Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast

Surf Your Urge: Ride Your Craving Wave and Regain Impulse Control

May 26, 2024 Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb
Surf Your Urge: Ride Your Craving Wave and Regain Impulse Control
Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
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Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
Surf Your Urge: Ride Your Craving Wave and Regain Impulse Control
May 26, 2024
Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb

Have you ever felt the grip of an alcohol craving, only to feel powerless against it? In this episode, we explore the empowering technique of 'surfing the urge'. This technique is backed by by science. It alters your brain's circuitry to allow greater control over impulses and emotional regulation so that you can hit pause between a craving and knocking back your first glass. This is where freedom lies.

For anyone on the path to reducing alcohol consumption or maintaining sobriety, this episode offers ten mindful steps to help you navigate a drinking urge. 

Pushing through that 30 minutes of discomfort may seem frightening, but the more you do it, the more you are empowered to continue doing it. It's about taking back your power and minimising alcohol's role in your life. Future you will thank you! 

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever felt the grip of an alcohol craving, only to feel powerless against it? In this episode, we explore the empowering technique of 'surfing the urge'. This technique is backed by by science. It alters your brain's circuitry to allow greater control over impulses and emotional regulation so that you can hit pause between a craving and knocking back your first glass. This is where freedom lies.

For anyone on the path to reducing alcohol consumption or maintaining sobriety, this episode offers ten mindful steps to help you navigate a drinking urge. 

Pushing through that 30 minutes of discomfort may seem frightening, but the more you do it, the more you are empowered to continue doing it. It's about taking back your power and minimising alcohol's role in your life. Future you will thank you! 

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Speaker 1:

I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you tuned in. Let's get started. Are you trying to drink less alcohol but need some extra motivation? Maybe you've tried moderation, but you keep waking up disappointed and hungover.

Speaker 2:

Are you curious about sober life? Or maybe you're tried moderation but you keep waking up disappointed and hungover. Are you curious about sober life? Or maybe you're, like us, have been alcohol free for a while and are in it for the long haul. Well, you're in the right place.

Speaker 1:

I'm Meg and I'm Bella, and our Not Drinking Today podcast is an invaluable resource to keep you motivated and on track today and beyond. We are this Naked Mind, certified coaches who live in Sydney and love our alcohol-free life and last but not least, if you enjoy the content of our podcast, please rate, review, subscribe and share it. It really is integral to getting the podcast out to those that might need it.

Speaker 2:

So grab a cuppa and let's get started.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you've been on the pathway of trying to cut back the booze, you will, of course, have heard about surfing the urge. But what is it? How do you do it? Why do we do it? What's it got to do with withstanding a craving? Well, it's a mindfulness technique that is highly effective. It's invaluable and it lies at the very heart of stepping into an alcohol-free existence. And in this episode, I'm going to tell you how to do it, so that you can do it at home when you are hit with a craving. You can do it as you walk around the block before you enter your home to cook dinner. You can do it mid-party, somewhere alone, to gather your thoughts before you can commit to going back in and saying no to that drink. It's all about impulse control, emotional regulation, tapping into your inner voice, that why, the why that has been telling you for so long that it's time to stop drinking. It's about deactivating that nervous system so that you can reconnect with your logical voice, not your fearful, anxious, dysregulated voice and it allows you you to really connect with that sense of logical reason, so you can pause and really lengthen out that period from the craving to the gratification. And this is where the freedom lies.

Speaker 1:

So let's start with. Well, what is it? It's about mindfulness. Essentially, it's a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is basically the human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us. It's the mind being able to fully attend to what's happening in the space you're moving through right now. It might seem easy, but, as we know, it is surprisingly hard. If you've ever tried to put your phone down for long periods of time without constantly trying to reach for it, you will know that this is the case. We very often veer from the present. Now, it wouldn't surprise you to know that mindfulness is at the heart of Buddhist practices. It's the Sanskrit word for mindfulness is remember. So mindfulness can really be defined as remembering, to come back to the present moment, and it's been called also the art of conscious living. So the good news is that mindfulness is a quality that every human well, we already possess it. It's not something we have to buy, conjure up. We just have to learn how to access it and practice it.

Speaker 1:

And this is certainly the case when it comes to drinking alcohol, because we often quite randomly drink, don't we? We often accidentally, coincidentally, had the thought of grabbing alcohol. We reach for it, we drink it. There's not much room there for the pause. So without mindfulness, when we're jumping around from thought to thought, we're not exercising impulse control. We're probably seeking out dopamine hits from our phones, from our scrolling, we're ruminating on anxieties, past and future, but we're not really concentrating on how we're feeling in the present moment. So we're not controlling our habits. Our habits are really controlling us, and this again, is the case when it comes to alcohol. And all of this impacts our impulse control, our nervous system, our stress levels, enhance our performance, gain insights and awareness through essentially observing our own mind. And that's what we're going to do in a second when I lead you through the basic steps of surfing the urge.

