There are a number of ways that you can deal with alcohol cravings in your recovery.
Some of these ways are proactive and some of them are reactive. In order to succeed in addiction recovery you really need to be able to use both of these strategies.
Reactive techniques would include things such as calling your sponsor, going to an AA meeting, or meditating when you feel an actual urge or craving to drink alcohol.
A proactive technique would be to work through the 12 steps, write in a journal every day, or exercising regularly. All of those things could potentially reduce cravings and urges in the long run, or overall.
When you first get clean and sober you are likely going to be learning about reactive strategies, which is fine. Call your sponsor, hit a meeting, reach out to peers in recovery, and so on. In fact, one of the best suggestions is to make some of those reactions a daily habit, so that they become an automatic part of your routine. If you attend an AA meeting every single day without question, then you will also be attending a meeting on the day that you need it the most, because you go every single day. Simple, right? Such a simple habit can be very powerful.
The same thing can be true of getting phone numbers in AA or NA. People often exchange phone numbers and encourage the newcomer to get lots of phone numbers. They also suggest that you use them. However, it can be very awkward to do so because you are new to the program and you are nervous and it can feel awkward to reach out for no apparent reason.
Therefore, you can establish a habit of doing so if you “buddy up” with someone in recovery and agree to check in with each other every single day, no matter what. Call it an “accountability partner,” if you will. That way, because you will be in the habit of checking in with someone every single day, it will not be so awkward to do so when you finally get a real trigger or craving. If you are not already in the habit of reaching out to your peers in recovery on a daily basis, then the phone will weigh a thousand pounds when you are experiencing a trigger and really need the help.
To some extent, after you learn all of the reactive techniques of reaching out for immediate help, you need to start figuring out proactive measures will work best for you in your recovery journey.
Different things work for different people. For example, some people are really into seated meditation, and they do it every single day, and they would never think of going through an entire day without getting in their meditation session. They have figured out the benefits of doing so and that is what works for them, so they continue to do it.
I tried to get into seated meditation and it never really clicked for me. I eventually discovered an alternative to seated meditation, which for me turned out to be distance running. So I got into the habit of going out and jogging on a regular basis, and this had a massively profound effect on my sobriety. I found that I was much more stable emotionally, and much better at processing my feelings and my stress when I was able to get out and run for several miles on a regular basis. It was almost as if jogging was a way for me to cleanse myself emotionally. It was working for me in a way that seated meditation was not.
So the point is not that I think you need to go to jog. That is not it at all. Rather, you need to find the proactive and healthy habits for your own life that do the same thing for you that jogging does for me. And that is the same set of benefits that seated meditation does for other people. And that might be the same benefits that daily AA meetings does for some people.
There are various habits that you might develop in recovery, and it is your responsibility to figure out what those are and how they can work for you.
And here is another critical lesson when it comes to these positive habits: You cannot decipher them via thought experiments.
In other words, I can sit here and tell you that I hear your suggestion about seated meditation, and I can even close my eyes and meditate for a few moments, but until I really dive in and give this new habit a full 30 day trial in my life, I haven’t really given it a fair chance.
I think for most positive habits that may have a huge impact on your recovery, 30 days of continuous testing is really a good baseline to determine if it helps or not.
The alternative to this is basically the “thought experiment” that I would use to dismiss things when I wanted to stay stuck in denial. Someone would suggest something to me to try to help me, and I would figure out why that suggestion would not work for me.
I think we have all been guilty of this at times–dismissing an idea based on our own quick opinion. But a thought experiment cannot show you the true benefits of jogging every day for 30 days straight. Or the benefits that you would get from doing 20 minutes of seated meditation every day for 30 days straight.
So what needs to happen in your long term recovery is this: You must actually test out the suggestions that you are given and give those suggestions a real chance to work in your life. Without this level of experimentation you are going to miss out on a lot of potential personal growth.
The truth is that you are going to keep facing different problems in your life as you move through your recovery. Those problems will always have the potential to divert you back to your addiction if you are not being proactive about finding solutions. Meaning that you need to stay humble and remain teachable so that you can be nimble enough to overcome the new problems that will inevitably arise in your life.
This is not said to be overly negative or pessimistic: Life is random and chaotic and you are going to face new problems at some point. Therefore you need to adopt proactive measures in your daily routine so that you are working a positive program of recovery. You are either stuck in denial and avoiding change, or you are embracing the new reality and adapting by seeking to change yourself in the most positive ways possible. It is only by your willingness to become a better version of yourself that you can be successful in long term recovery.
The alternative to personal growth is complacency. And if you are complacent in recovery then you will eventually relapse as a result of that complacency.
The cravings and triggers that you experience in the future are going to be new and unique. In order to deal with them correctly you are going to have to learn, change, and grow as a person. Therefore you need to stay on a path of positive change and personal growth. This is how you win at recovery, and at life. Keep learning and remain humble in order to thrive in long term recovery.