Urge Surfing

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

  1. booklover 7 years ago

    Will definitely try urge surfing. I agree that most cravings don’t really last that long, at least for me. If I can make it through a 30 minute craving I can add more days to being drink free.

  2. sophia2 7 years ago

    I would like to learn mindfulness. Can you do it online or does it need to be face to face ? If it is possible to learn online……..any recommendations ? xx

  3. SarahJane22 7 years ago

    Thanks for this! I have a lot of trouble with being mindful and living in the present. I’m going to try out these exercises.

  4. Daisy 8 years ago

    Hey there I really liked this post. I use ‘surfing the urge’ quite a lot and its a technique they teach on my SMART meetings, I see from a bit of research Alan was an advisor to their development. Nice circle there.

    I hope it helps other folks as much as it has me.


  5. Gilbert 8 years ago

    Isn’t technology amazing.What we can do from home now 😀

  6. behind-the-sofa 8 years ago

    Great links Mrs D……
    Thank you : )

  7. Pattypan 8 years ago

    Isn’t the summit wonderful @MrsD? I’m planning on sharing your comments with my two adult children and their spouses as further reassurance that I’m “on track”. Mindfulness has been an interest – and practice – of mine for quite some time but to be “saturated” with a whole month of amazing interviews and presentations is a real gift. Like you I listen religiously (which I’m not incidentally 🙂 ) every day and too have paid to have permanent access. There are such amazing people and resources out there which technology has made available to us. We have so very much to be grateful for!

  8. Watergirl 8 years ago

    Yes very interesting, thanks for the post @mrs-D.x

  9. SueK 8 years ago

    That’s a really interesting read, thank you @Mrs-D.

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