Burning Bridges and Urge Surfing in Recovery

To prevent relapse into addictive behavior, "burning bridges" is a skill that involves radical acceptance, determination, and action. To "burn one's bridges" is to cut off all links with anybody or anything that might trigger a relapse to the addicted drug or behavior. You effectively block that route out of your life by severing the tie that binds you to addictive behavior.

Imagine a ferocious tiger hunting you as you drive into your driveway and close the garage door. Let's say you left the bottom panel open; the tiger may reach beneath it and try to lift the door. The tiger may be capable of opening the door if you prop it open. A bridge that hasn't been burnt to triggers and old behaviors is like a tiger that breaks through a small opening in your defenses. 


First, you must resolve to abstain from addictive behavior and eliminate any potential triggers. Take down on paper everything that serves to feed your addiction. Make a strategy to replace the addictive activity, then implement it. Inform your loved ones that you have overcome your addiction.


Get rid of the baggage that's preventing you from recovery: 

  • Contact information including but is not limited to phone numbers, email addresses, etc. 
  • Any social media accounts that may help maintain an addiction. 
  • Articles of clothes and household items relating to substance abuse. 
  • Money or credit cards that may be used to feed an addiction. 
  • Addiction-related paraphernalia


When you sense a craving approaching, replace it with ideas that do not elicit the same physiological reaction. Altering one's mental state and replacing negative emotions and olfactory cues with more positive ones is the first step in conquering an unwanted urge. These should pique your interest visually and olfactorily (via scent), distracting you from the severity of the desire. Consider this: the next time you feel the urge to smoke, imagine yourself relaxing on a beach. 


You might also try something like "urge surfing," which is a method of dealing with overwhelming desires. Urge surfing is like riding a wave; rather than attempting to thwart the urge, you ride on top of it, aware that it exists, until it eventually disappears. Practicing self-control is recognizing the presence of an intense desire without giving in to it.



Pay attention to the feelings and ideas as they come and go while you are "urge surfing" for as long as possible. Take note of how the urge changes over time, like a wave. 


When one engages in urge surfing, the connection between a craving and its object breaks down, whether it be food, a drug, sex, gambling, or so on. On the other hand, giving in to urges and engaging in addictive behavior reinforces the link between intense want and action.


Burning bridges is a valuable skill to free oneself of addictive behavior. It may be used to mend areas in the brain disrupted by addictive behaviors and help you adopt a sober lifestyle. Just as deciding to enter treatment for a substance or alcohol use disorder is a choice, so is the decision to utilize the burning bridges skill to cut ties with people, places, and things that may trigger a relapse. If you want to know more about the burning bridges skill and how to apply it, contact Wish Recovery immediately. We have various extensive, individualized rehabilitation options, making our dual diagnosis treatment program one of the finest.

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