Form 5A

Coping With Cravings and Urges

• Urges are common in the recovery process. Do not regard them as signs of failure. Instead, use your urges to help you understand what triggers your cravings.

• Urges are like ocean waves. They get stronger only to a point; then they start to subside.

• You win every time you defeat an urge to use. Urges get stronger the next time if you give in and “feed” them. However, if you don’t feed it, an urge eventually will weaken and die.

Practice Exercise

For the next week, make a daily record of urges to use drugs, the intensity of those urges, and the coping behaviors you used.

Fill out the Daily Record of Urges To Use Marijuana (form 5C):

• Date.

• Situation: Include anything about the situation and your thoughts or feelings that seemed to trigger the urge to use.

• Intensity of cravings: Rate your craving—1=none at all, 100=worst ever.

• Coping behaviors used: Note how you attempted to cope with the urge to use marijuana. If it helps, note the effectiveness of your coping technique.

Urge Surfing

Many people try to cope with their urges by gritting their teeth and toughing it out. Some urges, especially when you first return to your old using environment, are too strong to ignore. When this happens, it can be useful to stay with your urge to use until it passes. This technique is called urge surfing.

Urges are like ocean waves. They are small when they start, grow in size, and then break up and dissipate. You can imagine yourself as a surfer who will ride the wave, staying on top of it until it crests, breaks, and turns into less powerful, foamy surf. The basis of urge surfing is similar to that of many martial arts. In judo, one overpowers an opponent by first going with the force of the attack. By joining with the opponent’s force, one can take control of it and redirect it to one’s advantage. This type of technique of gaining control by first going with the opponent allows one to take control while expending a minimum of energy. Urge surfing is similar. You can join with an urge (rather than meet it with a strong opposing force) as a way of taking control of your urge to use. After you have read and become familiar with the instructions for urge surfing, you may find this a useful technique when you have a strong urge to use.

Urge surfing has three basic steps:

1. Take an inventory of how you experience the craving. Do this by sitting in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths and focus inward. Allow your attention to wander through your body. Notice where in your body you experience the craving and what the sensations are like. Notice each area where you experience the urge and tell yourself what you are experiencing. For example, “Let me see—my craving is in my mouth and nose and in my stomach.”

2. Focus on one area where you are experiencing the urge. Notice the exact sensations in that area. For example, do you feel hot, cold, tingly, or numb? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? How large an area is involved? Notice the sensations and describe them to yourself. Notice the changes that occur in the sensation. “Well, my mouth feels dry and parched. There is tension in my lips and tongue. I keep swallowing. As I exhale, I can imagine the smell and taste of marijuana.”

3. Refocus on each part of your body that experiences the craving. Pay attention to and describe to yourself the changes that occur in the sensations. Notice how the urge comes and goes

Many people notice that after a few minutes of urge surfing the craving vanishes. The purpose of this exercise, however, is not to make the craving go away but to experience the craving in a new way. If you practice urge surfing, you will become familiar with your cravings and learn how to ride them out until they go away easily.