For those with drug and alcohol addiction, getting through the difficult ups and downs of cravings during withdrawal and recovery can be challenging. Urge surfing is a technique that allows you to do that and do so in a meaningful way. What is urge surfing? Is it something that could help you to gain better control over the complications you’re facing?

What Is Urge Surfing?

The goal of urge surfing is to manage the thoughts and feelings of cravings without actually taking that action. An urge to act – such as having a drink or using a substance – typically only lasts a short period of time. Most often, those cravings will dissipate within about 30 minutes. However, for you to help encourage that urge to “go away,” you have to avoid feeding it.

That is, if you do not give in to the urge and you don’t give it attention, focus on it, or think about it, it will go away. Urges pass on their own if we allow them to do so, but that can only happen if you don’t justify them, engage in any type of behavior that fuels them or think about them. That’s harder to do than it seems, though.

For example, if you try to suppress a thought, that simply increases it. If you fight the urge, such as talking yourself out of it, that’s only going to make them stronger. As they grow, they become harder to manage and longer lasting. The goal of urge surfing is to do exactly the opposite.

How Does Urge Surfing Work?

With urge surfing, you learn how to experience those urges in a new way. You don’t try to push them back, but you also don’t give in to them. Rather, you ride them out.

Imagine a wave in the ocean. When surfing, you don’t try to crash through the wave or avoid it, but rather you ride it until it dissipates. That’s what you’ll do with this method.

To do this, you’ll engage in mindfulness. That will include taking steps such as the following:

  • Watch your breathing. Allow it to continue without trying to change the pace. Just breathe.
  • Notice your thoughts. Recognize your urge to use.
  • Don’t judge that urge in any way. Don’t fight it. Instead, try to bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Repeat this process until the urge passes.

The back and forth of this type of method enables significant changes to occur in your body. When you focus on your breathing, you are able to give the urge time to pass without thinking negatively about it or feeding it. Watch how this impacts your body and your thoughts.

It takes practice to learn how to move through this process, but most people can see a significant improvement in the urges over time by not fighting them but just riding them out.

Work to Reduce the Risk of Urges

Urge surfing is an excellent technique to use during your recovery from substance use disorder. It’s not the only step you can take, though, in improving your cravings and gaining better control over your health. Consider these strategies:

  • Work to develop a strong sense of self. Take care of your body and mind throughout the day with the goal of reducing urges.
  • Pay attention to your body’s needs. You are more vulnerable to urges when you are ill, you don’t eat well, or you do not get sleep.
  • Work to address what you’re experiencing with your therapist. Sometimes this will mean having a session with your therapist to discuss what the urges are and why they may be occurring.
  • This technique can work for most people, but it does not take the place of traditional therapy, and it may not be enough to help you to stop using substances if you are continuing to do so. You may benefit from detox.
  • Willpower is a word you will often hear. You can strengthen it by practicing self-regulation. The more you practice this process of urge surfing, the more willpower you’ll gain.

It’s not a perfect process and takes some time to get right. Yet, many people will find it is one of the most effective ways to remain in control over the way they think and feel.

Engage in Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

While tools like mindfulness can empower you to get through the day, you also need to consider the care you need to stop using substances and to work through the cause of them, including any mental health challenges you may have.

If you are struggling with addiction now, reach out to speak to an admissions counselor today to learn more about treatment options that can protect your life. Contact 1st Step Behavioral Health or call at (855) 425-4846 to learn more about how we can help you. Speak to an admissions counselor to get started.

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