Staying sober often seems like an impossible task in the first days of recovery. However, journaling is one self-care strategy that can help keep you accountable and on the right track.
Understanding the Benefits of Journaling in Recovery
There’s no “quick fix” for drug or alcohol addiction, but journaling can offer a number of benefits when incorporated in your continuum of care.
- Document your recovery journey. Being in recovery is an amazing accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated. Your journal can help you track your progress, so you can look back and have a concrete reminder of how far you’ve come.
- Get a handle on your cravings. If you’re journaling each day, you will start to see patterns in your behavior that lead to increased cravings. For example, you might notice that cravings become the hardest to cope with on days when you haven’t slept well the night before.
- Learn to view emotionally charged situations in a more objective way. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts and take a step back from the situation at hand. This is particularly useful for people who struggle to control their temper or suffer from anxiety.
- Clarify your future goals. It’s perfectly natural to struggle to define what you want your sober life to look like. Journaling gives you a safe space to figure out your passions, hopes, and dreams for the future.
- Improve your relationship with friends and family. Journaling about the day’s events can offer new insights on your interactions with loved ones, including your spouse and children. If you feel comfortable doing so, sharing some of your journal entries can be a tool for rebuilding trust and encouraging open communication.
Note that the benefits of journaling in recovery apply to whatever stage of the process you are in. If you’ve recently relapsed, journaling can help you determine how to best move forward.
How to Start Your Recovery Journal
The first step to creating a journaling routine is to choose a format that most appeals to you. Splurging on a beautiful leather-bound journal is fine if a pretty cover inspires to you write. However, there’s nothing wrong with journaling in a simple composition book. You could even try using a memo app on your phone if you hate the sight of your own handwriting.
Once you’ve chosen a place to journal, try to create a routine for yourself. Journaling is often easier if you devote 10-20 minutes each day to writing. Journaling in the morning can help you feel more in control of your daily to-do list, while journaling at night can be a way to unwind so you’ll sleep better.
When you’re journaling, don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Your journal is for your eyes alone, unless you decide to share certain entries with your counselor or loved ones. Focusing on the technical aspect of writing will prevent you from sharing your thoughts freely. You don’t even need to write in complete sentences unless you want to. Jotting down a list of thoughts about your day can still be helpful in tracking your recovery progress.
Journaling prompts, such as those provided on the Unjunkiefied website may help jumpstart your creative process. Your counselor or 12-Step sponsor may also be able to suggest writing topics.
For visually oriented individuals, a journal might include photos, doodles, or memorabilia. For example, pasting a family portrait your child drew into your journal might serve as a useful source of inspiration when you feel discouraged by the challenges of building a sober life for yourself.
As you grow more comfortable with your sobriety, you’ll notice that you aren’t writing about recovery-related topics every day. It’s perfectly natural for your journal to evolve over time. While your recovery is an important part of your life story, it’s just one chapter.
Journaling as Part of a Holistic Approach to Recovery
Substance use disorders are considered chronic illnesses. They can’t be cured, but individuals can learn to live full and productive lives with access to the treatment resources they need. Growing evidence supports the use of holistic care in the recovery process, since the underlying cause of addiction is often linked to mental health struggles.
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s Pennsylvania drug and alcohol treatment center, we encourage men and women working towards recovery to incorporate journaling into their continuum of care. We are a Christian non-denominational program built on the belief that healing the mind, body, and spirit is the best way to build the foundation for lasting sobriety. This includes journaling, meditation, and explorations of spirituality as a way to confidently face life’s challenges and embrace a strong sense of purpose.