Urge Coping with ‘The Wave’

For successful addiction recovery and during subsequent lifelong abstinence learning effective techniques that help with urge coping is absolutely critical. Of course, everybody experiences urges every now and then with the desire to ‘not give in’ to the urge which can prove rather difficult at times.

Our addiction recovery program at Good Acres Sanctuaries is grounded in REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). In REBT we learn to examine our underlying beliefs about events which might trigger urges into action. Quite often we find that our beliefs are irrational and not at all based in logic and truth. Once an irrational belief is identified as such, it can be replaced with a more rational and helpful belief. The new belief can in turn help to significantly reduce the severity of an urge and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome in ‘riding out’ the urge without succumbing to it. Once an individual has been able to ride out urges without giving in to them the urges become less strong and less frequent.

Examples of irrational beliefs about urges and their more rational counterparts may look like this:

Irrational BeliefRational Belief
Urges are unbearable.Urges are uncomfortable.
I cannot stand feeling urges. While urges make me feel uncomfortable, I can work through this discomfort.
Urges make me do things. Urges do not make anybody do anything. It is the decision about how to respond to the urge that makes a person do things. I can decide to ride out an urge.
I will forever feel the horrible urges. I will at first feel urges frequently but with practice urges become less frequent and less intense. With each and every urge I successfully ride out, I have made a substantial investment into my addiction free future self.

An often helpful visualization of an urge is the wave. Since all urges, if left unanswered, do behave like waves in the sense that they start to swell up, reach a peak, and then subside, it makes sense to envision riding a wave. The goal is to ‘catch’ the wave as soon as possible. Meaning, as soon as you realize an urge is beginning, you start the visualization.  Unless a person associates the ocean or water in general with a past trauma, the idea of riding a wave can be a pleasant one and help mask the discomfort felt by the urge itself.

If you know someone who struggles with behavioral adjustments needed for addiction recovery of any kind please share this post with them or try the wave idea out for yourself and tell us about your experience. Please do know, no matter how strong urges feel at first, resisting them does lessen their intensity over time and makes them less frequent.

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One comment

  • Thanks for posting this beautiful illustration and analogy. I know it has helped me. I think I am going to write a poem/sonnet called THE WAVE. I feel inspired. I plan to send that to you soon along with some samples of my writing that I hope you will find applicable to the magazine we talked about and/or any other avenue you feel they would be a good fit for. Thanks again for posting, Diana!!!!

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