Secrets and Truth – Writing it all Down in a Recovery Journal

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Remember when you were twelve years old and you kept a Dear Diary with a little gold lock and key? Remember the feeling of daring and hesitation when you wrote exactly the way you felt about the boy who sat in front of you in science class, or how mad you were at your best friend? Writing a journal in recovery may unearth some of those same, sophomoric emotions, but putting it down on paper crystalizes the way you are really feeling, just like it did in junior high school.

Equal parts therapy, catharsis and creative expression, writing a recovery journal is an effective tool for charting your own progress in early recovery and beyond journaling can also help to define stressors and triggers, increase motivation to change your life for the better and even help to prevent relapse.

Sobriety is like a stool – the more legs the stool has, the stronger the support. Writing in a daily journal is another way to strengthen accountability and routine and center your sober resolve.

There are many excuses adults use to avoid journaling:

  • Embarrassed about a perceived lack of writing skill
  • No time to sit and write
  • Writer’s block or no idea what to write
  • You just don’t like to write
  • The real fear that someone will read what has been written and be shocked or hurt.

But there are many benefits to journaling:

  • It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and chart patterns of behavior and emotions with complete honesty
  • Writing it down helps to identify stressors and potential triggers to relapse
  • Figuring out how you really feel relieves stress
  • Long held misunderstandings can be cleared up by analyzing both sides of a debate
  • Journaling encourages critical thinking
  • Writing is a form of artistic expression and like art therapy, creative writing can be a valuable tool in the healing process.

There’s a variety of different journal styles to choose from. With Stream of Consciousness journals, you write down the first thing that comes into your head and how it made you feel. A Daily Diary charts what went on in a particular day – as mundane as a trip to the grocery store or as intense as how you felt when you pushed your cart past the beer cooler. A Prayer, Spiritual or Gratitude Journal puts life’s issues and worries into the proper perspective. Lifestyle Journals chronicle progress with exercise, academics or other positive undertakings.

You see? There is really no excuse for not giving it a try. Find something inspiring and beautiful to write on or in, get a pen you love and begin. The rarity of putting pen to paper should motivate you… Secure your diary in a safe place, and re-read it occasionally. It is yours alone (unless you want to share it). And just like in junior high school, your sobriety journal will be a safe place you can tell the truth and all your dirtiest secrets without fear of judgement or reprisal…

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Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.