dioxide and water — not sugar. This might explain why after drinking we often crave something sweet, like donuts or cookies.

Certain Foods Activate Our Brain’s Reward Center

You know that “feel good” feeling that comes after you start drinking? Alcohol activates our brain’s reward center and stimulates the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter that encourages us to do more of what makes us feel good. 

But alcohol isn’t the only thing that spikes our dopamine levels. Research shows that fatty, sugary snacks activate the release of dopamine, giving us a feeling of pleasure and reward. This effect is so powerful that introducing even small amounts of high-fat, high-sugar foods into our diets can rewire our brain circuits, causing us to crave more. 

After a night of drinking, as the alcohol starts to wear off and our dopamine levels drop, our brain craves another dopamine hit. Fatty, sugary foods are often the quickest and easiest way to get our dopamine levels back up. 

Our Willpower Plays a Role, Too

Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, so while we might have successfully chosen healthy foods and maintained a balanced diet all week, after a drink or two, our willpower goes out the door. With a drink in hand, we’re more likely to grab handfuls of nuts, chips, bread, or whatever is in front of us without giving it much thought. 

This is because alcohol impacts our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. When we consume alcohol, our prefrontal cortex has a harder time doing its job, making it easier for us to decide to indulge in junk food. Studies show that people consume more at meals when they’re drinking alcohol or have been drinking before a meal. 

The Long-Term Impact on Our Health

While one night of the “drunchies” might not seem so harmful, over time it can cause us to gain weight, putting us at a greater risk for obesity and diabetes. Alcohol alone can lead to obesity and diabetes, but when it’s combined with calorie-dense foods, we’re at an even greater risk.

Part of the problem is that indulging in fatty, salty, or sugary foods doesn’t just stop the night of a drinking session: it often continues into the next day. One study found that college students who drank alcohol not only consumed more fatty and salty foods, but were less likely to skip breakfast or brunch on the day after a night of drinking compared to mornings not following alcohol consumption. They also reported opting for greasy bacon, eggs, and cheese sandwiches instead of granola.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that these “feel-good” foods can actually make us feel worse after a night of heavy drinking. For instance, salt and fat can make us more dehydrated and worsen hangover symptoms, such as headaches.

Repeatedly giving into the drunchies can do a number on our self-esteem and motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’re more likely to “give in” to unhealthy eating in the days that follow, given that we already fell off the wagon. Plus, any disappointment we feel in ourselves might drive us to further engage in unhealthy habits — perpetuating a dangerous cycle.

The bottom line? The more regularly we consume alcohol, the more unhealthy calories we’re likely to consume, increasing our risk of obesity and diabetes and making it more difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices. 

How Much Alcohol Causes the “Drunchies”?

There’s no known set amount of alcohol that causes the “drunchies.” Even one alcoholic beverage can affect our brain and body, triggering us to indulge in something we might not have consumed otherwise.

However, the “drunchies” typically occur with moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. The name, after all — as a combination of “drunk” and “munchies” — indicates that we’ve likely reached a level of intoxication. Generally speaking, the more alcohol we consume, the more likely we’ll find ourselves reaching for those unhealthy snacks.

Binge drinking in particular is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it put our health and safety in jeopardy, but it can lead to elevated levels of food intake given the large volume of alcohol we’ve consumed.

How to Curb Hunger When Drinking Alcohol: 7 Tips

The best way to avoid the “drunchies” is to avoid alcohol entirely or significantly cut back on our alcohol consumption. Not reaching the point of intoxication is one sure way to prevent our brain from sending the “I’m starving” signals. 

However, if we do choose to drink, here are seven tips to help mitigate the effects of alcohol: 

  1. Drink with a balanced meal. Drinking on an empty stomach is never wise and only makes us hungrier the more alcohol we consume. Try having a balanced meal either before or during drinking. Whole grains, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein are beneficial, as they nourish our body and keep us feeling full. 

  2. Stay hydrated. Alcohol dehydrates us, which can sometimes trick our body by mistaking thirst for hunger. A good rule of thumb is to drink a big glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. This slows the absorption of alcohol in our system and can help prevent dehydration. 

  3. Don’t have unhealthy snacks lying around. It’s much harder to eat something that isn’t readily accessible, so avoid having chips, candy, pizza, or other junk foods around. At a restaurant, we can ask the server not to bring a bread basket, or to take it away. 

  4. Make healthier snacking options more accessible. Similarly, if we know we’ll be tempted to eat when drinking, try making healthier snacking options available. For instance, get some hummus and chopped vegetables, sliced fruit, or air-popped popcorn to snack on.

  5. Choose your drinks wisely. Not all drinks are created equal. Some cocktails are loaded with sugar, which only intensifies hunger and cravings. Try opting for low-sugar options instead, such as a skinny margarita. 

  6. Sip slowly. We can avoid the “drunchies” by not allowing ourselves to get to the point of intoxication. Try limiting yourself to one drink every hour. We can even set an alarm on our phone to help keep us on track. Mindful drinking can be a particularly effective tool in helping us limit our consumption.

  7. Set up “do not eat” reminders on your phone. We can also try setting a reminder on our phone telling us not to eat junk food. It can be helpful to include bullet points of any goals we’re trying to achieve as a further incentive not to reach for unhealthy snacks.

The Bottom Line

The “drunchies” are real! Drinking alcohol activates neurons in our brain that send an “I’m starving” signal. Even if we consume a meal and are supposed to be “full,” our brain tells us otherwise, which can be too powerful a signal to deny. Drinking alcohol also decreases our blood sugar levels, which makes us crave fatty, sugary, carb-heavy foods. Similar to alcohol, these foods activate the release of dopamine, providing us with that “feel good” feeling and causing us to crave more. Over time, continually indulging in alcohol and these unhealthy foods can cause weight gain, putting us at a greater risk for developing obesity and all the diseases that can come with it. 

