If you’ve ever kept a journal, you know how writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to process difficult emotions and understand yourself better. Keeping a journal is good for your mental health, but it can also be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with the daily challenges of recovery from a substance use disorder.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the benefits of keeping a journal, and we’ll explore how this writing exercise can help strengthen your recovery efforts.
Getting to Know Yourself
Keeping a diary can help you get to know yourself in a deeper way. 1 The more you write and the longer you keep a journal for, the more likely you are to spot patterns to your triggersf and cravings. You might also identify certain types of negative self-talk that can threaten your recovery efforts, and recognizing these thoughts gives you the opportunity to reframe them from a more positive point of view.
It’s not good for your mental health or your emotional well-being to keep difficult emotions bottled up inside. In fact, holding on to pent-up feelings can even pose a threat to your sobriety. Your journal can serve as a safe place for you to let these feelings out without any fear of judgment or criticism.
Seeing Progress in Your Sobriety
If you’re fairly new to recovery, you might be sorting out some confusing emotions in your journal. With time, you’ll see that things start to make more sense and you get better at dealing with the challenges of your recovery. Your journal entries will reflect these positive changes, chronologically documenting your successes.
As you move forward in your recovery journey, your journal can act as an inspiring measure of how far you’ve come. When you have a bit of spare time, take a few minutes to look back on your journal from the beginning, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the progress you’ve made.
Another benefit of writing in a journal is that you can keep your thoughts and feelings private. You can be as raw and honest as you want to be—if you want to write about your addiction experiences or the challenges of dealing with triggers and cravings, go ahead. No one will read your journal or judge what you wrote.
If you fear that someone may stumble upon your journal and violate your privacy, use a password-protected file on your computer instead of a traditional paper diary.
Musician Nick Murphy describes the benefits of keeping a journal in a simple but powerful way, stating that his diary “serves the same purpose as going for a walk or a run. They are all physical ways of clearing a mental landscape.” 2
If you have some pent-up feelings that are difficult to process, a diary can act as a safe place to release these emotions while maintaining your sobriety. Don’t worry about what to write or how much to write in a single session. There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal—just put your pen to paper and see where it leads.