Getting thoughts on paper through journaling can be a big help to anyone, particularly anyone going through a challenging or inspiring time in their lives.  People who are in recovery, in particular, can benefit from keeping a journal in many ways, and it can help keep them on the clean and healthy path to a better future.  Perhaps you haven’t written much of anything since your high school or college days, and never really liked it even then, but even for people who are apprehensive about writing as a personal therapy can find ways to keep a journal, and will soon see the many benefits it offers.

How Keeping an Addiction Journal Can Help

There are many things about journaling that can help with one’s recovery.  By writing, and in particular doing so regularly, writers can learn more about themselves, set goals, and move forward in a productive way on the timeline of their lives.  It can help reduce stress, encourage critical thinking, and give the writer a closer and better relationship with your subconscious.   Keeping a journal can help solve problems, and aid in “big picture” reflection and help deepen understanding of any experience over time.

Other benefits of journaling for people in recovery include:

  • Improved health. A study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment in 2005 entitled “Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing” found that journaling can even improve physical health through results like strengthened immune function, reduced blood pressure, and improved lung and liver function.  Further, people who journal regularly spend fewer days in the hospital than those who do not, experience fewer depressive symptoms, and often experience a boosted mood and strengthened psychological well-being as a result of writing consistently.
  • Increased accountability. Keeping a journal forces the writer to be honest with him or herself.  It makes it difficult to return to a denial stage and make bad decisions that will have to be recorded later.  Also, journaling can inspire goal setting and prioritization of those goals, and development of a plan to reach them.
  • Progress tracking. Writing daily or several times a week will allow the writer to have record to see how far he or she has come, or will serve as a record to see how difficult times may relate to other things going on in life.
  • Trigger recognition. Through journaling, the writer may be able to identify potential triggers, or look back upon what may have triggered a slip or relapse.
  • No fear of judgment. Since a journal is private unless shared by the writer, the writer is writing for him or herself only.  This can allow and encourage more freely flowing thoughts that can lead to deep understanding of the self.

How to Start an Addiction Journal

No special equipment is needed to get started journaling.  Certainly, some people who write on a consistent basis buy fancy, expensive journals in which to keep their efforts, but that’s not really necessary.  Any notebook will work just fine.  Or, some people like to journal on their computer, tablet, or phone using word processing software or an app designed specifically for journaling.  These can also be beneficial and in the case of apps, many have features that allow the writer to tag a location or add photographs or drawings as well.  For people who really think they do not want to write at all, a recorded audio journal may be a good idea; there is no reason that a journal absolutely has to be kept in written words.

New writers should try to set aside twenty or thirty minutes each day to start this writing habit, but even a few minutes daily can help to build the habit.  Writers should try to find a private, quiet, and distraction-free environment to really focus on their writing.  Consistency is key, but also challenging.  It’s important for writers to set goals about how often they want to write, and stick to them.

After collecting a number of entries, it’s also important that the writer take time to periodically re-read what they have written and reflect upon it; it is through this stage where deeper understanding occurs and is often where further breakthroughs are made, too.

Ways to Keep an Addiction Journal

There are many different types of journaling.  Some work better for some types of personalities than others, and some are more effective for certain situations than others.  Each is worth trying, and writers should not feel like they need to find just one and stick to it.  Many people who keep a journal switch between the types on a daily basis, or even within a single day’s entry.  In some cases, one type of journaling may work for a while, but then the writer will discover it no longer serves them in the way it once did.  People who are just starting out journaling should attempt several different types to learn what works best for them.

  • Stream of Consciousness/Automatic Writing – This type of writing is just how it sounds. The writer simply writes down any and all thoughts going through his or her mind as they come.  This may feel difficult to start initially, but once it gets going ideas may just flow.  This is an interesting way to find out more about oneself and is often a quite eye-opening read afterwards.
  • Using Writing Prompts – A writing prompt is a sentence, part of a sentence, or a few sentences that can help you get started on writing. Rather than beginning with an entirely blank page, writing prompts can help the writer by giving him or her a beginning.  There are many websites that offer free writing prompts and some are specifically addiction related.  Recovery blog Recovery Warriors offers five to get started here, and Pinterest has a whole page of them here to get started.
  • Diary – A diary is what people usually think of first when it comes to journaling, and this sort of journal can be helpful to individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Diaries are personal records of day-to-day activities, emotions, and feelings.  Over time, if writers are able to develop a consistent habit, they create a book of entries about themselves, which can be reviewed at an time.  A great deal can be learned about oneself though the keeping of a diary.
  • Mindfulness Journal – A mindfulness journal helps the writer become more aware of his or her surroundings and encourages focus on the smaller things in life. In keeping a mindfulness journal, the writer simply takes a few moments each day to use his or her senses to take notice of the world around him or her.  When developed, this skill can really help people to not think so much, and instead, just be.
  • Gratitude – Everyone has things for which they can be thankful, and a gratitude journal helps to remind us of these things every day.  By writing down good things in life, writers can find strength during difficult times.
  • Evening Reflection – Much like a diary, an evening reflection journal is a record of the day’s events and how they made the writer feel. This type of  journal, kept on a daily basis, can help show progress and identify difficulties on a fresh and consistent basis.
  • Goal-Focused – A goal-focused journal can help a writer set goals, create steps to reach them, and record progress and obstacles along the way. Further, this sort of journal can help one become their own personal cheerleader, too!

There are many different ways to journal and there are many different types of journaling, but the one thing that is true across all ways and types is consistency.  It is through consistent writing that the writer begins to experience the benefits and learn the most about him or herself.  Although writing consistently may be a challenge at first, those who begin a consistent journaling habit will soon find a greater understanding of the self, and through that, will find a great deal of internal support during their recovery from addiction.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we often recommend journaling as a piece of the plan for care after leaving our ibogaine treatment facility in Cancun, Mexico.   Anyone who has experienced an ibogaine detox will certainly have a great deal of things to think and write about, and we feel that journaling can be very helpful to all who try it.  Our intake specialists are standing by to speak with you about your situation and the ways in which we can help you get clean, sober, and healthy.  Please give us a call today.