[ Skip to main content ]

Urge Surfing

January 23rd, 2017 Mrs D's Blog

A year or so ago I took part in a free online Mindfulness Summit which was amazing! I felt like I was attending the most incredible online university course on mindfulness, where every day there is a different guest star lecturer. I have to admit I was a real girly swat about it, faithfully listening every day, taking notes and blogging about it here to keep a record of all that I was learning.

It was truly incredible listening to all these smart and caring individuals working in the field of mindfulness – in numerous different ways … learning how they each go inside the human mind to help themselves and other people deal with life. Tricky things, ordinary things, uncomfortable or unpleasant things – life in all it’s messy glory.

I do think mindfulness is the answer to all my problems (now that I have solved the BIG problem which was my addiction to alcohol) and I am committed to keep exploring this practice.

One of the speakers – a really lovely, upbeat, and clever dude called Shamash Alidina mentioned something called ‘Urge Surfing’ the other day and said it’s a really great technique for dealing with addictive cravings. It’s something I’ve heard mentioned by members here at Living Sober as well.. so I did a bit of research on it.

‘Urge surfing’ is a term coined by Alan Marlatt as part of a program of relapse prevention he developed for people recovering from addictions to alcohol and other drugs. Apparently urges for substances never last for long – usually no more than 30 minutes – and if you are able to step aside and mindfully watch the urge from a distance (surf it like a wave) you can watch it go past without it developing into a full blown craving.

What usually happens with us addicts is that we feel the urge and  let it turn into an internal struggle (i.e. we start up the mind chatter ‘I wish I could drink, I deserve a drink, everyone else is drinking I should be able to, just one can’t hurt, if only I could have a drink etc etc) then the urge turns into a full blown CRAVING and they are bloody hard to beat.

I found a great quote to describe Urge Surfing on this website (this page describes the technique in detail and includes specific exercises to try); “Trying to fight cravings is like trying to block a waterfall. We end up being inundated. With the approach of mindfulness, we step aside and watch the water (cravings, impulses & urges) just go right past.”

So the trick is to surf the urge and not let an internal struggle kick in to have it develop into a craving which is much harder to beat.

The main message is that urges do not have to be acted on. Fighting the urge feeds it. Just let the urge be. Ride it out – don’t feed it or fight it or judge it. Just acknowledge it, notice it, and watch it with open and warm curiosity … and it should pass within 30 mins.

And if you keep urge surfing, over time the urges will diminish and disappear. Yes! It’s true! I can absolutely say with 100% honesty that this is true. I used to get loads of urges to drink and now I get none.

Zip, nadda, none.

Here’s a You Tube video of an Urge Surfing exercise. And here’s an interview with Alan Marlatt on mindfulness based relapse prevention.

Even if you didn’t want to get into the full mindfulness aspect of this technique, if you simply said to yourself ‘I’m surfing this urge to drink’ that would help I reckon. That way you are identifying what is happening, calling it what it is, and stating your intention to ride it out.

Because riding it out is what it’s all about. Because booze is shit and we want to get it out of our lives. Yes we do!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Share this post

Continue reading

Relaxation triggers ...

Mrs D's Blog

5 o’clock was bloody hard for me in the early days of getting sober.

July 20, 2020

Rosewater, Lemon & Mint Spritzer

Drink of the Week

This drink is lovely and refreshing and so easy to make!

May 17, 2019

Sober Story: Colin


This week’s Sober Story comes from Colin, a 68-year-old living in Canterbury.

April 13, 2022

My sober pandemic: Helen


“I’ve been sober for two weeks.

August 27, 2021