Speaker 1:

So just to recap here on why we do it well, mindfulness, surfing the urge. It's essential for changing bad habits and creating new habits. It can relate to alcohol as well as reaching for junk, sugary foods or scrolling the phone, because when we're caught in these habits, as I mentioned before, there's no pause between that urge and the gratification of the urge, and this automatic reaction without a pause keeps us caught. The mindfulness allows us to pause between the urge and the gratification and extend that gap over and over again over time. Dr Gina Cleo, who's a habit expert, an author of the Habit Revolution, has said that this is where the freedom lies. This is where the freedom of breaking this alcohol habit addiction lies. All of this is, of course, backed up by studies. In 2004, there was a study which involved examining the meta-analysis of 21 neuroimaging studies which came from 300 subjects, and it showed that those that were really engaged in a good, solid meditation practice had some structural changes in their brain regions when compared to those that didn't, which included the prefrontal cortex, intraceptive body awareness, the memory and emotional regulation. So, moving forward to surfing the urge, it's such an invaluable, highly effective, often used approach to managing alcohol cravings.

Speaker 1:

It's a form of dialectical behavioral therapy, but we can all do it. It's not fancy, we can do it at home. We can do it at home. In essence, it involves being mindful and aware of the cravings or desires to drink, without giving into them immediately. So, instead of succumbing to the urge, you're encouraged to observe the craving like a wave, allowing it to rise and fall without acting on it impulsively.

Speaker 1:

The idea is to ride out the wave of the craving, recognising that it will pass. It will pass much like a wave in the ocean. It's not something you're stuck with forever. It will start as a slow wave, it will build up to the peak and it will slowly, slowly descend and it will slowly roll away. Usually, cravings last for no more than 30 minutes, and this could give you comfort that I just have to get through 30 minutes of this, because then I'm on the other side of it, minutes of this, because then I'm on the other side of it. Now all waves are different. Some have greater peaks, some are a bit rougher to ride, some are easier. But the more you exercise this surfing the urge technique, the more you get through it then, the easier these urges become down the track.

Speaker 1:

All right, so, the technique emphasizes nonjudgmental awareness, acknowledging the presence of it without acting on it. By practicing this technique, you can develop this greater self-control, you can make healthier choices in the face of this alcohol craving, and it's going to give you greater confidence in your ability to withstand the uncomfortable, antsy, restless feelings of a craving. You see, over time, when we get that anxious, restless feeling, we probably more than 100 times over the course of our lives given into it quite quickly without withstanding it. So this process is going to make you stronger. It's going to give you more self-confidence and trust that you are stronger and more powerful than the feelings that underpin this craving. There are, of course, scientific reasons that are associated with surfing the urge being such a valuable technique, and this is what the findings have proven that surfing the urge can lead to changes in the neural pathways over time. By repeatedly engaging in this, you can alter the brain's response to cravings and strengthen your self-control. That it can enhance the functioning of your prefrontal cortex, that reasoning logical part of your brain which allows for better self-regulation, impulse control, emotional regulation and decision-making. That it also redirects the attention to the present moment, allowing you to focus on the sensations and the thoughts associated with those urges, while maintaining a degree of detachment, and that's really important. As you'll soon find out, surfing the urge allows you to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without resistance, without judgment, and it allows you to accept this. And then, combined with that commitment to your long-term goals and values, it's creating that bedrock, that foundation for changing this behavior, getting you out of this frustrating, exhausting loop. Surfing the Urge encourages you to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and really, when you're combining this with your long-term goals, it's going to set you free over time. Also, it reduces stress and this, as we know, is a significant trigger for craving. Okay, so let's get stuck into this step-by-step practice of surfing the urge. There are 10 super easy steps here for you to follow, and I'm going to put these steps in the show notes and I'm going to isolate these steps for you as well, so you can just put this on audio, have it handy whenever you need it. It's really handy to have a journal nearby so you can write out the answers to this. We know that journaling our thoughts in as much detail as possible to these sorts of things helps to imprint the whole learning experience into your nervous system and your brain more readily so that you're able to get a handle on this. And do it again and again and again. By rote it will become automatic.

Speaker 1:

Step one acknowledge the urge. Start by recognizing and acknowledging the presence of this urge. Understand that. Look, it's a natural part of the process of giving up alcohol and this urge isn't defining you. You are not weak, you are not lacking willpower. You are undergoing this disentanglement of alcohol.

