Visualizing Your Success

Building Successful Recovery Habits

The law of attraction is a New Age philosophical idea that has been gaining a great deal of traction recently in the world of psychotherapy. Simply, it is the idea that positive thoughts attract positive things and negative thoughts attract negative things.

It suggests that an individual has the ability to cultivate positivity by thinking positive thoughts, either about oneself or surrounding a specific goal. The idea is reinforced clinically, in some capacity, by therapeutic modalities such as with the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) concept of "opposite action." Spiritually, this concept manifests in the form of the Mantra and has been present in Hindu and Buddhist practices since their inception several thousand years ago.

Individuals suffering with addiction will often cite negative self-worth, low self-esteem or negative self-concept as a fundamental construct that has influenced their feeling of needing to use. This idea can be thought of in two ways:

  • The substance served to fill a void or emotional "hole," the origin of which stems from one of the above negative ways of viewing the self.
  • The substance served as a numbing agent, an anesthetic, acting as a tool for forgetting or avoiding feelings of being "less than."

In my work with young adults in early recovery, it's clear that most people cannot envision daily life without using, let alone imagine themselves accomplishing life goals or personal dreams. These patients need quick, self-administered interventions that are simple and effective. These interventions work to cultivate positivity and, subsequently, counteract negative thoughts.

As addiction treatment providers, one of our goals is to help the patient to adjust the lens with which they view their future, and give them the ability to imagine a future without using. This is why integrating mindful visualization practices into one's daily recovery plan can be an essential tool.

This can look a number of ways. Here's a short list of easy practices to offer your patients that will integrate mindful visualization into their daily lives:

  1. Find a Mantra that fits in with what you are working on. This is a great means of linking Twelve Step slogans to your specific needs at the time.
    • Examples: Today I will not drink; Remember you love yourself; Progress not perfection; I am beautiful; I will pass the test; I will get the job
    • Hazelden’s Twenty Four Hours a Day app is also a great resource for inspirational mantras.
  2. If you have a goal, make it specific rather than general.
    • For example, if you wanted a new car, every time this goal comes up in your mind it is typically followed by a series of thoughts: "Where am I going to get it; when; what kind of car; how much money should I spend"; etc. If you specify this goal in your mind, you now associate buying a new car with the visual image of a white convertible. Every time you notice the thought coming up in your mind, you close your eyes and imagine a white convertible—your goal is much simpler, more precise, and has a visual presence in your mind.
  3. Use meditation apps! There are so many amazing apps for your phone allowing you to explore all types of guided meditations. Here is a list of a few:
    • Headspace
    • Buddify
    • Calm
    • Insight Timer
    • Twenty Four Hours a Day

As with anything in recovery, building new habits is a function of repetition, commitment and consistency. Try adapting any (or all) of these for at least 30 days. Many of these are quick and very easy for implementing in a busy lifestyle. These tactics can be adapted to the subway, on a drive to work or school, upon waking in the morning or before bed.

Integrating a mindfulness practice such as those suggested above into one's daily routine have been shown to decrease anxiety and depression as well as to increase one's ability to navigate and tolerate difficult, high-stress situations.

Lindsay ChesterLindsay Chester, LMSW, CASAC-T is the intake coordinator for the Young Adult Intensive Outpatient Program as well as a primary clinician for the Young Adult Extended Outpatient Program at Tribeca Twelve. Lindsay holds a BA from The George Washington University in Psychology and Fine Art and a master's degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She has experience working in the addiction field in both a clinical and research capacity and has worked in both residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment settings. Lindsay has received clinical training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, and Gestalt Therapy. She is also working toward her NY State certification in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling.

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