How To Keep A Recovery Journal

Why Write A Recovery Journal?

A recovery journal might turn into one of your best tools. It puts your thoughts in a format where you can see them. Journaling in recovery forces you to look long and hard at yourself. It may feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, your recovery journal will challenge your assumptions. Reading what you have written may cause you to confront unpleasant parts of yourself.

The myths of ancient peoples often associated water with chaos. Consider the creation tale of Babylon. Chaos exists prior to the created world. Within the seas of this chaos dwells the serpentine monster Tiamat. The emergence of dry land represents order. As chaos, Tiamat opposes order.

Think of your mind like water. It makes waves that roll over you. It swirls and churns up things from the deep. It never holds still. Like water, your mind has no shape of its own. Rather, it takes on the characteristics of what contains it. Writing helps establish dry land in your mind. It helps call order out of the chaos of your mental storm.

The Science Of Journaling In Recovery

Keeping a recovery journal sounds simply fine in theory. But what does the science indicate? An article in the Journal of Client-Centered Nursing Care studied a sample of pregnant women. Across 8 weeks, researchers tracked depression, anxiety, and stress. Researchers concluded, “that narrative writing could be effective in the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression of pregnant women.”

Journaling in recovery appears to help improve mental health. But it likewise has positive effects on those struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). Researcher A.R. Krentzman had participants with SUD practice a method called “Positive Peer Journaling” (PPJ).

According to Krentzman, “PPJ is a daily journaling practice that combines positive psychology with behavioral activation to increase subjective wellbeing in recovery and thereby reduce relapse.” Krentzman’s work indicates that journaling improves how those with SUD perceive themselves. As a result, they may become less likely to relapse.

The Advantages Of A Recovery Journal

Every therapy modality has benefits over others. That said, not every form of treatment program helps every person in the same way. We all have different journeys. So what works wonders for one person might not help another very much. But a recovery journal can work for anyone.

A recovery journal also offers several advantages over other forms of treatment:

  • Cost: Notebooks run on the cheap side, making this a very affordable form of therapy.
  • Availability: You can find a spiral notebook just about anywhere.
  • Privacy: A physical notebook keeps your personal thoughts free of digital intrusion.
  • Freedom from judgment: No matter what you write, the notebook does not judge you.
  • Clarity: Your journal gets troublesome thoughts out of your mind, so that you can think more clearly.

What Am I Supposed To Write In My Recovery Journal?

Where does one begin with a recovery journal? Maybe you felt brave enough to get one. You’ve opened the cover. Writing utensil in hand, you glare down at that first blank page. And the page stares back. “I took the advice,” you think. “What now?”

Writing can become difficult. Many of us have not practiced writing in years. It might feel like our minds don’t wish us to write. We try, but nothing comes. And the harder we try, the more resistance we feel. What do we do now?

Start small and simple. Write your name. Jot down a favorite quote or poem. Recall the lyrics to one of your favorite songs. Think of a memory that brings you joy. Reminisce on a supportive person in your life and write down what you like about that person.

Making Journaling A Habit

Much of the work of recovery involves adapting to change. Exchanging old patterns for new ones. No one reaches a point where they have “recovered” in the past tense. Everyone lives in recovery because recovery considers every day as “day one.” Journaling fits into that context.

To make journaling a habit, we must regard every day as our first day. What we did yesterday might have helped us. But today has come. And tomorrow has not yet arrived. We must focus on what we do right now.

A few things to keep in mind to help make journaling a habit:

  • Pick a time of day that works best for you
  • If possible, journal at the same time each day
  • To start off, try writing for one to three minutes at a time
  • If you can, write in the same location
  • Review your previous writing for things you’d like to write more about

What Should I Write About?

Those just getting started can write about whatever they like. Once the words begin to flow, patterns will emerge. You’ll find that you become protective of your journaling time. Consequently, you’ll want to invest that time well. The things you need to write about will come to you in due time.

Once you get your writerly gears turning, hone an intention to dig deeper. Make a point to write about your personal struggles. Challenge yourself by asking hard questions. Ask yourself why you do (or don’t) certain things. Look for assumptions, generalizations, or counterproductive thoughts. Most of these ideas flourish below our conscious awareness. Writing helps bring these ideas into conscious thought.

Also, don’t neglect a valuable source for your writing: your treatment provider. Dialogue with your treatment provider about your writing. You do not have to share every single detail with them. But invite them to participate. They will likely offer helpful insight or self-reflection questions for you.

What Is The Best Recovery Journal?

The short answer? The one you write in! If you search Google or Amazon for “recovery journal,” you will find many results. Do a little reading into the different methods for journaling in recovery. Read product reviews from other users. Ask your therapist or counselor if they have a specific recommendation.

If you would like to know more about recovery journals, Recovery In Tune stands ready to help. If you or someone that you love struggles with substance use or mental health, contact us straight away.

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