Some would describe Katie as a lost soul. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she was left to live with her father. As an only child, Katie was quiet and a bit of a loner. Her father had a difficult time relating to a girl, especially when Katie had little interest in sports. As Katie entered her teenage years, she withdrew even more. She began experimenting with drinking and drugs, and although it began as an initial curiosity, Katie found a group of people that accepted her. She felt freer, especially when she could alter her mood.
Katie’s father knew she was changing, but he chalked up the mood swings, irritability and change in friends as part of being a normal teenage girl. It wasn’t until Katie was arrested at a party for underage drinking and possession of drugs that reality was thrown in his face. Katie promised she was just engaging in “normal teenage stuff,” but her father knew there was a deeper problem going on.
At 18, Katie was admitted into an outpatient treatment program. And then again at 19. Six months later, Katie entered an intensive inpatient program that was believed to be a better fit. She was addicted to painkillers. She was an alcoholic. But worst of all, her destructive behaviors covered up a very sad person who saw nothing for herself in the future. For Katie, her desire to want to change didn’t come until she was able to visualize herself living a life that was free from drugs, alcohol and pain.
Breaking through the Wall
For clients like Katie who have reached their rock bottom, they believe that death is the only way out. They’re scared to face their addiction and go through recovery, only to fail in the end. They can’t visualize anything different for themselves other than using, so they come into treatment with the attitude, “Why does it matter?”
Breaking through this wall is different for everyone. For some clients, it comes easier, maybe because they have a child to care for or a supportive family rooting for them. But for clients like Katie, they feel that there is nothing at the end of the road. Encouraging them to see anything different is a challenge, but with hard work and a commitment to recovery, it will happen.
The River Source sees clients like Katie all of the time, and they are never considered hopeless, so it’s important that you as the addict or family of the addict feels the same way. There is always hope, and much of it can come from visualizing the type of life that can be led if drugs and alcohol were out of the picture.
The Importance of Visualization
When you imagine a drug-free life, you can accelerate your achievement of goals, dreams and ambitions. Visualization activates your creative subconscious and allows you to let in visionary thoughts about how you will achieve your goals. Through this type of thinking, you can align yourself with the people and things that will help you reach your goals. Internal motivation is built. This is true in all cases of visualization, and it’s what ultimately allows us as humans to change our opinions, beliefs and assumptions.
Visualization is not hard to practice, and it’s very similar to meditation. Choose somewhere quiet where you can be alone with your thoughts. Let your mind be open; let creative ideas come to you. It’s important not to shut out things just because you’re scared. If you envision yourself with a family, living off the beach or working as an executive, don’t feel that you need to block these thoughts because they are not realistic. They are very realistic; they are your hopes and dreams.
Picture yourself six months from now without drugs and alcohol in your life. Then in 12 months. Two years. Imagine yourself with happy, healthy relationships. Reflect on what the holidays will look like with no fighting or destructive behavior. Envision yourself walking into college, a new job or starting a family without being burdened by an addiction. Think about how it will be to live a life that is free. No dependency, nothing to hide. A job, a driver’s license, a clean bill of health.
Most importantly, you need to visualize yourself being sober and happy. Recovering from an addiction takes more than just stopping the drug. You must also address some of the reasons why you chose addiction. You must learn to deal with everyday life using healthy coping mechanisms. All of this can be achieved on your journey to sobriety.
Visualization Creates Healthy Brain Patterns
Visualization is more than just creative thinking. It actually changes patterns in the brain, similar to what neurofeedback does. With visualization, however, you can do this on your own time. When we look back at Katie, her desire to change did not come until she was able to let go and imagine a drug-free life that included a partner, a family and a college education. It included healthy relationships with both her parents. It meant coming to terms with her mother leaving years ago.
Nothing happens overnight. Recovery is a long-term process, and visualizing a drug-free life is just one piece of the puzzle. Yet by imagining what your life can be like without drugs and alcohol, you can break free of the worry that surrounds you and take peace and comfort from what can be yours.