The holidays can trigger powerful cravings, especially if you associate the season with using or you have high-risk obligations where others will be drinking. To get you through intact, brush up on your skills and strategies for coping with cravings.
Go urge surfing
Cravings are like waves. They increase in intensity, peak after 20 or 30 minutes, then subside. Urge surfing is a mindfulness-based technique that involves acknowledging and riding out the craving rather than fighting it. To urge surf:
Identify and acknowledge the craving as soon as it starts. Imagine that it’s a distant wave slowly approaching the shore.
Observe the craving. Rather than fighting it, relax into the craving. Observe it without judgement. What triggered it? Where do you feel it in your body? What thoughts does it produce?
Ride the urge. Use your breath as though it’s a surfboard. Send your breath to the parts of your body and mind affected by the craving. Focus on breathing in and out as you allow the sensations to peak and then subside.
With a little practice, cravings will become easier to ride out. Over time, the duration and intensity of the cravings will diminish. A 2009 study of smokers published in the journal Psychology and Addictive Behaviors found that while urge surfing may not initially reduce cravings, it may change the response to urges, making them easier to cope with.1
Distractions can get you through a craving quickly and effectively. Make a long list of activities you can do when you have a craving. When the urge strikes, pick something on the list and do it: play the guitar, reorganize the junk drawer in the kitchen, go for a walk around the block, watch an episode of something, call a friend.
Get support online
Numerous online support groups can help you work through a craving at virtually any time. From Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to SMART Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety, you can find an online support group or forum for support any time you feel the urges building.
Go to Meetings
Regularly attending support group meetings is important for successful recovery any time of year, but it’s twice as important during the holidays. If the holiday season is particularly difficult for you, or if you expect it to be, it’s a good idea to attend more than one meeting a day. Staying connected to your support group offers an added layer of support and personal accountability during the holidays.
This is part four of five in the series Staying Sober Over the Holidays. Next, read Staying Sober Over the Holidays, Part 5: Find the Spirit of the Season.