“Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could travel into the future, see where you messed up, and then go back in time to rearrange things to make your future better? You can. If you can foresee regret, you can mind travel to the future. If you can train yourself to mind travel effectively, you can intentionally affect your future by doing something about it today.”~Richie Norton
In my addiction, projecting outcomes into the future meant that the observations would be a mirror image of my past – failed promises, missed opportunities, near death experiences, and yes, regrets. My future wouldn’t change unless I did. I just didn’t know how to stop using or change me, my behaviors, or the outcomes.
When I entered treatment in 1988, one of the first questions my counselor asked me was, “What do you regret the most in your addiction?” My responses centered on my family relationships and the consequences of my addiction on our relationships. I felt ashamed and guilty about my behaviors; how I had used friends and family, neglected my children, missed opportunities and squandered resources.
When We Don’t Use, We Can Act Differently
Her follow-up question was, “If you were not using, would you know how to behave differently?”
I thought about that and said that parents, teachers, and friends had taught me right from wrong. Therefore, I knew what to do, yet part of me was afraid that I wouldn’t act differently. I told her that I had acted from self-serving, self-defeating, and self-centered behaviors for so long that they were the natural way to behave, and I was afraid of change.
Recovery: Examining the Behaviors
She asked me to set aside my fears for a moment and weigh my guilt versus my fear. When I did this, I discovered that the guilt outweighed the fear. Since I did not like feeling guilty, I decided that changing my comfortable self-defeating ways might offer me some relief and create a safeguard against a relapse.
Rather than a future picture of remorse and regret, I saw that I could look at and change my behaviors and couple that with my commitment to remain abstinent.
Being in treatment meant that there were discussions of all of my shortcomings, self-defeating behaviors, and self-centered actions. I felt vulnerable looking at my past, but realized that my behaviors had created just as many problems as my addiction. These evaluations also exposed my better qualities.I realized that if I possessed admirable qualities and self-defeating behaviors, then I could cherry pick the behaviors I would leave treatment with; almost like going to the beauty shop with long unkempt hair and leaving with a perky new short do.
Several of the men in my group kidded me that they could not relate to that one, so we created before and after examples for them. The point was that we were adopting an attitude of welcoming the opportunity to create a different picture for our future. We knew we would have to adjust to the new behaviors, or as one of the men put it, he would probably grind gears while he adjusted to a new transmission. We, women, kidded him that we could not relate to that one.
Cherry Picking the Best Parts Will Improve the Future___
However, we all imagined:
- What behaviors would be beneficial to our recovery
- How we could overcome our fear of change
- What positive outcomes we could experience
- A better and different future
I’ve celebrated twenty-nine years of abstinence-based recovery, yet the process of overcoming fears, changing and creating a different future is still the same. I firmly believe that:____
- Recovery offers me opportunities.
- My future depends on today’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.
- I would face a different and bleak future if I relapsed.
Instead of giving into fears and self-doubt, take this opportunity to face your fears.
There will still be fears when changing. You may sit on the fence and be afraid to choose recovery over addiction. There will still be some hesitation about what behaviors to adopt.
With positive changes, time traveling to the future might contain some rejoicing.