Urge Surfing

Urge Surfing

Struggling with substances can be an incredibly draining and frustrating experience. The urges that often accompany the cessation of using a substance can be some of the toughest feelings you may deal with in your life.

Following the decision to stop using a substance, you may start experiencing difficult urges, which typically most people most fight by ruminating, justifying the urges or even arguing with them. Some may try to mindlessly distract themselves, all of which may make these urges grow stronger. At these times a technique that may help is one called ‘Urge Surfing’.

Urge Surfing, as the visual it conjures up may suggest, is a technique which involves accepting the discomfort of having withdrawal urges, while recognizing that there is not much we can do to stop them from happening in that moment. The process of doing so is by ‘riding’ them out just like riding a wave. Often if we do not feed in to the urge by arguing with it or fighting against it, it will arise and then pass within 30 minutes.

The steps to Urge Surfing are as follows:

        1. Notice everything you can about the urge with a mindset of curiosity, as opposed to trying to get rid of it. Pretend you are a biologist seeing a new animal for the first time ever and trying to notice every detail about it. Where do you notice the feeling? Is it moving? Is it deep or close to the surface? What temperature is it? Does it have hot spots and cold spots? What shape does it feel like? What colour does it feel like?
        2. Name the urge. For example ‘this is an urge to smoke’, ‘this is an urge to drink’, or ‘this is an urge to gamble’. Even something as simple as ‘this is an urge’.
        3. Breathe in to it and allow it to be there. Breathe deep in to your belly and expand your awareness around the urge wherever you feel it most.
        4. Validate the urge. You are feeling this because you have decided that there is something that it more important than using the substance, whether that is your health, family, financial security, friendships, work, etc. When we make tough decisions to stop using substances they often come with uncomfortable feelings and this urge is one of them.
        5. Repeat step 1-4 until you are able to feel more present with your actions and attention and the urge is less impactful.


It can be helpful to think of an urge as a wave in the ocean and recognise that it will rise, have a peak and then level off. Try this next time you have an urge, even if it is a small one, and see if you can surf that wave!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.