What is it in one’s spirit that enables them to break the cycle of a dysfunctional pattern of living and choose to live a healthy life? Recently I was asked that question by a gentleman in my community. Each time I visited his vitamin store he insisted I talk about my healing.

“What is it within your psychology Kay that gave you the strength to stop your codependency and get well? I’ve lectured for many years on addictions and in my experience only a handful of people in an audience of several hundred were willing to see the truth, quit denying and begin recovery.”

At first I gave him pat answers, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired or I wanted a better life.”

He would say, “No, go deeper. All those folks who were in my seminars wanted a better life but so few seemed to be able to change their unhealthy way of being. How did you do it?”

I’ve spent years working on myself in Al-Anon, therapy and A.C.A. groups. I have known for some time that my health is a gift from God and I have never taken it for granted. But truthfully I had never thought about exactly what inspired me to get well. I’ve lost many loved ones to death from alcoholism and drug abuse. Since I am the lone survivor of my immediate family, I pondered his question for weeks. Was I just lucky?

One quiet morning in my Oakland art studio I sat facing a blank canvas as I have done many times. As I began creating shapes and colors with my brush I glanced outside to the redwood trees and a story began forming in my head. It was if I were being guided to knowledge. I was being reminded of what I have done all my life beginning in my youth. I would visualize and imagine the beauty I wanted to surround myself with and how I wanted to live my life. It wasn’t any different than painting a picture and building a sculpture except that the images stayed in my head and my heart instead of becoming alive on a painting or a drawing. As far back as I can remember I thought, assumed, and planned that I was going to be happy, have a wonderful family and a beautiful home.

I got up from the easel and took inventory of my surroundings. I have a fantastic husband, a precious daughter, a gorgeous home and best of all I am healthy! I practiced the art of visualization. No matter how ugly my home life was growing up, I never let go of my dreams of normalcy. Being an artist helped because I was able to let go and allow myself to create images that weren’t there. I was able to do this in my everyday world, as crazy and sick as it was. I imagined and carried these thoughts with me always. These images were the positive in an otherwise negative world.

I was bursting because I knew I had found the answer to my friend’s question. I hurried to the village to tell him what I had remembered.

“Really, if that is so;” he said, “then why did you become so sick with codependency? Didn’t you say you were lost in a sea of despair for 20 years? What happened to your imaging?”

“I was brutally raped and hospitalized in 1969. This trauma sent me spiraling downward into the dark world of a codependent. I was already showing signs of illness before this brutal attack because I was born in the middle of a war, a war called alcoholism. But this incident was so devastating to my soul I quit visualizing and had absolutely no hope for the future. I was death walking. Once I stopped creating and imagining a better life for myself my world collapsed. I was powerless against the toxicity of codependency and focused all of my attention on my alcoholic partner. I have told this story, “I Survived: One Woman’s Journey of Self-Healing and Transformation” on DVD.

All of us growing up in stressful environments, with alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental illness are candidates for addiction and codependency. This unbalanced way of living becomes as natural as breathing. It is possible to learn how to visualize and make it a part of our daily life. We can actually create our positive dreams. Of course this is accomplished by first opening your heart and having the belief that this is possible. This creative process is a form of miracle. I have taught meditation and visualization and I have seen it work, many, many times.

How to start? Don’t panic when you think to yourself, “But I am not an artist.” This important tool on the path of healing is a technique which can be taught. Yes, we all can do it and have fun while we are learning. Let’s begin by making a Life Dream Plan.

Gather together as many different types of magazines as you can; what you might have around the house, from friends, or buy them at the store. Purchase a few pieces of poster board and have scissors and glue sticks handy. Start by cutting out pictures and words that appeal to you. You don’t have to know why you like an image; just go with your feelings if you are drawn to it. Of course choose only images that are positive. You may also use photographs if you wish. When you have a stack of approximately 20, or more, proceed by gluing them on the board creating a unique collage. You may space them out or jam them together. Most people find this so pleasurable that they work until they are finished with a beautiful Life Dream Plan. This can take several hours to complete.

I have been making visualization collages for 25 years. You can never have too many. It is enjoyable to have Life Dream parties with a few friends. Sometimes you can share pictures. Because poster board is large and it might take over your apartment or house, a good idea is to have them reduced and laminated so that you can carry them with you or have them in surprise places like in your drawers. The most exciting thing about this endeavor is when situations start manifesting and you realize the ideas, pictures were on your poster. This method of creating your own reality is powerful.

Each day when I turn on my computer I see the magnificent stones of Stonehenge set against a light ultramarine sky. When I chose this picture I didn’t know exactly where it was; I thought in Europe somewhere. I’ve been looking at this for over a year. When I travel with my family we use our time shares to trade for exotic places in the world. We tried to go to Italy this past summer but there were no resorts available. We were fortunate to exchange for England. On our journey between London and Cornwall was the ancient site of Stonehenge. We didn’t have to go even one mile out of our way to see it. My subconscious mind was impressed with this amazing image day after day until it became a reality.

I’m off to work on a Life Dream Plan. What about you?