Speaker 1:

Two breathe. Breathe mindfully, take slow, deep breaths. Center yourself in the present moment. Focus on your breath. Try to observe the sensations as you inhale and exhale. This is going to help create that space between you, the urge and your actions. This is the pause. Three observe without judgment. Allow the urge to be there without judging it. Imagine the urge as a wave that is rising. You're watching it without trying to suppress it. In fact, you're allowing it to rise because you know that when it hits its peak, that's when the subsiding part starts and it starts to ease. Don't give into it. Just recognize that this urge, like a wave, will eventually subside. You're going to be able to get on with your day.

Speaker 1:

Four now that you've had a pause, now that you've had a pause, identify the triggers. Reflect on the circumstances or the emotions that might be triggering the urge Now. This can be the time of the day, it can be the location, it can be the fact that it's in that risk window. It could be an emotional interaction that you've had or a feeling that's underpinned this urge, something that's happened. Perhaps you're hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Run through that HALT acronym. Understanding the root cause can empower you to address those issues pretty quickly and be ready next time.

Speaker 1:

Number five connect with your values and your goals, so important here. Remind yourself of your long-term goals and values around alcohol. You know that going alcohol-free or significantly cutting back is your goal right now. This is important for you, for your future, to how you feel, behave. Consider how giving in to this urge would contradict these objectives. Think what the costs are to you Now. Think about how resisting this urge, getting through to the next stage of the day, really aligns with your goals right now. How's that going to make you feel? This awareness can really provide you with that motivation to resist that impulse.

Speaker 1:

Number six engage in a distraction. This is so handy. Shift your focus now by engaging in a healthy and enjoyable activity. Look, this could be an exercise. This could be a cup of tea outside in the sun. This could be putting a podcast on like not drinking today and walking around the block reading. Anything that has movement is great, because motion changes emotion. Any other positive distraction that really helps you redirect your attention For me, I love baking, I love exercise. Endless cups of tea, knitting, gardening, singing. God, shake it out. Put some loud music on. Distract yourself.

Speaker 1:

Number seven practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself during this process. If you're struggling, remember that setbacks are a part of change. So avoid self-criticism and really approach this whole process with self-compassion. Number eight reach out for support If possible during this process. Jump on the phone, connect with a friend, email a friend, call a family member or a support group. Are you part of a Facebook group that you could reach out and just say look, this is what's going on for me. Do you have any tips? Sharing your feelings and the challenges you're facing with someone that's really supportive, that understands this whole process, can really provide you with accountability, but also encouragement. Sometimes it just gets you out of your head to that external part where you just need to be reminded of your strengths and reminded of your values and just given that little encouragement.

Speaker 1:

Number nine this one I love visualize succeeding. Picture yourself successfully navigating through this urge without giving into it. So envision the positive outcomes and that sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming this challenge. I really like to be quite detailed in the whole visualization part of this, even writing it down so that you're visualizing yourself getting through this urge, distracting yourself, going through all of the stages. And you're also visualizing yourself, maybe at the end of the evening sitting down on the couch having a bath or reading a book successfully, having gotten through without picking up a drink. Even go so far as getting into bed, visualizing it. Alcohol. Visualizing yourself waking up the next morning going yep, I did it. What that does is help to imprint in your nervous system and your brains the confidence of doing it. Your whole system thinks you've already done it successfully, so it takes that fear and anxiety out.

Speaker 1:

Number 10, create a plan for the future. So, when you've got some distance past this urge, reflect on what strategies worked for you in managing it. Develop a plan for how you'll approach the similar situation in the future by considering the coping techniques that resonate most with you. So there you go. That is a form of mindfulness. That is the surfing the urge technique that I highly recommend you give a red hot.

Speaker 1:

Go to when you are undergoing an urge. You might have a few alcohol-free days under your belt and you're hit with an urge and you're feeling. You can feel quite overwhelmed and sometimes you forget that you've got the power to be able to withstand it. Well, jump on here, listen to this 10-point surfing the urge plan, because you've actually got now some tools here that you can call on to get you through. And the more you do it, the more it's going to come automatic, the greater that gap between the urge and the gratification. And that therein lies the freedom, because that gap's going to get longer and longer and longer and the wave is going to get well less tumultuous. It's going to get shallower and easier as time goes on.

Speaker 1:

Remember that learning to surf the urge it's a skill that takes practice. But be patient. Don't hesitate to seek professional help or join a support group if you're still finding it really hard to manage your urges on your own. Now go out, act mindfully. This might be the start of a whole mindful practice for you. There are so many great mindful meditations that can really support you to de do, to regulate, pause and widen that gap. Thank you so much for tuning in. I really hope you've enjoyed this episode and I'll be sure to catch you next episode. If you don't already know, in addition to our podcasting work, we are each sobriety coaches with our own separate businesses helping people to drink less.

Speaker 2:

If you or a loved one want to take a break from alcohol, we invite you to have a look at our individual websites.

Speaker 1:

Meg's is glassfulfilledcomau and Bella's is isabellafergusoncomau, so take the next step that feels right for you.

Surfing the Urge
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