Three Breakthrough Techniques to Help Clients Overcome Substance Issues: A Case Study
Brian arrived at his first hypnosis session with his mother. She drove him to the appointment because he had no car and a suspended license.
“I’ve been using meth and alcohol for over 20 years, and I have nothing to show for my life,” he said.
This article is a hopeful story. Brian has been sober now for over six months. This is a glimpse of his transition from angry and hopeless, to daily happiness, and the breakthroughs that made it happen.
Helping clients work through decades of substance issues is not easy, but it can be done, and very powerfully so using the standard 5-PATH® process. These extra three elements are examples of things I’ve learned with working with dozens of clients on this issue.
Breakthrough #1: Change Identity and World View with Age Regression
Brian believed the world was full of untrustworthy angry people who wanted to use him. He had merely been a victim of circumstance – “being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” was his story.
He first used drugs as a teenager. His father passed away when he was 15, and he moved with his brother and mother to a new city. As a result, in his new school, he had no friends until the day a neighbor friend introduced him to marijuana. He initially hated the feeling the drug offered, but by Monday at school, he had new friends. Then when he started giving it to other friends at school, suddenly not only was he accepted – he was popular.
Fast forward six years, and Brian’s living on the streets, homeless, and with a criminal record for two DUI’s, and intent to distribute a narcotic. He was 22 years old.
The Brian in my office was angry with the world and embarrassed.
“Why Now?” I asked Brian.
“I just got back from seeing an old high school friend,” Brian began, “he has a great job and is married with two kids. The whole time I was there, I felt ashamed with my own life. It’s been 20 years since high school. I have nothing to show for it.“
Brian's story is common for clients who have a history of substance use. There's a great sense of loss and regret.
His first breakthrough happened during Age Regression when in a regressed state at 15, Brian realized he didn’t have to use marijuana, and could easily make friends other ways. More importantly, he realized how much he missed his father, and that he hadn't processed the grief of losing him all those years ago.
“I dealt with my father’s death by checking out and smoking pot. Up to this moment right here, right now, I realize I still haven't dealt with it! My mother, my aunt, and my brother were all there to help me. The world isn't an evil place; there have always been people here to help me. I was looking at it all wrong. I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor, and I can do more with my life.”
In a single session, Brian achieved something potent. He shifted his world view from an evil and angry place to one of possibility and hope. Most importantly he shifted his identity from "victim," to "survivor." My goal was to move him even further – from surviving to thriving.
Breakthrough #2: Create a Future Worth Living for with Age Progression
Reconciling Brian’s past was effectively dealt with using the standard and powerful 5-PATH® phases of Age Regression and Forgiveness work.
He was happier and more peaceful. He could sleep a full night.
After a few weeks of his new way of life, things started to normalize. He grew accustomed to feeling better. He appreciated his new attitude and identity, but something very big was missing: he didn’t have anything to look forward to in his life. He had been down for so long, and he had no dreams of what his future could be like.
In hypnosis, I had Brian go into his future using Future Progression. He imagined creating the life he actually wanted.
Brian had never considered that he could be successful. That he could have a family of his own, and once he felt secure enough in himself and his sobriety, he could start to imagine a hopeful future.
This is where Brian had his second breakthrough. He felt the sensation in his body of happiness and fulfillment. He reported feeling "at one with the world, and myself for the first time since my Dad passed away."
Breakthrough #3: Establish Consistency with a Routine
Brian needed a plan. He had spent the last 20 years living on the street or with his mom and using drugs. He wasn't accustomed to a sober life. He didn't know what to do with himself. He didn’t know how to be, and it made him feel uncomfortable.
The last breakthrough for Brian came with his daily routine. The role of the daily routine is to help Brian meet the daily needs of his brain. The hypnosis had helped resolved his past issues – what about adjusting to everyday life?
All clients wanting to eliminate a substance from their life need a daily routine that keeps them on track. The routine helps them accomplish tasks that are good for their well-being, and gives them something to look forward to as they celebrate daily wins.
For Brian, I create a routine for him on a simple spreadsheet with columns for what he would do every day and rows for each day of the week. We created the elements of the routine together based on his benefits form, his progress, and the outcomes of his future progression and what he wanted for his life.
Every daily routine should minimally consist of these primary components:
Stillness: we need moments of stillness and peace every day. The neurochemical associated with this is serotonin. We need space in between thought to let our hearts speak and process our experiences. Stillness is with self-hypnosis, meditation, or any variety of formats of either, including quiet moments at a lake or park. For Brian, he practiced his 7th Path Self-Hypnosis ® every day, and took a walk in nature.
Joy: we need moments of joy, delight, and laughter. The neurochemical associated with this part of the brain is dopamine. For Brian, he accomplished this through music, and art.
Expansion: we need to stretch ourselves daily, we need growth. For Brian, he read daily, and also watched documentaries on his favorite topics.
His routine also consisted of taking care of his physical body through exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
Every day Brian completed his routine was a good day for him. He kept his routine on the refrigerator and enjoyed checking the boxes as he completed each item. Routines can be helpful for all clients, but especially so for our substance use clients.
However, a month into the process, I received an email from Brian. He was struggling. He thought about using again.
I asked him if he had been keeping up with his routine, and the answer did not surprise me. No, he hadn't. He stopped his daily routine when his brother came to visit.
Brian returned for another hypnosis session to resolve the remaining issues with his brother, but what he realized during that session had more to do with himself than anything external.
“I always feel better when I do my routine. If I don’t do my routine, I need to figure out why – it means something is going on.”
In my experience clients can skip their routine for one or two days and still stay on track – yet by the third day, they start feeling overwhelmed and unhappy again. The routine keeps them happy and focused.
Now, Brian has been sober for over six months, and reports that as long as he completes his daily routine – he knows he’s going to have a great day.
On his last session, Brian was filled with gratitude and shared he hopes to someday return to the working world and help other youths who are struggling with substance issues avoid the pain and suffering he went through.
He found his purpose.
Originally published in the IHAP ® Journal Spring 2019