How to Deal With Alcohol Cravings

We returned home last night after an amazing weekend in downtown Vancouver. We took my son and three of his friends to the city to chaperone them as they took in a concert on one of the wildest weekends Vancouver has to offer: Halloween. Granville Street was closed off to all traffic and we made our way from one end to another, shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest costumes and weirdest antics I have ever witnessed. I fully and completely enjoyed every moment BUT just a couple of hours earlier it had the potential to be a completely different (read negative) experience…

We booked our hotel through an online website based solely on the economic pricing. As the confirmation came through I noticed that they hosted a wine reception each evening. The rooms were named after wines. Even the artwork in the room was wine themed. I could feel my “suffering” rising as we unloaded our luggage. The old siren in my head began, “…is abstinence really necessary or is it an over-correction?” and “…who would know?” and “will this even be any fun?” and “it’s Halloween for Pete’s sake…” And so the alcoholic ride in my mind began…

When I was away on my recovery retreat last month I was taught a breathing technique to do when cravings come up and the mind begins to create suffering around my non-drinking status. It is very simple: cover the right nostril with a thumb and very slowly and calmly, begin deep, deep inhales followed by deep, slow exhales only through the left nostril. This is supposed to calm the mind and balance the nervous system thereby decreasing the body’s need to find balance from a substance. At the very least it forced my mind to slow down and gave me some space. As I engaged in this breathing technique, I named the feelings I was experiencing and I asked my higher power to replace those feelings with confidence and calm assurance that sobriety is the right path for me.

External circumstances in life that I don’t like will happen for as long as I walk the earth. They are unavoidable. I mean really, where were the wine hotels to be found when I was drinking daily??? The irony and “unfairness” of it all that now that I am sober this is the type of accommodation I find myself in on Halloween night – which fell on a Friday night to boot is a situation with tons of stuff to get mad at and feel sorry for myself over and perhaps cause enough suffering in my mind to justify a glass (know that I mean at least a bottle and probably waaaaaay more given it is Halloween)… But at the end of the day yoga teaches me that the only thing I have control over is my reaction to the suffering or external events that bother me in life. I have lots of choice in how I react and choose to perceive these external events. I can agree with my suffering mind whole heartedly and decide that this is too hard, too unfair, I miss drinking, this sucks, how come everyone else can. BUT I have other choices as well. Choices to think things like I don’t want to be drunk in front of my son and his friends, I don’t want to poison my body, I don’t want to spend so much money drinking in Vancouver, I want to develop my creativity and drinking kills it, I want to remember all things said and done, I want to honour my real self and I can’t do that if I drink, I want to be hangover free and fully engage in the entire day not simply get through the morning/afternoon until it is a reasonable time to repeat the drinking.

I practiced my breathing and mindfulness step work right there in drop-off zone at the hotel while my hubby checked us in. I did not white knuckle through. I did not engage in cranky, self-pitying behaviours. I did not care what anyone might think. I was downtown Vancouver on Halloween night – stranger sights were everywhere. I chose my reaction very carefully and rather than allow my monkey mind to take over the evening – I used some tools that people have used for many, many years. I love how yoga and the 12 steps complement one another. I could feel my heart rate calm, the deep breathing was nourishing me physically, mentally and spiritually.

By the time we unloaded our stuff into our rooms, I was LAUGHING with my husband about the fact that I was in a winery sponsored hotel – and had never heard of such a thing while drinking. I was LAUGHING. That is the miracle. I was able to step in and change my reaction and somehow things did not seem so bad for me, rather the whole thing was kinda funny. We went on to have a wonderful dinner in Gastown and a lovely weekend biking throughout the city looking for fabric and other creative things for all of the art stuff I am currently engaging in. So much better than recovering from a hangover all day Saturday only to do it again that night… Sober life rocks if I choose my reactions to external events consciously and do NOT allow my auto-pilot, alcoholic mind to react the way it always has… To practice santosha (contentment) in sobriety, no matter what is going on around me – that is my goal…

7 thoughts on “How to Deal With Alcohol Cravings”

  1. That was lovely. I’m going to think about that breathing technique next time.
    I definite use deep breathing, and yoga itself, a lot.

    It’s inevitable that we are exposed to alcohol. Our response to it is what makes the day. Your experience is very motivating! Thank you!

      1. For me, yoga has been a life saver. I don’t know how I would have coped earlier this year when I was deeply depressed. It was the only thing I could do, and honestly was the only place I felt safe and could relax.


  2. β€œβ€¦is abstinence really necessary or is it an over-correction?” OMG, this is brilliant! What a great way to phrase this persistent question. Love the post and the way through the doubt b

  3. I loved this post. We are on the same page. I posted words on the same theme earlier today in We have so many passions and interests and living that get sidetracked when we drink. you are right. Sobriety rocks!

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