by Christina Fisanick Greer
The Optimistic Addict

Sustained recovery requires a host of practices, at least it does for me. While I understand the need for keeping it simple, as many people in recovery programs advocate, I find that I need to breakdown the so-called simple components of recovery into concrete tools that I can use daily and as needed. For example, “give your troubles to your Higher Power” seems incredibly vague to me. I get it in concept, but to practice it takes understanding and actionable steps. In my case, that means writing about my woes in my journal and leaving them there. It means sitting at the edge of the ocean and crying into the sand. It means meditating daily to clear my mind and center my soul.

I guess what I am getting at here is that I need less talk and more action. It is not enough to speak about recovery. One must do recovery. Recovery is an active, living, breathing thing that I engage in daily. To DO recovery, I need to DO life.

One of my favorite recovery tools to take abstract thoughts and put them into visual, actionable plans is the vision board. Basically, a vision board is a place to describe and collect your dreams. Most girls and young women have created a vision board in their lives. Pictures of their dream universities and career options torn out of magazines. Pinterest, in a sense, can be the ultimate vision board, where users pin ideas for their dream weddings, birthday parties, and homes.I know that over the years I made many of them, often in my journals.

The most common method of creating a vision board is as follows:
1. Collect a stack of magazines.
2. Choose a surface onto which you will paste your images.
3. Find images that match your dreams. That is, find picture that match how your SEE yourself in your desired future.
4. Paste the images on your board.
5. Place your vision board in a high-traffic location so that you can see it often.
6. Wait for your dreams to come true.

Although I have probably made dozens of visions boards using those steps, over the past five years or so I have really refined my process in a way that makes more sense to me and has more meaning. I read Danielle La Porte’s incredibly inspiring book, Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. She taught me how to stop focusing on things–money, house, car–and start focusing on how I want to FEEL. This is especially important in recovery, given that we strong recovery is not something than can be measured (including by the scale!), but we can tell how we are doing if we check in with ourselves regularly.

In other wor13901380_10153941535723655_3676440577395753695_nds, focusing on how I wanted to feel each day became central to my life goals. My first vision board in recovery focused on feeling peaceful and energetic. (Not at all opposites, if you think about it.) As you can see, I included images that would make me feel both, including eating more vegetables, exercising and so on.

Then, I read a piece by Martha Beck. In it she talks about the importance of just feeling your way through the process and not overthinking it. My second vision board created in recovery demonstrates that. I was more interested in finding images that gravitated towards my mindset and feelings: free, loved, peaceful and matching them with attainable goals, like swimming more and spending more time outside.

Notice that NONE of these images are about weight loss or looks or other vanity goals. Rather, I yearned for a life that made recovery simpler. Keep it simple, right?13901406_10153941535743655_8948744128768811090_n

If you want to make your own vision board (I will be doing this again in a few weeks), then consider my steps. Eventually, if this is a practice you plan to keep, you will create your own method.

Although it is quite simple to make an online vision board by scouring Google for your favorite images, I believe strongly in creating vision boards from old magazines and other images. To me, the tactile nature of flipping through magazines, finding images, and organizing them in a meaningful way is important to both setting and achieving our goals.

Step 1: Find a stack of magazines. Although two or three is enough, you get a better variety if you have six or seven. Beck recommends buying them from the bookstore, but I generally ask friends and family members. I love using magazines that I normally would not buy. Oprah, though, is my favorite.

Step 2: Take a deep breath and meditate for just a few minutes. Clear your mind.

Step 3: Start flipping through magazines while thinking, “What do I want to feel? How do I want to feel?” Don’t overthink this part, but open your mind.

Step 4: Tear out images that resonate with you. You don’t have to understand why you like a word or a drawing or photo. Just tear it out and move on.

Step 5: After you have collected a number of images, go back through them. Choose only the ones that speak to you the loudest.

Step 6: Cut out your selected images and arrange them on your vision board. Your actually board can be a cork board, white board, poster board, or even the side of your refrigerator or wall. I have used journals, picture frames, and a number of different surfaces on which to build my boards.

Step 7: Examine your board. Think about it. What does it say to you? What are you hoping to feel this year?

Step 8: Reverse engineer it. Now that you have your board and you have a sense of the feelings you are attempting to achieve, make a list of them in your journal, along with a list of HOW you will achieve those feelings. If you want to feel at peace, how you will find peace? By sticking to a food plan? By meditating regularly? By reducing your hours at work?

Step 9: Place your board in a spot where you will see it. It will keep your goals in mind each time you walk past it. Some people hang their boards above their desks or in their bedrooms.

Step 10: When you are ready (after a year or six months or set your own timetable), reflect on your vision board. Did you achieve your goals? Do you need to make a new board?

I hope that you find this tool not only helpful, but a fun way to think about recovery and the steps you need to take to maintain it. I would love to see your vision boards and even post them here on my blog. Send them to me! I promise not to use your name.


To read more writing like this, check out my recovery memoir, The Optimistic Food Addict.

“I read this book in two days, I couldn’t put it down! To be optimistic in the face of so much trauma and adversity is so inspiring. Highly recommend this book for anyone, not only those needing help with food addiction or BED. ” ~Amazon Reviewer

“A touching story of overcoming loss, heartbreak, and addiction. To be able to endure so much and come out the other side educated, positive, and humble is truly a beautiful thing. A must read.” ~Amazon Reviewer