Coping Mechanisms for Alcoholics

Instructor: Emily Cummins
Alcoholism is a disease characterized by dependence on or addiction to alcohol. In this lesson, we'll talk about some coping strategies that alcoholics might use to beat cravings for a drink.


Many of us enjoy having a drink now and then, perhaps a glass of wine with dinner or a beer out at a pub with friends. But for some, drinking alcohol is a serious problem. Alcoholism is a disease characterized by an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism causes intense cravings for alcoholic beverages. In the United States, about 7% of adults engage in drinking behaviors that would be considered unhealthy. Those who suffer from the disease find it very difficult to have just one drink. They drink to the point of excess, causing problems in speech, coordination, and brain function. In serious cases, abusing alcohol can lead to serious conditions like liver, brain, and heart damage.

So, what should someone who experience issues controlling alcohol intake do? In this lesson, we'll talk about some coping strategies for people who find themselves unable to drink alcohol safely.

Triggers and Cravings

It's important for alcoholics to realize that they will have cravings for alcohol. It's one thing to stop drinking, but the desire to drink alcohol certainly will not go away immediately. But, alcoholics are not powerless to these cravings and there are ways to overcome them that do not involve having a drink. So, one important coping skill will be to figure out how to deal with cravings. Cravings are often triggered by things in our environment that remind us of drinking or that we used to really like to drink. For example, watching a show where characters are drinking in a bar or attending a friend's wedding with an open bar might make us crave a drink.

So what can we do about cravings? One approach is to limit our exposure to alcohol. So, avoid places where you know there will be alcohol. Eat dinner at home or in a restaurant that does not serve alcohol. Avoiding places that trigger cravings can be the best way to avoid having cravings all together, which is ideal.

If we are experiencing a craving, we should do something distracting. This might be doing an alternative activity like getting out for a walk. Eating something may also help. Eating a big meal can lessen a craving for alcohol. It can also be helpful to challenge our thoughts about alcohol. Let's say you're experiencing a craving, and you want to go to the bar. You might be thinking about how much fun you used to have with friends, sipping drinks at the bar. But try and think about some of the negative things: waking up feeling extremely hungover, getting sick from alcohol, or not remembering the night before and wondering if you embarrassed yourself or put yourself in danger.

Stress and Drinking

Emotions like anger or stress can also trigger a craving. It is important to recognize this and take steps to reduce our stress. Using alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety is a maladaptive coping strategy. It's important to find healthier outlets. Exercise can help reduce our stress levels. Next time we're feeling very stressed, one idea is to go out for a run or get on the treadmill when we feel like reaching for a drink. Writing in a journal or talking to a friend can also help us cope with stresses that might trigger drinking.

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