The journey of addiction recovery is more than just completing rehab and getting a certificate. It’s an intensely emotional path of self-discovery and reinvention. Documenting that journey through a recovery journal has a number of practical and mental health benefits.
Why You Should Keep a Recovery Journal
On the practical side, keeping a journal throughout the addiction recovery process allows you to assess and keep track of your own progress. It helps you to recognize what areas may require a bit more attention and effort, and evaluate ways you can implement your new life skills into your life. Mindfulness means actively and consciously making the right decisions to remain dedicated to your new clean and sober life.
The main purpose of a recovery journal is the give you a space to reflect on the day’s lessons and decompress, processing the day’s emotions and revelations. Keeping this journal allows you to see that you are beyond capable of achieving and maintaining sobriety. Just as you have survived and overcome every other situations that seemed too daunting to conquered, being able to look back on those events and see how far you’ve come helps boost your self-esteem and commitment to moving forward.
Keeping a recovery journal is as much about documenting your progress as it is about personal accountability. When you write about your thoughts and feelings throughout the day it is important to include the causes of those emotions without blame-shifting and pointing fingers. Focusing instead on yourself and your own power over your actions and emotions helps you practice accountability and responsibility.
The most important role of a recovery journal is catharsis. Being able to properly confront difficult emotions and come to terms with them allows you to leave them in your past as you continue moving forward on the path of sobriety. By closing those doors rather than allowing them to fester you can focus instead on growing into the person you were always meant to be.
Recovery Journaling: Where to Start
Many drug rehab programs incorporate recovery journaling into their treatment programs because of the mental health benefits. However, knowing where to start outside of active treatment can be confusing: do you go all the way back to the beginning, or pick up on the here and now? Should you keep it private, or offer it to others in recovery as an online blog?
If you want to start your own recovery journal, follow these easy steps:
Pick a Platform: some people prefer the intimacy of classic journaling with pen and paper, others want to take advantage of technology and use apps or websites. No matter which platform you choose, be mindful of the pros and cons. It’s wonderful to want to share your story on an open platform, but you must be prepared for people commenting their opinions.
Set Aside Time: having dedicated time for winding down and documenting your thoughts in a recovery journal provides structure to your day, which in turn helps you remain steady on your path. Take time before you go to bed each night to reflect and write down your thoughts. You can even take it a step further and begin the day with a short entry about your plans and goals, then end it with a recap of what you were actually able to accomplish. Doing it this way is great for keeping your focus where it needs to be.
Be Truthful: there’s no point in keeping a recovery journal if you aren’t honest with yourself in it. Addiction recovery is all about getting to the root of things and facing those emotions or situations we’d rather shy away from. Don’t allow yourself to fall into a relapse trap because you don’t want to face the reality of certain circumstances. Being honest in your journal also allows you to be more honest with your counselor or therapist: it opens up avenues for conversation.
End with Gratitude: this is something I began practicing in my own journal last year. By ending each entry with gratitude, you complete a circuit and bring yourself back to a place of positivity and healing. It’s okay if the only thing you can be grateful for is making through the day, but dig deeper and find a lesson to hold onto in every situation you may face. Plus, being conscious of gratitude throughout your day helps change your perspective.