woman journaling outside

Journaling for Recovery

One of the most therapeutic tools for addiction recovery is journaling. It’s something that you can do just about any time or anywhere, and it’s simpler and less expensive than therapy. Keeping a journal is a great way to reduce stress and get in touch with what you’re thinking and feeling. By writing in a journal, you start to recognize the lessons that life is teaching you, and you come to appreciate the beauty of living in today.

How do you begin this valuable practice and what should you write about in your journal? The habit of journaling can be very individualized. You can focus on whatever you need to focus on to help you with your recovery process. When you get in the habit of writing in a journal each day, you are reinforcing the concept of living your life one day at a time. Problems are processed and dealt with as they come up rather than being blown out of proportion.

Benefits of Journaling

There are several benefits to getting in the habit of keeping a journal. Journaling offers a way to understand the past, present and future. One of the biggest benefits of journaling is the mental clarification that you can experience by documenting the experiences you are having in sobriety. Whether your experiences are ordinary or overwhelming, writing them down can help you to process your feelings as well as your reactions to your experiences, both good and bad.

Keeping a journal can help you to get to know yourself. As you write, you may notice patterns or triggers that make you feel like picking up a drink or a drug. You may also start to recognize things that make you excited to be alive and glad to be sober. Problems don’t stay stuck in your head and bad experiences aren’t blown out of proportion. Instead they are put on paper and sorted out.

By writing in a journal, you can release your deepest feelings. This is just as important for times of elation and joy as it is for times of sadness and despair. When you do feel unhappy or frustrated, what you write can be a form of venting and releasing negative emotions. You don’t need to hold back, because no one else has to see what you write. Keeping negative feelings bottled up can be threatening to your sobriety, so this emotional release is very healing.

Different Types of Journaling 

There are several different approaches to journaling. One of the easiest ways to journal is to write about what you experience each day. Whom did you interact with? What feelings did you experience? Journaling about your day can help you sort through a sense of mental clutter and emerge with much more clarity and peace.

On paper, you can express your deepest feelings, much like you would share with a therapist or a best friend. Or you can simply set a time that you are going to write for an allotted period of time, and write about whatever comes to mind. This could include what’s happening in the present, or random thoughts about the past.

Another type of journaling is to keep a gratitude journal. In your gratitude journal, write down three to five things you are grateful for each day. It’s difficult to be angry or fearful when you are focused on being grateful. The habit of keeping a gratitude journal can help you pay attention to the positive each day.

Recovery and Journaling

Your journal is a recovery tool that is completely private. If you are worried that someone may find it and read it, consider writing your journal on a computer using password protection. You don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar, because no one will see it or judge you for what you have written.  If you prefer, you could keep a journal into an audio program rather than in writing.

When you write privately in a journal, you are able to be completely honest with yourself. You can write about your addiction and how you can handle stressful experiences today without picking up a drink or a drug. You can express how much you feel like picking up without acting on it. It’s good to try to take the focus off cravings, and write instead about other positive experiences that you hope to have someday.

Your journal is a clear record of the progress you are making in sobriety, and after a while you may be surprised to see how far you have come. Early in sobriety, you may notice that what you write is a jumble of confusion and tangled emotions, but as time goes on, life starts to make better sense. You will see that you are getting better at dealing with life on life’s terms, and you may realize that journaling has played a big role in helping you to heal.


Posted on May 15th, 2017 in Blog


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