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How to Use Urge Surfing to Defeat Drug and Alcohol Cravings

Addiction and alcoholism are serious but common diseases in the United States. According to the National Institute of Health (NIIH), “10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives.”[1] 

When you struggle with a substance use disorder, you are at risk of experiencing a wide range of adverse effects, including social isolation, the development of physical health conditions, increased mental health issues, and life-threatening emergencies like overdoses. As a result, it’s important to get treatment from a licensed drug and alcohol rehab center. While rehab will help you learn how to manage your addiction, recovery does not end once you complete addiction treatment. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the addiction relapse rate is between 40 to 60%.[2] Typically, people relapse because they stop doing the things that helped them get sober in the first place. While a rehab center can teach you how to prevent relapse, it’s up to you to use your relapse prevention skills and follow through with aftercare.

One of the best ways to manage cravings is to use a coping mechanism referred to as “urge surfing.” 

What is an Urge?

In the recovery community, an urge is characterized by an extremely strong craving or desire to abuse substances. 

When you look back at the times you abused substances, you can probably identify the cravings you experienced before you took action. Oftentimes, cravings or urges stem from a strong physical or emotional feeling, a memory or thought, or even an event. 

Some of the common situations or feelings that trigger drug and alcohol cravings include:

  • Feeling bored, angry, lonely, or stressed
  • Being in a social situation that involves drinking or substance abuse 
  • Experiencing low self-esteem or other self-defeating thoughts
  • Relationship issues or interpersonal arguments 
  • Walking by a liquor store or a place you used to abuse drugs 
  • Being around people you used to abuse drugs with 

Before you engage in addictive behaviors, you will feel an intense physical, mental, or emotional urge that becomes difficult to resist. This is why you feel like it is impossible to control your substance abuse. Fortunately, there are healthy coping techniques you can use to overcome the drug and alcohol cravings you face. 

What is Urge Surfing?

Urge surfing is a technique you can use to avoid acting on any behavior you want to reduce or stop.[3] Instead of giving in to your cravings, urge surfing teaches you how to ride them out. After a short time, you will find that the urge passes if you allow it. 

When you are suffering from addiction, giving in to urges can become discouraging. When you experience a craving, you almost begin to feel like there’s no point in trying to overcome these urges if you don’t have any coping techniques to help you fight your cravings.

Instead of attempting to “white knuckle” through cravings or struggle against them, urge surfing teaches you how to become an observer rather than a participant. The technique was named urge surfing because cravings behave like waves in the ocean. While they may come in strong, they slowly dissipate over time. By using this strategy, you can learn how to ride the wave instead of becoming consumed by it.

How to Use Urge Surfing to Overcome Drug and Alcohol Cravings

Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique that is used to bring your complete attention to the present moment rather than obsessing over the past or future. If you or a loved one experiences frequent drug and alcohol cravings, learning how to urge surf can help you maintain long-term sobriety. 

Urge surfing can be mastered by taking the following steps:

  • Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably with your eyes closed
  • Focus your attention on the source of your craving, whether it is a physical sensation, a thought, or an unwanted emotion
  • Observe and calmly describe to yourself what you are feeling
  • After a minute or two of observation, shift your focus to your breathing pattern
  • After focusing on your breathing, take another look at the sensation that caused your craving 
  • You should begin to notice that as your breathing becomes calmer, so does your craving
  • Repeat this exercise anytime you notice yourself experiencing cravings and urges 

The technique can not only prevent you from relapsing, but it can also make sobriety easier for you to obtain. Instead of fighting tooth and nail to keep yourself sober, urge surfing can teach you how to accept your urges without feeling the need to give in to them. 

Find Addiction Help for Yourself or a Loved One Today

At the Mandala Healing Center, we are sensitive to the fact that every person we treat comes from a different background and has a unique set of needs. Our wide array of addiction treatment offerings allows us to cater to each patient’s strengths, and find the programs and activities that work best on an individual level. Our evidenced-based programs and holistic methods are designed to keep patients engaged in treatment, develop the necessary life strategies and skills to sustain long-term sobriety, and achieve optimal health and internal balance.

Call today to learn more about our South Florida drug and alcohol rehab center or for a risk-free assessment.