The Power of Vision in Sobriety


A major key to finding freedom from chemical dependency is to avoid emphasizing “freedom from” at the expense of “freedom to.” Many people fail to stay clean because, on the subconscious level at least, they think that giving up drugs also means giving up stress relief, enjoyment, or other good-in-themselves things that they’ve come to rely on chemical substances to provide. Their vision in sobriety is a little bit skewed.

So in post-addiction life, it’s vital to have alternate options for coping with the bad times and making the most of the good. And to help the good times become more frequent and more fulfilling, through an understanding of one’s larger life purposes and dreams. A person whose life vision in sobriety stops at everyday “getting by” is at high risk for the ongoing boredom and sense of futility that make chemical “escape” attractive.

Looking Deep

More than a few people can trace the roots of their chemical dependency to someone else’s “I know what’s best for you” attitude. Pressure to stick to the “safe,” the “secure,” the well-traveled route has robbed the world of some gifted entertainers and humanitarians. Not only that, the pressure to ignore one’s deepest passions robs an individual of his or her human dignity—and without that, the most envied path in life will ultimately lead to a permeating sense of futility.

If your pre-dependence life had that “useless” feeling, now’s the time to make rediscovery of dreams a top priority. Whether or not you can recall a specific career vision once longed for and dismissed as impractical, make a list of things that stir your passions and give you a feeling of deep well-being. For example:

  • Do you get that “warm fuzzies” feeling at the sight of a cat or dog?
  • Are your most treasured memories of days spent on the open water?
  • Does making a cake fill all your senses with delight from the moment you start sifting?

Never mind, right now, the question of whether you should enroll in veterinary school or open your own bakery. Instead, take some beginner steps to bring more of your passions into everyday life: adopting (or fostering) a pet; taking a daily walk around the park pond; volunteering to bake your mother’s birthday cake. Give these things honored time slots on your official calendar.

In Plain Sight

The next step is to grow your vision in sobriety by keeping it where you can see it. Too many people make goals lists and then shove them into drawers to be forgotten. To maximize visualization and attraction, regular reminders are essential; otherwise, the “putting out fires” nature of everyday life will distract you until the important things are all but forgotten.

A written goals list is a good start, but visual stimulation makes it even more effective. Type the “vision in sobriety list” into your computer (or handwrite it, even) using various fonts, colors, and background visuals. Put the words in text boxes and vary their orientation. Make a “Wordle.”

Even better, give images equal-or-greater status with words, and create a vision board. Instructions can be found by the dozens in a quick online search; however, you don’t really need step-by-step directions, just a basic understanding of collage art. Plus a few supplies: background paper; scissors; glue; an assortment of pictures to choose from; and a set of colored pencils or markers to fill in leftover space.

(You can also make a digital vision board, which has the advantage of being more editable and more portable; but the collage version allows more hands-on activity and the putting in of more of your whole self, in addition to being unaffected by electrical-power issues.)

More about Vision Boards

While you may have made collages as a kid with little more thought than “what looks pretty,” an effective vision board requires some organization. Review your passions-and-dreams list, then search for pictures and slogans of corresponding theme. Feel free also to include ticket stubs, handwritten notes, nature items, personal photos and sketches, and any other collected items that evoke happy thoughts. You can arrange things as neatly or as haphazardly as you want; just make sure that everything shows clearly enough to be identifiable at a glance.

If you do want some “theme” or order in the board:

  • Decide on your 1–3 top priorities for goals and life focus. Make sure that the largest, boldest, and most central items reflect these priorities.
  • Consider assigning different sections (or even different boards) to different life emphases: relationships, health, vocation, hobbies.
  • Don’t become obsessed with giving every priority equal emphasis. And don’t feel obligated to get everything visually aligned. A little “disorder” better reflects real life anyway.

Vision in Sobriety for Your Future

Finally, leave some balance of blank space on your board, especially if this is your first experiment with active visualization. After the board is “finished,” you’re bound to discover new items that will be perfect to add, and you want to have room for them. You might even keep an “extension section” of mounting paper waiting in the wings.

Vision boards (and goals lists) are more effective if you shift their physical locations from time to time, rather than let them sit indefinitely in the same corner becoming part of the familiarity-breeds-contempt background. Consider also setting your computer or phone to activate random “check your vision” reminders.

And remember: details change on a daily basis, but visions are for the long term. Vision in sobriety aids are to be tweaked but not scrapped. If your board or list is starting to look cluttered or battered, make a new one if need be, but consider carefully which old elements to carry over. Ideally, a vision visual should stay consistently focused at least ten years into the future.

In all cases, it should focus on growth and allow for course adjustments. It’s unwise to schedule everything to the point where the first plan-spoiler (it will happen) throws everything else out of kilter. It’s even less wise to aim for a permanent comfort zone. Even if that were possible, the “resting point” would grow stale quickly.

Vision in sobriety and progress are for life. Accept that and learn to thrive on it. There is no pinnacle of perfection, only the choice to make your path a consistently upward one.

Lasting Sobriety with Kemah Palms

A quality rehab facility ensures recovery that lasts beyond treatment. Kemah Palms has substance abuse treatment programs tailored to ensure your vision in sobriety is clear and free. Call us at 855-568-0218 to learn more about relapse prevention therapy and our other addiction treatment options.