How to Identify and OVERCOME Alcohol Triggers

These three tips will increase your chances of success by keeping temptation away.

Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash

“Change can be frightening, and the temptation is often to resist it. But change almost always provides opportunities — to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we work.” — Klaus Schwab

When you first give up drinking, it may seem like every little thing you do will in some way remind you of alcohol.

You’ll sit down to watch the basketball game and will think about drinking.

You’ll turn on your favorite guilty pleasure of 90 Day Fiance on a Friday night and will think about drinking.

You’ll get a text from your friends to come out for a Sunday Funday, and the only thing you can think of is how fun it will be to hit up a patio and drink mimosas for the next three hours.

When you first try to become alcohol conscious and cut back/give up drinking, these little reminders will appear all the time and will often attempt to you go back on your commitment to change your life.

These reminders are known as triggers and are pretty much anything that creates an internal yearning for you to drink. They are social, environmental, or emotional circumstances that remind individuals of their previous alcohol use.

Triggers can be a number of different things.

They can be certain television shows, sporting events, or even people.

The one common denominator amongst them is that they all in some way are things that your mind automatically connects to drinking.

How do you recognize them?

Most of the time this connection is something that you would not have noticed before because you’ve would’ve proceeded to drink with no problem.

But since you are abstaining this time, you’ll notice that your body will have an almost physical reaction to this decision, as it will be so used to drinking in a similar situation that it will wonder what is going on.

When this happens, it can be extremely difficult for you to not want to drink because your body can go through emotional and physical stress that can make being around these triggers hard to withstand.

The way to recognize these triggers is to take notice when your mind is telling you that you could “use a drink” for some reason. It will be an almost natural occurrence that will happen that will cause your mind to think that this moment is “missing” something and that something is generally alcohol.

This could be on your way home from work after a stressful day and the only way you used to relax and cope was to drink a glass of wine or grab a cocktail.

It could be when you get home and start cooking or watching a sporting event, and the act of doing it without having a beverage in your hands makes the entire thing feel a bit off or weird.

It could even be when you are around a certain person or group of people in which you are always drinking. The very first time in a setting in which you remember yourself always drinking will be a bit weird, and you’ll have to work through how to combat these situations.

So how to overcome them?

There is no automatic foolproof way to overcome all triggers, but there are a few things that could help in various situations that you should try.

1. Grab a drink substitute

When you’re initially at home and begin that activity that you usually do with an alcoholic beverage in your hand, you’ll be surprised at how you can trick this craving and lessen the impact of this by grabbing a drink of any kind during this time.

Your brain will know that this is not exactly the usual alcoholic beverage that it’s used to, however, it will still begin to relax you a bit, as you will feel more comfortable with something to get it back to a sense of normalcy.

I would often grab something that still yielded some sense of pleasure to the brain like club soda or sugar-free sodas, so the brain will still get a bit of dopamine hit to associate the drinking with something positive.

You can even try one of a number of new non-alcoholic beverages on the market, appealing to those who’ve made the decision to live a more alcohol-conscious lifestyle.

You can try to drink water instead if you desire, but unfortunately, for some, it just does not have the same effect.

2. Find a substitute for the drinking in general

Things such as exercise or a hobby are great tactics to use to overcome triggers.

For a lot of people, it is very difficult to replace the dopamine spike you get from drinking, so they need something else that can get them there to not feel deprived in their lives.

Therefore, when some people may feel that twinge of a trigger on their way home from work, they instead can go to the gym and work off that stress instead of drowning it in an alcoholic beverage.

This will not only help with working off the stress but has been known to lessen alcohol craving overall, which is why many recovering addicts turn to exercise as their hobby of choice.

Although it is not ideal, you can also use sugar as a trigger overcomer during your initial stages of alcohol-conscious.

Your brain is going to be looking for something that will give it that same artificial spike as alcohol, and there are few things that come as close to it as sugar.

While you need to be careful to not trade one addiction for another, the dangers of sugar are a bit easier to overcome than the dangers of alcohol, so if it takes overconsuming the former to recover from the latter (this was my strategy), then I think it is worth it in the long run.

3. Avoid them altogether

This one may be a bit difficult for people at first, but is just the reality of the situation when you are in the initial throws of alcohol consciousness.

When you first start, you are probably just not going to be very strong as it relates to resisting temptation.

For this reason, you should probably just try to avoid anything that is going to create a strong physiological and psychological pull that could be too difficult to overcome.

If a certain bar makes you feel this way, then it’s best to stay away from that bar completely.

If you find yourself pining for a drink on a Sunday Funday patio at 2 pm, then you may have to find something else to do with your Sunday afternoons for a while.

If a certain friend or group of friends only want to drink and do things that make it hard for you not to be triggered to want to do so, then sadly, you may need to stay away from that friend or those friends for a while until you are in a much stronger position to resist these types of temptations.

While it is not ideal, it is the reality of what comes along with a new alcohol-conscious lifestyle that you have to be prepared to accept to create a new future for yourself.


Alcohol triggers are a natural part of the quitting process and something that cannot be prevented.

However, there are a few simple strategies that will help you recognize these triggers when they present themselves and increase your chances of success by putting you in the best position to be successful ahead of time.

By using the tips above, you’ll save your willpower and instead rely on your intelligence and savviness to give yourself the best chance to keep temptation away and your alcohol-conscious future as bright and clear as ever.