The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

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The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

Journaling regularly will help addicts analyze their progress and needs in recovery

The more someone knows about addiction, the better equipped she is to face it. In that regard, keeping a thorough journal is an excellent way to boost self-awareness and to discover hints for recovery to progress. There is no exact method for keeping a journal. For instance, it may be handwritten, typed or even voice recorded. Some people record words they have thought out, while other people quickly record a stream of the thoughts that come to mind. You can even include images to hint at thoughts for later reflection. However, one common recommendation for a journal is to write for a sufficient length of time to allow for true reflection. Complete this task regularly, every day possible, to notice as much information as you need to get and stay healthy.

Journals vary in style. Some choose a stream of thoughts that occurred throughout the day, while others hone in on daily events to keep more of a daily log. Furthermore, gratitude journals focus on listing positive events of the day, but spiritual and health journals are also common. A good journal may combine many or all of these subcategories to help people get and stay clean from addiction1.

Include the Past, Focus on the Present and Keep Moving Forward

A number of emotions often accompany addiction recovery. In fact, any recovering addict will likely experience such a range of feelings that he may feel overwhelmed. However, journaling will give him the opportunity to organize his thoughts to gain an objective view on life. For instance, ugly memories are probably associated with the days of drug addiction, and uncomfortable memories probably accompany the ill-effects of a mental illness. No one would find it pleasant to confront these memories, but these problems will linger until treatment, so it is better to confront them in a journal so you can investigate them in the future. In short, the journal means that, once someone expresses his emotions, he creates the option to handle them later while also expressing them in the present.

When writing about past experiences, it is important to move forward from the past. One way to accomplish this task is to write about past experiences from the perspective of how they affect you now. For example, rather than become bogged down in trying to remember the details of each experience, simply write what comes to mind regarding the experience, and then include the present effects. However, when writing about more current events (such as a daily diary), it is beneficial to analyze the details of events that happened and the way you felt in response. In this way, you still focus on the present, but in such a way that addresses difficult emotions from the past. With this strategy, you can reflect on thought patterns over time to see what emotional and physical states lead you to problems.

Lastly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the goal of treating addiction and mental health is “anticipating likely problems and enhancing patients’ self-control by helping them develop effective coping strategies,” and a journal can assist this vital task. After writing what happened throughout your day and how you reacted, it may become obvious what situations trigger you to relapse or to second guess your recovery method2. In that way, you can avoid those problems to strengthen your recovery experience.

Tips for Keeping a Recovery Journal

The following ideas may help you keep a helpful journal throughout addiction recovery:

  • Daily thoughts, feelings, concerns, ideas, accomplishments, disappointments and interactions
  • Describe the relationships that take priority
  • Outline personal changes within the last year
  • Write about someone who has been vital in the recovery experience
  • Healthy habits
  • Brainstorm tips for how to improve your mood in 15 minutes or less
  • Make a picture collection of good memories
  • Analyze the goals you have reached, including the steps you took to reach them
  • Create ways to be trustworthy like someone whom you admire3

Relapse is common in both addiction and mental health issues, so record symptoms of relapse to avoid them in the future. If you document each craving’s intensity, the time it appeared, any related stress or challenging relationship issues and whatever your reaction was, then you may identify trends that you can address later with proper guidance. Also, positive self-talk is important in journaling, as it encourages positive thinking throughout the days to come. This benefit will mitigate the stress that arises from time to time. Lastly, people who journal during treatment have better immune systems, less physical pain, less need for medication, a better psychological rating on exam and healthier blood pressure. In short, devote at least 20 minutes a day to your journal. Record all that you can, and know that you can share with those who treat you to give them insight into your recovery.

Help is available right now for your addiction and mental health. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to find the help you need to address your drug and mental health issues. In the meantime, seek a quiet time and place for your journaling, because you can affect your health right now with this kind of support4.


1 National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy” Retrieved 1/2/16.

2 of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, “Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Abusers” Published: June 4 2008. Retrieved 1/2/16.

3 Mental Health Consumer, “15 Journal Prompts to Increase Self-Reflection.” Retrieved 1/2/16.

4 University of Michigan Depression Center, “Journaling.” Retrieved 1/2/16.

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