Journaling Your Way Through Recovery

Keeping a journal can be an effective tool for someone detoxing and in recovery. Research shows that journaling can help to reduce stress, improves mental health and, may even lower the risk of a relapse. Journaling is a way for a recovering addict to track their progress through the recovery process but more importantly, it gives them insight into their own addiction patterns so that they can be identified and changed.

Types of Journaling

There are many different forms of journaling but the ones that are probably most beneficial for people in recovery include:

  • Stream of Consciousness Journaling is when you pick an allotted period of time and write down whatever comes into their head. The important thing is to not give in to the urge to edit the writing. Also don’t stop writing to check on spelling, grammar, or punctuation as this will interrupt the flow.
  • Diary Journaling is when you just simply write down all the important things that have happened in a day. It may be who you saw or what you cooked, how you feel or how many urges you had to use again. Nothing is too trivial. It’s all important.
  • Gratitude Journaling can be particularly useful for those individuals who are dealing with a lot of negative thoughts. Focusing on the positive things in your life and things that you have to be grateful for, no matter how simple, can help an individual to see the good things that are happening in their life and help them to overcome the negative impulses.
  • Spiritual Journaling is when an individual is turning to a spiritual path to help them with their addiction. When you write about your spiritual development, it is like keeping a travel log only in this case the journey is internal.
  • Exercise/Health Journaling is about keeping track of your efforts to life a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy through exercise and good nutrition is vital for an individual in recovery and journaling about your experience can play an important role for the individual who wants to get the most from their recovery.

The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

Here are just a few of the benefits that you can expect if you keep a journal:

  • A journal can help an individual learn more about themselves. When things are written down it is easier to observe patterns and find causes.
  • Writing is a way of venting. It reduces stress because you are able to express your inner feelings externally without any barriers or inhibitions. Allowing your emotions to pour out onto paper can be both beneficial and therapeutic.
  • Journaling increases accountability. By keeping a journal a person is able to be more honest with themselves and less able to deny or ignore any bad choices or unwise decisions. By writing your true feelings a person is able to look review their options and choices before they act.
  • Writing about negative feelings and things that make you want to use again can help you to understand the situation better and help you to make better choices. By getting everything down on paper it makes things a lot clearer and can give you a better insight into the situation. This gives the individual a better sense of control over the situations in their lives.
  • Writing down your goals in a journal will increase the likelihood that you will achieve them. It can also mean more success and progress in your recovery as you set each goal and see it through to fruition.
  • With a journal you can track your progress in drug rehab. By going back and reading older entries, you can see changes that might have otherwise go unnoticed. People change slowly over time and it is easy to miss out on what has been achieved. A journal can help you to see your progress.
  • When you write in your journal they have no need to worry about being judged. This can encourage you to be more open and honest with yourself.
  • People in recovery go through periods where they are struggling to stay on course. By reading back on journal entries they will be able to remind themselves of how far they have come. This can motivate them to re-energize their efforts to continue to build their life without addiction.

Whether or not you decide to share your journal with a therapist, sponsor, addiction counselor or anyone else, getting your feelings and thoughts down on paper (or typing them into a computer or tablet) can help tame stress, anxiety and depression, allowing you to achieve greater control of your emotions and improve overall health.

Research shows that journaling can improve your physical health in these ways:

  • Strengthen immune function
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve lung and liver function
  • Fewer days in the hospital
  • Boost mood and psychological well-being
  • Fewer depressive symptoms

In addition, a study of adolescents with emotional problems showed small but significant improvement in the teens’ overall well-being when they practiced expressive writing.

The longer and more consistently you keep a journal, the better. If you’re stuck for what to write about, choose a theme to help you focus. As you become more comfortable with the daily practice of writing down your truest thoughts and feelings, both the serious and the light-hearted you will find the words flow a lot more easily than you thought they would and you’ll get more joy and benefit out of your writing.

It is important to look back periodically at what you wrote and how you felt in the days, weeks or months prior. As you get to know yourself better, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the situations and people that increase your feelings of happiness and confidence versus those that are toxic or encourage cravings.

Journaling engages your creative, imaginative and intuitive right brain and is what allows you to see multiple points of view. Writing can also help you find solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems by giving you a way to look at the problem as an “observer” of your feelings in the situation…

Journaling as an Addiction Recovery Tool

For someone in recovery, journaling is a great way to track your progress and improve your motivation and, may even decrease the risk of a relapse. The act of writing down what you’re feeling forces you to think critically and, hopefully, be honest with yourself. It increases your accountability, so you may be less likely to use denial, excuse bad behavior or minimize poor decisions and their consequences.

The role of a substance abuse treatment program is to assist an individual in being able to physically weaning themselves from abusive substances and prepare them to be able to lead a drug free life of sobriety. Staying sober within the safe and nurturing walls of a rehabilitation center can be unproblematic for many, but the challenge of confronting life on the outside rests with the individual. Treatment offers the tools necessary for an addict to live without the need of drugs and alcohol, and gives them the ability to navigate life with a self-generated strength and freedom. Journaling is one tool that can help an individual stay balanced and free of addiction.

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