How Journaling Helps Addiction Recovery

A powerful tool, journaling plays an essential role in restoring good mental health to people healing from the chaos of drug or alcohol addiction. Journaling allows people to express their private thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. It provides a way of processing emotions and dealing with memories. It allows intense self-reflection and a method of recording the recovery process.

How Journaling Helps Addiction Recovery

Below are seven ways journaling helps in addiction recovery.

1. A Safe Place to Process Feelings and Thoughts

Keeping a journal provides a safe place to express yourself however you want. You can sit alone and reflect on things without worrying about anyone else or what they may think about you. Write whatever you like. As long as you keep your journal in a private place, no one will read it except you.

2. Express Your Emotions and Feelings

Going through the addiction recovery process takes commitment and hard work. During the process, you confront difficult emotions. Writing in your journal provides a place where you can let out feelings such as frustration, fear, sadness, or anger. It helps you understand your situation and why you are feeling that specific emotion. Once you understand why the emotion occurs, you can learn ways of coping with your feelings.

3. Relearn Self-discipline

In active addiction, most people have little, if any, self-discipline. Little else matters to them except getting and using the substance they desperately crave. Journaling helps people develop self-discipline when they regularly make entries. No one is going to force you to journal. It is up to you. By regularly journaling, even when you do not want to, you are retraining your brain and developing the habit of self-discipline.

4. Identify Self-Defeating, Self-Destructive, or Negative Thoughts

There are times, especially in early recovery, when you may have self-defeating, self-destructive, or negative thoughts. It could happen if you have a stressful interaction or situation. Without a healthy, positive way of processing your feelings, you internalize them, fostering negative thoughts and self-talk. When you write negative thoughts down, you see how you treat yourself. Once you realize how badly you think of yourself, you can begin working on treating yourself with forgiveness, respect, dignity, and love. 

Examples of self-defeating, self-destructive, or negative thoughts are:

  • I am weak and cannot stay sober.
  • I lost everyone’s trust. No one will trust me again.
  • I don’t deserve to be sober because I am a bad person.
  • I am no good.
  • Bad things always happen to me. I don’t know why.
  • I do everything wrong.

5. Identify Relapse Triggers

A lot of journaling is about reflection. Your writing can help you see patterns in your life. Some may be helpful for your recovery, while others might be damaging. As you go back and look at your journal entries, you will see which coping skills work for you and which do not. For example, if you feel stressed or anxious after a busy day but are unsure what is causing those feelings, journaling helps you organize your thoughts and feelings. As you start to make sense of your day, you also understand your emotions and thoughts. As you read back your journal entry, it could help you understand the cause of your emotions and situations that might cause a relapse trigger.

6. Boost Your Memory

Addiction causes damage to your memory. Research shows that when a person writes down their thoughts, it can improve their memory and reduce intrusive thoughts about negative events. Writing things down helps your brain learn to remember things better. Eventually, things long forgotten will begin to come into your mind. You may be able to use these old memories when talking with your therapist, to put your current situation in context. 

7. Track Your Progress

Addiction recovery takes time. There may be times you feel as if you are not making progress. You may feel frustrated. When that happens, look back at your journal. As you go over your entries, you will see the daily and weekly progress you are making.

Six Things to Know About Journaling

  1. Journaling is a form of expressive writing. 
  2. You do not have to write complete sentences, have perfect grammar, tell a story, or even make sense unless you want to. 
  3. Journaling can use drawings instead of words.
  4. You can journal in a notebook or on a laptop or phone–any medium will work. 
  5. There are many types of recovery journaling, such as diary, reflection, goal, bullet, gratitude, stream of consciousness, spirituality, health, and exercise.
  6. Journaling can be powerful; ideally, you’ll work with a therapist in your recovery so you can have help, when needed, to process the emotions or memories that journaling brings up.

We Can Help

Drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that can be treated. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, it does not have to continue to ruin your life. Contact English Mountain Recovery in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Our skilled professionals will give you the care you need as they guide you along the path to recovery.