Exercise…Hobbies…Sugar? — Why You Need SOMETHING To Replace Alcohol

How to Make Your Battle For Alcohol Consciousness Much Easier.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“I once heard it said that everyone needs love-and if they’re denied, they’ll find it, or a reasonable substitute somewhere.”
― Richard Paul Evans, The Gift

The battle to stop drinking is not for the faint of heart. It will be riddled with starts, stops, and restarts. Often, when individuals are traveling down this path, they feel this need to try to do it all with just their willpower.

For some weird reason, the thought of trying to find some type of aid to help them feels like cheating. Or perhaps they are secretly hoping they do fail to give themselves a reason to pick up the bottle again?

Whatever the reason, when individuals try to stop drinking on willpower alone, they are stacking the odds against them and putting themselves at a great disadvantage when it comes to being able to stick to their commitment of abstinence/control.

For many people, when they quit one behavior, their body craves something to replace that feeling. This is known as transfer addiction and can do more harm than good to your body (and your chances of quitting) if not managed accordingly.

Therefore, to increase your chances of success, you should find something as your transfer object that will not be more detrimental than alcohol itself. There are a number of different things you can use for replacement as long as they’re not OVERLY unhealthy for you, but these are the three most well-known and manageable with time.


It is a well-known phenomenon that, for some, intense sugar cravings are one of the side effects of abstinence. I, like many, personally experienced it. It seemed like overnight I developed an intense desire to eat sweets constantly, whereas I never had one before.

The reason for this is how accustomed the mind became to the intense dopamine spike that alcohol provided. Now, that it wasn’t getting it at the regularly scheduled intervals, the brain figured it must no longer be available and, therefore, must look for a substitute.

Sugar can be that substitute for a similar dopamine spike. Many scientists believe this is because of our body’s prehistoric need to consume food with lots of calories to ensure life due to food scarcity in the past.

Therefore, as soon as the brain gets that similar dopamine spike, it sends signals to your mind to get more since it creates such a similar feeling.

Partaking in this is not the worst thing you can do when you think about all of the negative effects alcohol causes the body. You have to be very gentle with yourself during the early stages of your alcohol-conscious journey, and if that means you eating more sweets than you normally would, then so be it.

The other side of this equation has to do with the feeling of “treating one’s self” that many people often would feel with alcohol. Usually, alcohol would be that thing that we would allow ourselves to do on the weekend or on a vacation to make it a little extra special and as a reward for working hard for whatever amount of time.

Using sweets to replace this can be a great way to feel that you are still rewarding yourself with eating something that gives you great pleasure but doesn’t share those same negative consequences that alcohol would cause.


If sweets aren’t your thing, then taking up a hobby could be a great second substitute to keep you occupied and your mind off drinking. One of the first things you are going to realize when you stop drinking is that you have mounds of free time at your disposal with which you need to figure out what to do.

Too much free time can lead to the mind wondering on a number of things and when you are fresh in battling the fight for alcohol-conscious, drinking will constantly dominate your thoughts if you don’t have something else to occupy it.

Your hobby of choice can be a number of different things, but to ensure that it will provide the mental focus you need to stave off cravings and thoughts of drinking, there are a few characteristics that you should look for when making the decision.

First, I would highly suggest against anything that puts you in an environment around alcohol for now. You are still new in your alcohol-consciousness, so you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by being in any environment that could possibly cause more temptation than necessary.

Therefore, ideas that involve activities around bars or other people drinking, like playing pool or darts, would probably not be the best idea.

Second, to ensure that this is something that fully occupies your mind, you are going to want to pick a hobby that is rather complex or something that you can build upon over time.

Something that you can master too quickly or is not intellectually challenging enough could bore you fast, and you’ll be thinking about drinking before you know it. Repetitive hobbies such as doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles can be intellectually stimulating to some extent, but over time, they can become boring since you are doing the same thing every single day but with different pieces.

Instead, choose something that requires a high level of mental complexity AND allows you to see the result of your growth over time. Endeavors such as learning how to play a musical instrument, learning to paint, or even learning a language would be a good example of something that would do both.

Third, your hobby must be exciting to you. Now granted, there are going to be days in which you may not feel like practicing a group of chords or studying the Korean alphabet yet again. However, your excitement should come from your day to day improvement and the joy you’ll experience at the end product of all of your hard work.

If you don’t experience this feeling of joy and excitement when you think about attaining success with your hobby, then you should probably look for something that drives you more.


If sweets and hobbies aren’t for you, then perhaps exercising is your substitution of choice. The benefits of exercise are tremendous, even outside of preventing your alcohol cravings. However, if you’re battling alcohol craving, they could be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise helps in a number of ways to reduce cravings.

It can give you more structure to your day by being a substitute for what you would usually do during the time of the day that you would drink. So now, instead of drinking each day at 5 pm, you’re at the gym.

This will begin to reprogram your neurotransmitters to a new pattern emerging.

Exercise also helps to lessen many of the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms you might experience. Increased bouts of stress, the initial inability to sleep, and overall lack of energy are three side effects that some people experience when they stop quitting.

Exercise can help with all three of these to prevent your mind from telling you that only alcohol can help you feel normal again.

Intense cardiovascular exercise is beginning to pick up steam as the addictive exercise of choice by many people trying to reduce their dependence on a chemical substance due to its ability to give you a “runner’s high” that some say can replace the feeling that alcohol provided.

Scientists speculate that this experience produces a boost in dopamine and serotonin that can then be used to help reprogram the brain to expect it from this rather than from alcohol.

Lastly, with the increase in exercise and paired decrease in alcohol consumption, you may also lose a bit of weight. This typically leads to a more positive self-image and increased self-esteem, which is always important with any battle to stop addictive behavior.

Not sure which of these three you should try first? Why not try all three?

I did.

When I stopped drinking, I implemented all of these at the same time and credit their compound effect as one of the reasons for my successful alcohol consciousness.

And while I admit that I sugar still tempts me at times (I’ve gotten much better here, however), it’s much better than the life I was living when alcohol was in control.