If you’re struggling to control your alcohol consumption, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits.

You’ve been doing well all week. You’ve been exercising, eating healthy meals full of lean protein and vegetables, and drinking lots of water. But then Friday rolls around. You meet some friends for happy hour after work, and you eat a solid meal while drinking several cocktails. The night carries on and by the time you head home, you suddenly feel ravenous. You feel like you haven’t eaten for days and want to consume all the things you so diligently avoided during the week: pizza, fried foods, chips, and sweets. What’s going on?  

In this post, we’ll explore why we experience the “drunk munchies”— the “drunchies” — after drinking. We’ll also look at how the “drunchies” affect our health, and what we can do to avoid them. Let’s get started!

What Are the “Drunchies” and What Causes Them?

The “drunchies” are cravings for foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrates after a session of moderate to heavy drinking. Pizza, french fries, or potato or tortilla chips are typically at the top of the list. Doritos Locos Tacos combo, anyone? 

This is a common experience for those who drink: one survey found that 82% of Americans are self-proclaimed drunken snackers (and more than 50% regret it the next day!). 

Interestingly, even if we consumed food before or during drinking, we still might experience a ravenous hunger later that has us reaching for those fatty foods. Why? 

Researchers have found that alcohol stimulates the same neurons in our brain that our body triggers when it goes into starvation mode. More specifically, the agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons — special neurons in our brain that deal with hunger and other functions — are activated during intoxication. 

In other words, our brain actually thinks it’s starving while under the influence of alcohol. Instead of our body saying, “I just got a lot of calories, so I have fuel and am full,” the opposite occurs. Although calories have been ingested, our brain encourages more food intake.

Similarly, studies have shown that alcohol intake encourages our brain to release galanin — a neurochemical that promotes a need for fatty foods. In fact, when we wake up after a night of drinking, the galanin levels in our brain are typically much higher than usual. This helps explain not only our late night jaunts for pizza, but also our cravings for a huge breakfast sandwich the morning after drinking. 

The Way Our Body Processes Alcohol Also Plays a Role

The “drunchies” can also be explained by examining how our body processes alcohol. We typically think of alcoholic beverages — especially beer — as being full of carbohydrates. As such, we assume that they raise our blood glucose level. However, unlike with carbohydrates, alcohol doesn’t turn to sugar in our body. In fact, while sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods raise our blood glucose levels, alcohol actually has the opposite effect: it makes our blood sugar drop. 

Here’s how it works: our liver is in charge of turning foods into energy for our cells, usually in the form of glucose. Alcohol, however, primarily gets broken down in the liver — and since it’s considered a toxin, our body works extra hard to get rid of it. 

While our liver is working on breaking down the alcohol, it isn’t doing its other jobs effectively, including regulating the amount of glucose in our blood. This is why our blood glucose can end up dropping. While we’re drinking, our blood sugar drops even when we eat foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates. 

Simply put, the moment alcohol enters our bloodstream, our liver drops everything else to focus on detoxifying the harmful substance. And even when our liver does break down the alcohol, it’s converted into carbon dioxide and water — not sugar. This might explain why after drinking we often crave something sweet, like donuts or cookies.

Certain Foods Activate Our Brain’s Reward Center

You know that “feel good” feeling that comes after you start drinking? Alcohol activates our brain’s reward center and stimulates the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter that encourages us to do more of what makes us feel good. 

But alcohol isn’t the only thing that spikes our dopamine levels. Research shows that fatty, sugary snacks activate the release of dopamine, giving us a feeling of pleasure and reward. This effect is so powerful that introducing even small amounts of high-fat, high-sugar foods into our diets can rewire our brain circuits, causing us to crave more. 

After a night of drinking, as the alcohol starts to wear off and our dopamine levels drop, our brain craves another dopamine hit. Fatty, sugary foods are often the quickest and easiest way to get our dopamine levels back up. 

Our Willpower Plays a Role, Too

Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, so while we might have successfully chosen healthy foods and maintained a balanced diet all week, after a drink or two, our willpower goes out the door. With a drink in hand, we’re more likely to grab handfuls of nuts, chips, bread, or whatever is in front of us without giving it much thought. 

This is because alcohol impacts our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. When we consume alcohol, our prefrontal cortex has a harder time doing its job, making it easier for us to decide to indulge in junk food. Studies show that people consume more at meals when they’re drinking alcohol or have been drinking before a meal. 

The Long-Term Impact on Our Health

While one night of the “drunchies” might not seem so harmful, over time it can cause us to gain weight, putting us at a greater risk for obesity and diabetes. Alcohol alone can lead to obesity and diabetes, but when it’s combined with calorie-dense foods, we’re at an even greater risk.

Part of the problem is that indulging in fatty, salty, or sugary foods doesn’t just stop the night of a drinking session: it often continues into the next day. One study found that college students who drank alcohol not only consumed more fatty and salty foods, but were less likely to skip breakfast or brunch on the day after a night of drinking compared to mornings not following alcohol consumption. They also reported opting for greasy bacon, eggs, and cheese sandwiches instead of granola.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that these “feel-good” foods can actually make us feel worse after a night of heavy drinking. For instance, salt and fat can make us more dehydrated and worsen hangover symptoms, such as headaches.

Repeatedly giving into the drunchies can do a number on our self-esteem and motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’re more likely to “give in” to unhealthy eating in the days that follow, given that we already fell off the wagon. Plus, any disappointment we feel in ourselves might drive us to further engage in unhealthy habits — perpetuating a dangerous cycle.

