When you are addicted to drugs and alcohol, you are defined by your addiction. You are unable to express yourself creatively and truthfully because you are all-consumed by your addiction. When you begin your recovery, expressing your thoughts and feelings by journaling is spiritually and mentally emancipating.
It is not surprising to learn that so many professional writers are in recovery. Many of these successful writers turned to writing once they had defeated their addiction conquered their recovery. Writing offers people in recovery an outlet to unleash their creativity and to extinguish negative emotions in a healthy and controlled manner.
When you are new to recovery, you may feel lost. Writing gives you the means to gather your bearings. Writing also gives you a voice and hence the feeling of control. When you are new to recovery, you may feel isolated and scared. Writing offers you a means of escaping these negative emotions that could otherwise threaten to derail your recovery.
Writing allows you to answer deep and meaningful questions that require answering. It’s not difficult to see why many people see their writing as a form of therapy in its own right. Your writing will allow you to explore existential questions such as “who am I?” and “what place do I occupy in this universe?”
An introduction to journaling
Journaling is perhaps the most common form of writing for those in recovery. This is because many drug and alcohol rehab clinics formally teach journaling as part of their treatment programme. This is because journaling has established a well-deserved reputation for its ability to assist people who are new to recovery.
Journaling is about maintaining written records of your feelings and experiences as they pertain to your recovery. You are encouraged to utilise journaling as part of the recovery healing process. Keeping a record of feelings allows you to analyse how to better cope with these feelings the next time they arise.
You are encouraged to note down both negative struggles and positive accomplishments in your journal. You are also encouraged to note down negative and difficult emotions you are experiencing, and what it was that triggered these emotions to arise. It’s likely you will make poor decisions in relation to how you manage these emotions.
By keeping a record of how you managed emotions in the past, you are provided with an opportunity to improve your actions in the future. Thus, journaling both holds you to account and encourages you to make better decisions in the future based on making improvements to past decisions.
It must be noted that journaling is itself a form of expressive writing. The goal is not to produce an essay, story or article. You are merely required to write down how you are feeling and what you are thinking. This is to help you analyse and understand these feelings and allow you to prepare effective coping strategies to deal with these thoughts and emotions in the future.
Common types of journaling
Below, we list each type of journaling:
- Maintaining a diary: write down what happened during the day and any thoughts and feelings that arose
- Goal-focused journal: write down your goals and then write down what you did to help you achieve them each day
- A gratitude journal: write down the things you are grateful for each day
- An evening reflection journal: write down what happened to you during the day and then analyse how you may have behaved or thought differently to have improved the decisions you made based on those feelings e.g. Event: I argued with my children about hiding the TV controls. Reflection: I could have asked my children if they had seen the TV controls rather than yelling at them. I probably would have located the TV controls quicker and avoided upsetting both myself, my wife and my children. In future, I will attempt to think before I make accusations and instead formulate constructive ways of achieving my goals
What are the benefits of journaling?
It must be noted that all forms of journalism require reflection. Regular journaling helps you to formulate answers to your own problems. By writing about your problems and behaviours, these problems and behaviours lose their power over you. Repressing these problems serve to increase their power over you.
How to get started with your journaling
When you are new to journaling, it’s like the entire process will feel alien and somewhat odd to you. However, with time and effort, you will tend to get out what you put in. As you become more familiar with journaling, the entire process will become more and more familiar and natural to you.
Below, we shall list a number of pointers that will help you get started with your journaling:
- Write out what you wish to do each day: writing about what you want to do is easier than writing about emotions and feelings you have experienced throughout the day. Writing about feelings will seem invasive at first. If so, attempt to get yourself writing by listing stuff you wish to get done on each particular day. Once writing becomes more familiar to you, begin to tackle the difficult stuff
- Merely list feelings: as mentioned above, going into minute detail about your feelings is likely to set off your defences when you are new to writing. To ease yourself into this process, begin by merely listing the feelings you are experiencing without going into specifics
- Set aside a specific time to complete your journal each day: often the hardest part of journaling is just getting it done. Set aside a specific timeslot to undergo your journaling and try to stick to this slot each and every day. For journaling to yield long-term benefits, you must complete your journal each day for a prolonged period of time. You can only establish this habit if you plan specific time each day to complete your journal
- Complete your gratitude journal: listing the things you are grateful for is much simpler than reflecting on negative thoughts and emotions. To get yourself going, begin by completing your gratitude journal and then work towards completing an event reflection journal once this is completed
When you are new to journaling, it may reveal you are doing more wrong than right when it comes to coping with thoughts and feelings. This is not to be concerning. After all, it’s the journal’s job to uncover what you could be doing better. If your journal is not revealing areas of improvement, perhaps you are not being completely honest when it comes to completing your journal.
journaling is not just about acknowledging what you did right or wrong. Moreover, it’s about arming you with options so that you may improve how you cope with thoughts and emotions in the future.