Many times, alcoholics/problem drinkers who are trying to get sober are told if they have a craving to drink that they should simply call someone who is sober or go to a mutual-help meeting. The problem with relying solely on these suggestions is if that person is unable to contact a sober person via phone or there is not a meeting available at that time, then they are at an increased risk of drinking. Therefore, it is important to have additional tools to call upon in that moment which can help delay the time between the urge to drink and the action of drinking.
It can be helpful to find an index card and cutting it into the size of a business card to keep in your wallet. Then choose 5-10 coping skills that would be helpful in the moment if a craving to drink surfaces. The list should be comprised of skills that you have tried before and that you know to be helpful . Trying a new skill in the midst of a craving to drink is not the best time to experiment. The following are some possible coping skills to utilize:
1. Choose not to drink or use drugs despite what your mind may be telling you
2. Distract yourself- Physically get away from the situation you are in, and do something else
3. Talk with someone immediately who is supportive (therapist, friend, family member)
4. Avoid isolating yourself, go somewhere safe with someone you trust
5. Engage in another activity take a hot or cold shower, squeeze ice
6. Exercise- go for a brisk walk or run, swim, lift weights, or engage in other aerobic activities that require physical exertion
7. Release your emotions in a safe manner- punch a pillow, yell, etc.
8. Pamper yourself by doing something soothing: read, listen to music, take a relaxing bath, look at the moon or clouds
9. Get fresh air- open a window or take a walk in an area that is not near a bar, liquor store, etc.
10. Practice relaxation exercises that involve diaphragmatic breathing (meditation, mindfulness, guided CD)- allow yourself to experience and observe your feelings and cravings in a detached way
11. Journal- Write your feelings down
12. Read recovery based literature
13. Create a delay- Increase the time and distance between you and a drink or drug
14. Look at your pro/con list of drinking and/or using drugs
15. Pray- serenity prayer, for the strength to stay away from a drink or a drug
16. Eat a meal, snack or drink a non-alcoholic beverage
17. Go to a mutual-help group meeting- A.A., N.A. or SMART Recovery
18. Call your sponsor and talk about your cravings and that you are in a high-risk situation
19. Repeat a positive affirmation or mantra ("This too shall pass", etc.)- it is harder for your mind to think about alcohol/drugs and intentional repetitious thoughts
20. Stay away from people, places and things that tempt you while in this vulnerable state
21. Focus on something else- play with your pet, garden, watch TV, read a magazine
22. Think of the consequences- imagine the impact for tomorrow, next week, next year
23. Positive self talk
24. Observe your thoughts- don't believe everything that you think
25. Imagery- visualize being in a safe or special place
26. Break time down into manageable increments- commit to staying sober for the hour, minute, second
27. Create structure for your day/evening
28. Replace destructive activities- eat candy instead of drinking or using drugs
29. Practice delay- tell yourself that you only have to stay sober today
30. Fight the urge- imagine this is a battle that you want to win!
31. Don't pick up a drink- NO MATTER WHAT!