The bottom line? The more regularly we consume alcohol, the more unhealthy calories we’re likely to consume, increasing our risk of obesity and diabetes and making it more difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices. 

How Much Alcohol Causes the “Drunchies”?

There’s no known set amount of alcohol that causes the “drunchies.” Even one alcoholic beverage can affect our brain and body, triggering us to indulge in something we might not have consumed otherwise.

However, the “drunchies” typically occur with moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. The name, after all — as a combination of “drunk” and “munchies” — indicates that we’ve likely reached a level of intoxication. Generally speaking, the more alcohol we consume, the more likely we’ll find ourselves reaching for those unhealthy snacks.

Binge drinking in particular is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it put our health and safety in jeopardy, but it can lead to elevated levels of food intake given the large volume of alcohol we’ve consumed.

How to Curb Hunger When Drinking Alcohol: 7 Tips

The best way to avoid the “drunchies” is to avoid alcohol entirely or significantly cut back on our alcohol consumption. Not reaching the point of intoxication is one sure way to prevent our brain from sending the “I’m starving” signals. 

However, if we do choose to drink, here are seven tips to help mitigate the effects of alcohol: 

  1. Drink with a balanced meal. Drinking on an empty stomach is never wise and only makes us hungrier the more alcohol we consume. Try having a balanced meal either before or during drinking. Whole grains, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein are beneficial, as they nourish our body and keep us feeling full. 

  2. Stay hydrated. Alcohol dehydrates us, which can sometimes trick our body by mistaking thirst for hunger. A good rule of thumb is to drink a big glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. This slows the absorption of alcohol in our system and can help prevent dehydration. 

  3. Don’t have unhealthy snacks lying around. It’s much harder to eat something that isn’t readily accessible, so avoid having chips, candy, pizza, or other junk foods around. At a restaurant, we can ask the server not to bring a bread basket, or to take it away. 

  4. Make healthier snacking options more accessible. Similarly, if we know we’ll be tempted to eat when drinking, try making healthier snacking options available. For instance, get some hummus and chopped vegetables, sliced fruit, or air-popped popcorn to snack on.

  5. Choose your drinks wisely. Not all drinks are created equal. Some cocktails are loaded with sugar, which only intensifies hunger and cravings. Try opting for low-sugar options instead, such as a skinny margarita. 

  6. Sip slowly. We can avoid the “drunchies” by not allowing ourselves to get to the point of intoxication. Try limiting yourself to one drink every hour. We can even set an alarm on our phone to help keep us on track. Mindful drinking can be a particularly effective tool in helping us limit our consumption.

  7. Set up “do not eat” reminders on your phone. We can also try setting a reminder on our phone telling us not to eat junk food. It can be helpful to include bullet points of any goals we’re trying to achieve as a further incentive not to reach for unhealthy snacks.

The Bottom Line

The “drunchies” are real! Drinking alcohol activates neurons in our brain that send an “I’m starving” signal. Even if we consume a meal and are supposed to be “full,” our brain tells us otherwise, which can be too powerful a signal to deny. Drinking alcohol also decreases our blood sugar levels, which makes us crave fatty, sugary, carb-heavy foods. Similar to alcohol, these foods activate the release of dopamine, providing us with that “feel good” feeling and causing us to crave more. Over time, continually indulging in alcohol and these unhealthy foods can cause weight gain, putting us at a greater risk for developing obesity and all the diseases that can come with it. 

If you’re struggling to control your alcohol consumption, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits.

Triggers and Cravings
2023-08-11 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
Why Do I Crave Alcohol When I'm Bored
This is some text inside of a div block.

Uncover the science behind why we reach for alcohol when we're idle and discover unique, fun ways to outsmart your brain and break the cycle. Let's turn our “boring” moments into exciting opportunities!

12 min read

Ditch Boredom and Explore New Possibilities With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

We've all felt it — that nagging sensation of boredom. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just a result of having nothing to do. In fact, boredom is a genuine emotion, akin to happiness or sadness. When this emotion surfaces, it reveals our disconnection or lack of interest in our surroundings or activities. And how does our brain react? It searches for a spark, something to stimulate and captivate us. This might explain why, in such moments, we impulsively reach for distractions, like the remote or a social media scroll. 

But why do some of us reach for alcohol? If you’ve found yourself noticing, “It seems that I drink because I’m bored and lonely,” the answer lies in our brain's reward system. Understanding this relationship between boredom and alcohol is crucial for breaking an unhealthy cycle of drinking out of boredom and finding more fulfilling ways to spend our time.

The Boredom Dilemma

tired young attractive man sleeps work place has much work being fatigue exhausted

Boredom, a state we’ve all experienced, can be a tricky beast. But remember that, scientifically, boredom is an emotion — just like appiness or sadness. It typically occurs when we find ourselves disengaged from what's going on around us or when there's a lack of interest or enjoyment in our activities.

In such scenarios, our brain searches for something exciting or rewarding, leading us towards behaviors that can stimulate and intrigue us. It's why we might suddenly find ourselves reaching for that remote, a candy bar, or for some, a bottle of alcohol.

The Dopamine Connection

Consuming alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in our brain's reward system. Dopamine is like a pat on the back from our brain. It signals a feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, or reward, encouraging us to repeat the behavior that led to this good feeling.

So, when we're bored and our brain is looking for that dopamine hit, it can often recall that alcohol was a past source of reward. That's why we might find ourselves reaching for a drink when we're simply sitting and not doing much.

Alcohol and Adaptation

Over time, with regular alcohol consumption, our brain starts to adapt. Our reward system gets recalibrated to account for the frequent dopamine hits coming from the alcohol. Our brain starts needing more and more alcohol to experience the same level of reward or pleasure, resulting in increased alcohol consumption.

