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Dear Diary…How Journaling as an Adult can Benefit Long-Term Recovery

Dear DiaryHow Journaling as an Adult can Benefit Long-Term Recovery

When you hear the word journaling what comes to mind? For most, the idea of journaling invokes images of our younger selves writing about things that seem trivial now–the birthday party you weren’t invited to, or a carnation at school from your Valentine. You may even remember an occasional entry you wrote while you were away at a summer camp. How do you think journaling could fit into your adult life? Your life during your recovery?

Journaling is an incredibly powerful tool for reflection, introspection, and growth as you progress in your sobriety. It’s not just an asset or a helpful tool–it is an essential component of your recovery for long-term success.

The benefits of Journaling in Recovery

It’s free, and you can do it anytime, anywhere.

You can bring your journal and pen with you to work, to school, to the park, etc. You can journal during your commute (if you’re not driving) or on your breaks at work–you can journal anywhere that is comfortable for you. Best of all? It is a completely free (aside from your pen and paper costs) therapeutic act.

Putting pen to paper can help make sense of what you’re thinking and feeling.

Oftentimes when you experience intense waves of thoughts, they can be messy, sporadic, scattered, overwhelming, and hard to make sense of. By journaling, you are able to take control of your feelings and thoughts, instead of allowing them to control you.

You can tap into things you may not have been able to clearly access just through thinking.

In the same way that you may converse with a counselor or a sponsor, journaling allows you to “talk” or rather, write, through situations, thoughts, and emotions. Further, journaling provides an avenue to dig deep and intimately interact with the self. Knowing that there is no judgement, no revealing nature to it, and that you are only writing for yourself can provide you with a sense of true security that allows you to be even more honest and open than you may have been with another party involved.

Writing your thoughts down makes them real.

Emotions experienced during your recovery are unique in that without substances, you are essentially re-learning how to process and fully feel again. The act of writing these feelings down benefits you in several ways; you’re able to actualize and validate what you are or have been feeling and experiencing. From this, you’re able to separate yourself from any fleeting or less permanent feelings and put space between your thoughts and actions. This is a huge benefit that can be used as a tool to prevent you from making permanent decisions based on more temporary feelings. For example, when you have a craving or notice a trigger, digging deep into those feelings, making them real, and making peace with them can be invaluable in preventing relapse or slip-ups. In doing this, you’re also able to return to these entries or times when you have succeeded in overcoming temptation and use them as inspiration on harder days.

Reflection is necessary

In steps 4 and 10 we are asked to take inventory of ourselves, our experiences, our past, how this has all affected us, and in turn, how this has caused us to affect others.

Step 4 (AA/NA) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 10 (AA/NA) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

The thoughtfulness and consideration required for these steps translates beautifully into journaling. Journaling allows us to clear the wreckage of our past and gain true understanding in regard to how we can move forward in our life and recovery.

Get into a routine.

Step 10 asks that we continue to take inventory of our days. This is why it is important to get into a routine of journaling consistently. In your recovery, your tools can only help you if you make a true commitment to them and consistently utilize them. Set a reminder in your phone and dedicate yourself to some sort of journaling, if only for a few minutes a day.

Some journaling styles to consider for beginners:

Bullet Journaling- Kept in the style of a list. This is a great way to begin journaling, as you can take inventory or make simple lists of your day to day actions, thoughts, and feelings.

Gratitude Journal– In contrast to other styles of journaling, a gratitude journal focuses on the areas of your life for which you are thankful. The school of thought that inspires this style of journaling believes that we should call attention to the positive things in our days rather than giving any energy to the negative aspects. Through gratitude journaling, you can review passages and remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for.

Free write journaling– This is also a great style of journaling for you if you’re just getting into the habit of writing.  Put on some of your favorite relaxing music, and set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes. For the full 10 minutes write whatever comes to your head. Don’t think twice about it—write exactly what you think and feel. After the 10 minutes are up, review what you’ve written and reflect on how this passage makes you feel. This is a great way to separate yourself from temporary emotions.

The act of daily journaling can be beneficial for everyone, but especially for you during your recovery. Find a routine and a style of journaling that works for you, and dedicate yourself to consistently utilizing this new tool. For more helpful tools and resources be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn at @FellowshipHallNC


About Fellowship Hall
Fellowship Hall is a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.