Why Journaling is a Powerful Recovery Tool

This article is by Susan Linney and published by American Addiction Centers


Of the many helpful tools you can use to aid you in your recovery, keeping a journal is among the easiest and most powerful. It’s easy in the sense that you can do it pretty much anywhere, at any time. All you need to start journaling in recovery is a piece of paper and a pen. It’s powerful because it works in so many different ways to help you organize your thoughts, process your feelings, and alleviate stress. Here are some of the benefits of journaling for recovery, as well as tips to help get you started.

Journaling and Recovery

Research shows that journaling can help ease emotional distress when we’re struggling. Getting your thoughts and feelings out of your head, where they can feel abstract and all-consuming, and onto a piece of paper, where they are clearly stated and defined, can help make problems feel more manageable.

Sometimes, looking back at what you’ve written will make you realize you’ve blown things way out of proportion. Or, if the problem does require serious attention, clearly articulating it in ink is a great way to start working toward an actionable solution.

Journaling for recovery can also help you reinforce good habits and track your triggers. Many studies have shown that keeping a daily gratitude journal — a written record of the things you are grateful for each day — can help you reduce stress, manage depression, and improve your interpersonal relationships. It’s also good to be able to look back at specific circumstances and situations that left you feeling triggered to drink or use.

Keeping a Recovery Journal

The great thing about keeping a recovery journal is that there are no rules. It’s not something you have to do a certain way or hand into someone else to be evaluated.

This is important to remember, as it can be easy to get caught up in details like penmanship and spelling. None of that matters. This is your space to write however neatly, messily, or haphazardly as you choose (as long as you can read it back to yourself). The more you focus on the process rather than the output, the more genuine and helpful your recovery journal will be.

How to Keep a Recovery Journal

  • While not a necessity, treating yourself to an attractive, store-bought notebook that you like to look at can help motivate you to write on a daily basis.
  • That said, you can journal anytime, anywhere! If you don’t have your notebook, jot down your feelings on a stray piece of paper and paste it into your journal later on.
  • Many people find that writing longhand with a pen is the best way to reap the benefits of journaling. Try this method first, even if you’re used to writing everything on your laptop or phone. You may be surprised at how different the experience is.
  • Of course, if you find that you’re more comfortable writing with electronics, by all means use them. Remember, there are no rules! What’s important is that you choose a method that you’re most likely to use on a regular basis.

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