But it's not just about seeking pleasure. Our brain also becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol and starts to see it as the “new normal.” So when there's no alcohol, things seem a bit off. The brain starts to signal the craving for alcohol, not just to seek pleasure but also to restore what it perceives as normalcy.

The Boredom Drinking Loop

Now that we've discussed how our brain processes boredom and alcohol, we can see how the two are linked. When we're bored, our brain seeks stimulation. Drinking when bored provides that in the form of dopamine release. Over time, as our brain adapts to the frequent presence of alcohol, it starts to associate alcohol not just as a source of pleasure but also as a means to escape boredom. This is how we enter (and get caught in) the boredom-alcohol loop.

Reframing Boredom To Stop “Bored Drinking”

Understanding this connection is the first step towards breaking the cycle. The next is learning to see it differently.

Instead of seeing boredom as an absence that needs to be filled, we can instead see it as an exciting opportunity for something new to arise. After all, some of the greatest discoveries happened as a result of boredom! Here are a few famous examples:

  • Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravity. The story goes that during a period of isolation (and probably boredom) during the Great Plague of London, Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree. This observation led him to contemplate the forces at work, eventually formulating the Law of Universal Gravitation.
  • The discovery of the structure of benzene by Friedrich August Kekulé. The German chemist famously came up with the ring structure of benzene during a daydream. Bored with his work, he stared into a fire and envisioned the snake-like structure of the benzene molecule, a groundbreaking discovery that greatly contributed to organic chemistry.
  • The creation of Post-it Notes by Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry. Post-it Notes were invented at 3M by scientists Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry. While trying to develop a super-strong adhesive, Silver accidentally created a weaker one instead. It was Fry who later, perhaps in a moment of boredom or frustration, realized that this "failed" adhesive could be used to create repositionable bookmarks, leading to the invention of Post-it Notes.

These stories remind us that boredom isn't merely a state of inactivity or idleness — it can also be a time for reflection, creativity, and unexpected discovery.

Break the Boredom Drinking Loop

  • Recognize your triggers. Understanding when and why you're reaching for alcohol is crucial. The next time you feel the urge, note down what you were doing, feeling, and thinking. This can help you identify patterns and triggers.
  • Find healthy alternatives. Swap out alcohol for healthier options that also stimulate dopamine release. This could include exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us stay present and engaged with what's happening around us. This can reduce feelings of boredom and help manage cravings.
  • Create a "boredom jar." Fill a jar with slips of paper, each containing an engaging activity that you enjoy — maybe painting, reading a new book, learning a magic trick, or trying a new recipe. Whenever boredom hits, reach for this jar instead of a drink.
  • Start a creative project. Always wanted to build a treehouse or make your own furniture? Now might be the perfect time to start! It will keep you occupied and provide a sense of accomplishment once finished. Art is another great way to express feelings and combat boredom. You could try your hand at painting, sculpture, digital art, or pottery.
  • Explore the great outdoors. Nature can provide a refreshing change of scenery and a break from routine. Try hiking, bird watching, or just a leisurely stroll in the park.
  • Try "micro-adventures." Micro-adventures are short, simple, local adventures that require very little planning or resources. It could be as simple as exploring a part of your city you've never been to, camping in your backyard, or even trying a new cuisine at a local restaurant.
  • Start learning clubs. Start or join a club dedicated to learning new things — a new language, astronomy, cooking techniques, etc. This will keep you engaged in a non-alcohol-related social group and give you something to look forward to.
  • Redecorate your living space. Changing your surroundings can make things feel fresh and new. Try moving furniture around, painting a wall with a new color, or DIY-ing some decor.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering not only takes up free time, but it also allows you to give back to your community, meet new people, and learn new skills.
  • Grow your own food. Start a small vegetable or herb garden. This can be therapeutic, rewarding, and it's a gift that keeps on giving.
  • Try virtual reality (VR) experiences. VR technology can transport you to a whole new world, making you forget about boredom. From VR games to virtual tours of museums or even space, the options are endless.
  • Use supportive apps. Apps like Reframe are designed to help you understand and manage your cravings, providing science-backed strategies right at your fingertips.

Adventure Awaits

Boredom can indeed lead to cravings for alcohol, but it doesn't have to be this way. With understanding and a few targeted strategies, you can retrain your brain to seek healthier, more fulfilling ways to escape boredom. 

Remember, the journey to managing alcohol cravings is unique for each person. It's about finding what works best for you, so feel free to modify these actions to suit your lifestyle, interests, and resources. You're not just cutting back on alcohol; you're creating a more engaging, fulfilling life!

We've all felt it — that nagging sensation of boredom. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just a result of having nothing to do. In fact, boredom is a genuine emotion, akin to happiness or sadness. When this emotion surfaces, it reveals our disconnection or lack of interest in our surroundings or activities. And how does our brain react? It searches for a spark, something to stimulate and captivate us. This might explain why, in such moments, we impulsively reach for distractions, like the remote or a social media scroll. 

But why do some of us reach for alcohol? If you’ve found yourself noticing, “It seems that I drink because I’m bored and lonely,” the answer lies in our brain's reward system. Understanding this relationship between boredom and alcohol is crucial for breaking an unhealthy cycle of drinking out of boredom and finding more fulfilling ways to spend our time.

The Boredom Dilemma

tired young attractive man sleeps work place has much work being fatigue exhausted

Boredom, a state we’ve all experienced, can be a tricky beast. But remember that, scientifically, boredom is an emotion — just like appiness or sadness. It typically occurs when we find ourselves disengaged from what's going on around us or when there's a lack of interest or enjoyment in our activities.

