Journal writing is a free, portable, and private way to develop a better understanding of your emotions as you build the foundation for lasting addiction recovery.
When you write in a journal as part of your daily routine, you are working to restore your mind and body to a more balanced and healthy state.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling offers a number of benefits during the early stages of your sobriety. For example, journaling helps to:
- Promote accountability. Staying accountable for your actions is a common challenge in the early stages of recovery. With a written record of your actions, it’s harder to be dishonest about the consequences of poor decisions. Additionally, you’ll have a written record of the progress you’ve made to motivate you when you’re feeling discouraged.
- Process negative emotions. It’s common for people suffering from addiction to have relied on drugs and alcohol to help them process fear, anger, anxiety, and other upsetting emotions. Writing your thoughts down on paper is a healthier coping strategy. As you journal about emotionally charged topics, you’ll learn to see situations with a more balanced perspective.
- Identify behavior patterns. When you get in the habit of writing down your thoughts and feelings, you’ll be better able to notice patterns that trigger cravings. This can help you develop solid coping strategies to maintain long term sobriety.
Types of Journaling
Journaling can take a several different forms, depending upon your own preferences and your specific recovery goals. For example:
- Daily diary. This type of journal is a simple account of the important things that happened during the day and how you felt about them.
- Stream of consciousness journal. In this journal method, you write for a set period of time about whatever pops into your head.
- Gratitude journal. Keeping track of all the things you are thankful for can help you keep a positive attitude during recovery, especially if you struggle with negative thinking and depression.
- Dream journal. Documenting your dreams can provide insights into thoughts on past trauma and how this has affected your substance abuse.
- Health and exercise journal. Substance abuse can take a serious toll on your physical health. A journal detailing your efforts to be physically active and improve your nutrition can aid your recovery by showing the link between healthy lifestyle choices and improved mood and energy levels.
- Art journal. An art journal is often the perfect choice for visually oriented people, since it features a mixture of words, quotes, collages, doodles, sketches, and paintings on topics of interest.
- Bullet journal. A bullet journal is a combination day planner and diary, often featuring decorative page headers and hand drawn doodles.
How to Start an Addiction Recovery Journal
The good news is that you don’t need to be a professional writer to enjoy keeping a recovery journal. Just follow these simple steps:
- Choose a format. The traditional hardbound blank book is what most people think of when they imagine writing in a journal, but you can certainly choose to write on your computer if you prefer. A digital journal could be a private file for your own use or an online blog that shares your thoughts with others.
- Create a routine. Journaling for emotional awareness in recovery is most effective when you make it a regular habit. Set aside 15-30 minutes per day to write. Many people enjoy journaling when they first wake up or right before they go to bed, but you can choose a different time if that’s what works best with your schedule. The most important thing is to be consistent.
- Get comfortable. Find a quiet place to write that is free of distractions. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar as you write, since the purpose of your journal is to explore your thoughts about recovery. Your journal doesn’t need to be a literary masterpiece to be a useful recovery tool.
- Give yourself permission to let go. Your journal is a place for you to express your innermost thoughts without fear of judgement or reprisal. Resist the urge to censor yourself as you write.
- Experiment with different writing styles. A journal entry doesn’t necessarily need to be in paragraph form. You can jot down your thoughts as a list, a casual note to an old friend, poem, song lyrics, or whatever format inspires you.
- Ask your counselor for writing prompts. To guard against writer’s block, work with your counselor to develop a list of topics that you can write about based on some of the specific discussions you’ve had about your recovery.
Human beings are natural storytellers. As you’re writing in your journal, think of this as an opportunity to tell the story of your journey from addiction to a brighter future.