If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.

Staying Sober After You Quit Drinking

Quitting alcohol is a big step in peoples’ lives. If you’re used to drinking alcohol, it’s normal to experience a broad range of thoughts, physical sensations or emotions when you try to quit.  You may feel torn between wanting to drink again and wanting to stay sober.  

 Understanding Different Craving and Urge Triggers 

First, you’ll want to recognize and understand two types of “triggers” that may cause you to have an urge or craving to drink again: external triggers in the environment and internal ones within yourself. 

  • External triggers are people, places, things or times of day that give you an opportunity to drink or remind you of drinking. These ”tempting situations” are more obvious, predictable and avoidable than internal triggers. 
  • Internal triggers can be puzzling because the urge to drink can just “pop up.” If you stop to think about it when it happens, you’ll find that the urge may have been set off by a fleeting thought, a positive emotion such as excitement, a negative emotion such as frustration or a physical sensation such as a headache, tension or nervousness. 

One helpful activity you may want to consider doing is tracking your cravings and urges to drink for at least a couple of weeks. A craving is a desire to experience the positive effects of alcohol whereas an urge can be thought of as an impulse to satisfy your cravings. Tracking and analyzing will help you become more aware of when and how you experience cravings and urges, what triggers them and ways to avoid or control them. 

 Avoiding Tempting Situations 

Here are a few helpful strategies to avoid tempting situations that may lead you to give into your cravings and urges and have a relapse: 

  • Avoid (or limit) immediate temptations: Don’t keep alcohol around the house. 
  • Avoid social activities that involve drinking. 
  • Get and think through details about your social invitations: Don’t feel guilty about turning down an invitation where alcohol will be present if you don’t feel you’ll be able to resist drinking alcohol. 
  • Identify and engage in alcohol-free social activities: Stay connected with friends and family by suggesting other activities that don’t involve drinking. 

When the urges become more manageable, you may decide to gradually ease into some social situations you chose to initially avoid. 

Coping with Unavoidable Triggers 

Because it’s not possible to avoid all tempting situations or internal triggers, it’s helpful to have different strategies to handle urges to drink. Here are some options: 

  • Remind yourself of your reasons for making a change.  
  • Have a trusted friend you can contact or bring along to social activities for support if you’re feeling tempted to drink. 
  • Distract yourself with healthy, alcohol-free alternative activities or hobbies. 
  • Ride out the urge to have “just one little drink” without giving in. Accept that urges are normal and temporary. 
  • Leave tempting situations quickly and gracefully. It helps to plan your exit in advance. 
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.