In such scenarios, our brain searches for something exciting or rewarding, leading us towards behaviors that can stimulate and intrigue us. It's why we might suddenly find ourselves reaching for that remote, a candy bar, or for some, a bottle of alcohol.

The Dopamine Connection

Consuming alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in our brain's reward system. Dopamine is like a pat on the back from our brain. It signals a feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, or reward, encouraging us to repeat the behavior that led to this good feeling.

So, when we're bored and our brain is looking for that dopamine hit, it can often recall that alcohol was a past source of reward. That's why we might find ourselves reaching for a drink when we're simply sitting and not doing much.

Alcohol and Adaptation

Over time, with regular alcohol consumption, our brain starts to adapt. Our reward system gets recalibrated to account for the frequent dopamine hits coming from the alcohol. Our brain starts needing more and more alcohol to experience the same level of reward or pleasure, resulting in increased alcohol consumption.

But it's not just about seeking pleasure. Our brain also becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol and starts to see it as the “new normal.” So when there's no alcohol, things seem a bit off. The brain starts to signal the craving for alcohol, not just to seek pleasure but also to restore what it perceives as normalcy.

The Boredom Drinking Loop

Now that we've discussed how our brain processes boredom and alcohol, we can see how the two are linked. When we're bored, our brain seeks stimulation. Drinking when bored provides that in the form of dopamine release. Over time, as our brain adapts to the frequent presence of alcohol, it starts to associate alcohol not just as a source of pleasure but also as a means to escape boredom. This is how we enter (and get caught in) the boredom-alcohol loop.

Reframing Boredom To Stop “Bored Drinking”

Understanding this connection is the first step towards breaking the cycle. The next is learning to see it differently.

Instead of seeing boredom as an absence that needs to be filled, we can instead see it as an exciting opportunity for something new to arise. After all, some of the greatest discoveries happened as a result of boredom! Here are a few famous examples:

  • Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravity. The story goes that during a period of isolation (and probably boredom) during the Great Plague of London, Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree. This observation led him to contemplate the forces at work, eventually formulating the Law of Universal Gravitation.
  • The discovery of the structure of benzene by Friedrich August Kekulé. The German chemist famously came up with the ring structure of benzene during a daydream. Bored with his work, he stared into a fire and envisioned the snake-like structure of the benzene molecule, a groundbreaking discovery that greatly contributed to organic chemistry.
  • The creation of Post-it Notes by Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry. Post-it Notes were invented at 3M by scientists Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry. While trying to develop a super-strong adhesive, Silver accidentally created a weaker one instead. It was Fry who later, perhaps in a moment of boredom or frustration, realized that this "failed" adhesive could be used to create repositionable bookmarks, leading to the invention of Post-it Notes.

These stories remind us that boredom isn't merely a state of inactivity or idleness — it can also be a time for reflection, creativity, and unexpected discovery.

Break the Boredom Drinking Loop

  • Recognize your triggers. Understanding when and why you're reaching for alcohol is crucial. The next time you feel the urge, note down what you were doing, feeling, and thinking. This can help you identify patterns and triggers.
  • Find healthy alternatives. Swap out alcohol for healthier options that also stimulate dopamine release. This could include exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us stay present and engaged with what's happening around us. This can reduce feelings of boredom and help manage cravings.
  • Create a "boredom jar." Fill a jar with slips of paper, each containing an engaging activity that you enjoy — maybe painting, reading a new book, learning a magic trick, or trying a new recipe. Whenever boredom hits, reach for this jar instead of a drink.
  • Start a creative project. Always wanted to build a treehouse or make your own furniture? Now might be the perfect time to start! It will keep you occupied and provide a sense of accomplishment once finished. Art is another great way to express feelings and combat boredom. You could try your hand at painting, sculpture, digital art, or pottery.
  • Explore the great outdoors. Nature can provide a refreshing change of scenery and a break from routine. Try hiking, bird watching, or just a leisurely stroll in the park.
  • Try "micro-adventures." Micro-adventures are short, simple, local adventures that require very little planning or resources. It could be as simple as exploring a part of your city you've never been to, camping in your backyard, or even trying a new cuisine at a local restaurant.
  • Start learning clubs. Start or join a club dedicated to learning new things — a new language, astronomy, cooking techniques, etc. This will keep you engaged in a non-alcohol-related social group and give you something to look forward to.
  • Redecorate your living space. Changing your surroundings can make things feel fresh and new. Try moving furniture around, painting a wall with a new color, or DIY-ing some decor.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering not only takes up free time, but it also allows you to give back to your community, meet new people, and learn new skills.
  • Grow your own food. Start a small vegetable or herb garden. This can be therapeutic, rewarding, and it's a gift that keeps on giving.
  • Try virtual reality (VR) experiences. VR technology can transport you to a whole new world, making you forget about boredom. From VR games to virtual tours of museums or even space, the options are endless.
  • Use supportive apps. Apps like Reframe are designed to help you understand and manage your cravings, providing science-backed strategies right at your fingertips.

Adventure Awaits

Boredom can indeed lead to cravings for alcohol, but it doesn't have to be this way. With understanding and a few targeted strategies, you can retrain your brain to seek healthier, more fulfilling ways to escape boredom. 

Remember, the journey to managing alcohol cravings is unique for each person. It's about finding what works best for you, so feel free to modify these actions to suit your lifestyle, interests, and resources. You're not just cutting back on alcohol; you're creating a more engaging, fulfilling life!

Triggers and Cravings
2023-08-09 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
This is some text inside of a div block.

Navigating the rocky road of alcohol withdrawal? Our latest blog unravels the timeline and shares science-backed steps for a smoother journey

9 min read

Ready To Change Your Relationship With Alcohol?

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Alcohol is often the life of the party, the familiar accompaniment to times of celebration or commiseration. But while it may appear harmless in moderation, heavy and prolonged consumption can set the stage for a daunting chapter: alcohol withdrawal.

For many, the term "alcohol withdrawal" brings vague images of shaky hands or restless nights. But there's more to this condition than meets the eye. Alcohol withdrawal is the body's response when an individual accustomed to regular, heavy drinking suddenly reduces or ceases their alcohol consumption. Picture your brain having grown used to dancing in sync with alcohol's beats. When the music suddenly stops — when you stop drinking alcohol is stopped — the brain stumbles, leading to a cascade of physical and emotional symptoms.

As with any profound life experience, the symptoms and severity of alcohol withdrawal are unique to each of us. Some might face mild discomfort, while others could confront life-threatening complications. The timeline following quitting can be predictable, but it's also influenced by a variety of factors.

If you're considering or currently navigating this challenging path, preparation is paramount. By understanding the signs, knowing when to seek medical assistance, and arming yourself with coping strategies, you can approach this journey with confidence.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

We all know that alcohol withdrawal is no picnic. But what is it, exactly? The term refers to a set of symptoms that may happen when a person who has been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or years suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake.

The brain is at the center of withdrawal symptoms. Accustomed to adjusting for alcohol’s depressant effects, it has learned to increase the production of certain chemicals that stimulate brain activity. When alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped, the brain doesn’t shift gears right away; it continues to produce stimulating chemicals at a higher rate, even though alcohol’s depressant effects are no longer present.

This imbalance in brain chemistry leads to withdrawal symptoms, which are both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms include nausea, sweating, shaking, headache, and elevated heart rate, while psychological ones include anxiety, irritability, depression, and mood swings.

In more severe cases, withdrawal can also include hallucinations, seizures, as well as the notorious DTs, delirium tremens — a condition that consists of confusion, fever, and even severe hallucinations and agitation.

Because alcohol withdrawal can be severe and potentially life-threatening, it can be a good idea to manage it under medical supervision. Treatment might include medical assessment, monitoring of vital signs, nutritional support, medication, and ongoing support and therapy to aid in long-term recovery.

The Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal isn't a universal experience — it varies from person to person. Typically, it follows a general timeline, but the duration and severity of symptoms can be influenced by several factors, including how long you've been drinking, how much you typically drink, your overall physical health, and whether you've been through withdrawal before.

  • 6-12 hours post-last drink. Mild symptoms usually start appearing within the first day. These can include anxiety, shaky hands, insomnia, and nausea.
  • 12-24 hours post-last drink. As time goes on, symptoms might progress to hallucinations. But don't worry, these aren't typically the terrifying kind. You might hear or see things that aren't there, but you know they aren't real.
  • 24-48 hours post-last drink. Symptoms often peak around this time. This period could involve seizures, which are brief, uncontrollable disruptions of the brain's electrical activity.
  • 48 hours and beyond. Some people experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens. This can occur anywhere from 48 hours to several days after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, high blood pressure, fever, and hallucinations that feel real. If you experience these symptoms, get medical help right away.
  • Several days to a few weeks. Many symptoms improve within a week, though some can linger a bit longer. You might feel tired or anxious, or have mood swings or trouble sleeping. These are signs that your brain is still adjusting to the absence of alcohol.

Navigating Through Alcohol Withdrawal

As with every great journey, it's essential to prepare and plan for any obstacles along the way. Here are some steps to help you navigate:

  • Consult a healthcare provider. Always discuss your plan to quit drinking with a healthcare professional. They can provide you with guidance, monitor your progress, and manage any withdrawal symptoms.
  • Seek support. Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey — family, friends, or an alcohol support group. You don't have to face this journey alone!
  • Keep your environment alcohol-free. As you're starting out, it's best to avoid temptation. Make your home a safe space by removing any alcohol.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can trigger cravings. Try to manage your stress levels through activities like meditation, yoga, or reading a good book.
  • Stay active. Physical activity helps reduce cravings and improves your overall mood. Whether it's a brisk walk, a jog, or a dance class, find a physical activity that you enjoy, and stick with it!
  • Eat healthily and stay hydrated. Proper nutrition and hydration are key for your body to recover from alcohol's effects. Prioritize balanced meals and make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Prioritize sleep. Sleep can often be disrupted during withdrawal. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, and create a calming bedtime routine to help improve your sleep quality.
  • Celebrate small victories. Every alcohol-free day is a victory! Celebrate these moments, no matter how small they may seem!

The next time you find yourself in that cozy armchair, enjoying your coffee and your clear mind, remember that you’ve embarked on a journey of courage and strength. Each day, each step takes you closer to reclaiming your life from alcohol. And that's something to be proud of!

Alcohol is often the life of the party, the familiar accompaniment to times of celebration or commiseration. But while it may appear harmless in moderation, heavy and prolonged consumption can set the stage for a daunting chapter: alcohol withdrawal.

For many, the term "alcohol withdrawal" brings vague images of shaky hands or restless nights. But there's more to this condition than meets the eye. Alcohol withdrawal is the body's response when an individual accustomed to regular, heavy drinking suddenly reduces or ceases their alcohol consumption. Picture your brain having grown used to dancing in sync with alcohol's beats. When the music suddenly stops — when you stop drinking alcohol is stopped — the brain stumbles, leading to a cascade of physical and emotional symptoms.

As with any profound life experience, the symptoms and severity of alcohol withdrawal are unique to each of us. Some might face mild discomfort, while others could confront life-threatening complications. The timeline following quitting can be predictable, but it's also influenced by a variety of factors.

If you're considering or currently navigating this challenging path, preparation is paramount. By understanding the signs, knowing when to seek medical assistance, and arming yourself with coping strategies, you can approach this journey with confidence.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

We all know that alcohol withdrawal is no picnic. But what is it, exactly? The term refers to a set of symptoms that may happen when a person who has been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or years suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake.

The brain is at the center of withdrawal symptoms. Accustomed to adjusting for alcohol’s depressant effects, it has learned to increase the production of certain chemicals that stimulate brain activity. When alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped, the brain doesn’t shift gears right away; it continues to produce stimulating chemicals at a higher rate, even though alcohol’s depressant effects are no longer present.

This imbalance in brain chemistry leads to withdrawal symptoms, which are both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms include nausea, sweating, shaking, headache, and elevated heart rate, while psychological ones include anxiety, irritability, depression, and mood swings.

In more severe cases, withdrawal can also include hallucinations, seizures, as well as the notorious DTs, delirium tremens — a condition that consists of confusion, fever, and even severe hallucinations and agitation.

Because alcohol withdrawal can be severe and potentially life-threatening, it can be a good idea to manage it under medical supervision. Treatment might include medical assessment, monitoring of vital signs, nutritional support, medication, and ongoing support and therapy to aid in long-term recovery.

The Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal isn't a universal experience — it varies from person to person. Typically, it follows a general timeline, but the duration and severity of symptoms can be influenced by several factors, including how long you've been drinking, how much you typically drink, your overall physical health, and whether you've been through withdrawal before.

  • 6-12 hours post-last drink. Mild symptoms usually start appearing within the first day. These can include anxiety, shaky hands, insomnia, and nausea.
  • 12-24 hours post-last drink. As time goes on, symptoms might progress to hallucinations. But don't worry, these aren't typically the terrifying kind. You might hear or see things that aren't there, but you know they aren't real.
  • 24-48 hours post-last drink. Symptoms often peak around this time. This period could involve seizures, which are brief, uncontrollable disruptions of the brain's electrical activity.
  • 48 hours and beyond. Some people experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens. This can occur anywhere from 48 hours to several days after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, high blood pressure, fever, and hallucinations that feel real. If you experience these symptoms, get medical help right away.
  • Several days to a few weeks. Many symptoms improve within a week, though some can linger a bit longer. You might feel tired or anxious, or have mood swings or trouble sleeping. These are signs that your brain is still adjusting to the absence of alcohol.

Navigating Through Alcohol Withdrawal

As with every great journey, it's essential to prepare and plan for any obstacles along the way. Here are some steps to help you navigate:

  • Consult a healthcare provider. Always discuss your plan to quit drinking with a healthcare professional. They can provide you with guidance, monitor your progress, and manage any withdrawal symptoms.
  • Seek support. Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey — family, friends, or an alcohol support group. You don't have to face this journey alone!
  • Keep your environment alcohol-free. As you're starting out, it's best to avoid temptation. Make your home a safe space by removing any alcohol.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can trigger cravings. Try to manage your stress levels through activities like meditation, yoga, or reading a good book.
  • Stay active. Physical activity helps reduce cravings and improves your overall mood. Whether it's a brisk walk, a jog, or a dance class, find a physical activity that you enjoy, and stick with it!
  • Eat healthily and stay hydrated. Proper nutrition and hydration are key for your body to recover from alcohol's effects. Prioritize balanced meals and make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Prioritize sleep. Sleep can often be disrupted during withdrawal. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, and create a calming bedtime routine to help improve your sleep quality.
  • Celebrate small victories. Every alcohol-free day is a victory! Celebrate these moments, no matter how small they may seem!

The next time you find yourself in that cozy armchair, enjoying your coffee and your clear mind, remember that you’ve embarked on a journey of courage and strength. Each day, each step takes you closer to reclaiming your life from alcohol. And that's something to be proud of!

Triggers and Cravings
2023-08-03 9:00
Triggers and Cravings
Why Do I Crave Alcohol When I'm Angry?
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Ever wondered why anger sets off those pesky alcohol cravings? Dive into our latest blog to unravel this mystery and discover unique, fun ways to break the cycle.

8 min read

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It’s been a hectic day — your boss kept piling on the work, your client didn't stop complaining, and, on top of everything, traffic was a disaster. As you finally collapse onto your couch, your fists clench and your heart pounds. Then, an intrusive thought pops up — a cold drink would make everything better.

You're not alone! Many of us find ourselves craving alcohol when someone’s getting on our last nerve. Why do our minds make this association? And, more importantly, how can we stop it from derailing our goals?

The Angry Brain

When we feel angry, a brain region called the amygdala gets busy, signaling that there’s a situation brewing. It pumps the body full of stress hormones, putting us on high alert. It's exhausting!

Enter alcohol. Known to stimulate the brain's reward system, particularly an area called the nucleus accumbens, alcohol triggers feelings of relief and pleasure by initiating the release of dopamine, the famous "feel-good" neurotransmitter. This provides a temporary sense of relaxation and pleasure, seemingly offering an antidote to anger. It's almost as if the brain is sighing, "Ah, that's better!"

Understanding the Cycle

Alcohol dulls the amygdala’s response, so it has a calming effect on the brain's stress response. But while it feels soothing for a moment, it’s unfortunately only a temporary fix, and it may lead to cravings down the road.

Anger and alcohol cravings can feel like a merry-go-round, except it's not so merry. The brain loves patterns and efficiency, and it’s wired to spot a quick fix to any problem. So each time it registers an alcohol-induced sense of relief, it makes a note of it: “Hey, this works — and quickly!”

Over time, the brain builds a neural pathway linking booze and anger relief, creating a habitual response that can be hard to break. It's like a well-worn path in the brain, a shortcut the mind takes when anger strikes. Before we know it, every time we're angry, our brain points us towards alcohol, and a vicious cycle has been set in motion.

Break the Anger-Alcohol Connection

Now let’s discuss how to kick some old habits to the curb and bring in some fresh, healthy strategies. Let's break the anger-alcohol cycle and rewrite our reaction script!

  • Spot the triggers. What sparks your anger? Is it work stress, traffic jams, or disagreements with loved ones? Uncovering what lights your fuse can help you prepare strategies to better manage your triggers or dodge them completely.
  • Master mindfulness. By observing your internal state, you can ride the wave of anger without being swept away. Try a technique known as “mindful minutes”: set a timer for one minute of pure, undiluted mindfulness. Observe your emotions, your body, and your surroundings. It's like taking a mini-vacation from stress!
  • Exercise your way to calm. Exercise floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which boost mood and reduce cravings. And who says exercise has to be boring? Turn up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody's watching. This will not only help shake off the anger but also curb those cravings.
  • Reach for the stars, literally. Try a stargazing evening with a loved one or friend. Share your feelings and thoughts, or just enjoy the quiet tranquility together. The universe might help put things into perspective!
  • Embrace creative expression. Paint, knit, write poetry, build a birdhouse — whatever suits your fancy. Channel your feelings into creating something beautiful.
  • Find joyful distractions. Swap the stress with something soothing, such as a massage, a gripping book, your favorite tunes, or a new hobby.
  • Cultivate a “sleep haven.” Turn your bedroom into a place that encourages deep, restful sleep. Think soft lighting, comfortable bedding, calming scents, and maybe even some gentle background music. A good night's sleep can make a world of difference to your mood and cravings.

Wrapping Up

It's okay to feel angry now and then. But instead of reaching for a drink, let's reach for some healthier coping strategies. By consciously reframing our responses to anger, we can break its connection to alcohol cravings. You have the power to control your reactions and steer your journey towards healthier habits. You have the power to steer your journey, so let's do this! And never forget to celebrate every victory, no matter how tiny it might seem!

It’s been a hectic day — your boss kept piling on the work, your client didn't stop complaining, and, on top of everything, traffic was a disaster. As you finally collapse onto your couch, your fists clench and your heart pounds. Then, an intrusive thought pops up — a cold drink would make everything better.

You're not alone! Many of us find ourselves craving alcohol when someone’s getting on our last nerve. Why do our minds make this association? And, more importantly, how can we stop it from derailing our goals?

The Angry Brain

When we feel angry, a brain region called the amygdala gets busy, signaling that there’s a situation brewing. It pumps the body full of stress hormones, putting us on high alert. It's exhausting!

Enter alcohol. Known to stimulate the brain's reward system, particularly an area called the nucleus accumbens, alcohol triggers feelings of relief and pleasure by initiating the release of dopamine, the famous "feel-good" neurotransmitter. This provides a temporary sense of relaxation and pleasure, seemingly offering an antidote to anger. It's almost as if the brain is sighing, "Ah, that's better!"

Understanding the Cycle

Alcohol dulls the amygdala’s response, so it has a calming effect on the brain's stress response. But while it feels soothing for a moment, it’s unfortunately only a temporary fix, and it may lead to cravings down the road.

Anger and alcohol cravings can feel like a merry-go-round, except it's not so merry. The brain loves patterns and efficiency, and it’s wired to spot a quick fix to any problem. So each time it registers an alcohol-induced sense of relief, it makes a note of it: “Hey, this works — and quickly!”

Over time, the brain builds a neural pathway linking booze and anger relief, creating a habitual response that can be hard to break. It's like a well-worn path in the brain, a shortcut the mind takes when anger strikes. Before we know it, every time we're angry, our brain points us towards alcohol, and a vicious cycle has been set in motion.

Break the Anger-Alcohol Connection

Now let’s discuss how to kick some old habits to the curb and bring in some fresh, healthy strategies. Let's break the anger-alcohol cycle and rewrite our reaction script!

  • Spot the triggers. What sparks your anger? Is it work stress, traffic jams, or disagreements with loved ones? Uncovering what lights your fuse can help you prepare strategies to better manage your triggers or dodge them completely.
  • Master mindfulness. By observing your internal state, you can ride the wave of anger without being swept away. Try a technique known as “mindful minutes”: set a timer for one minute of pure, undiluted mindfulness. Observe your emotions, your body, and your surroundings. It's like taking a mini-vacation from stress!
  • Exercise your way to calm. Exercise floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which boost mood and reduce cravings. And who says exercise has to be boring? Turn up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody's watching. This will not only help shake off the anger but also curb those cravings.
  • Reach for the stars, literally. Try a stargazing evening with a loved one or friend. Share your feelings and thoughts, or just enjoy the quiet tranquility together. The universe might help put things into perspective!
  • Embrace creative expression. Paint, knit, write poetry, build a birdhouse — whatever suits your fancy. Channel your feelings into creating something beautiful.
  • Find joyful distractions. Swap the stress with something soothing, such as a massage, a gripping book, your favorite tunes, or a new hobby.
  • Cultivate a “sleep haven.” Turn your bedroom into a place that encourages deep, restful sleep. Think soft lighting, comfortable bedding, calming scents, and maybe even some gentle background music. A good night's sleep can make a world of difference to your mood and cravings.

Wrapping Up

It's okay to feel angry now and then. But instead of reaching for a drink, let's reach for some healthier coping strategies. By consciously reframing our responses to anger, we can break its connection to alcohol cravings. You have the power to control your reactions and steer your journey towards healthier habits. You have the power to steer your journey, so let's do this! And never forget to celebrate every victory, no matter how tiny it might seem!

Triggers and Cravings