The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

September, 2019

The benefits of journaling in early sobriety.

Writing is a part of recovery. During the fourth step especially, we write down the harms done to us, harms we’ve caused others, and more before going over it with our sponsors. We don’t need to wait until step four to begin writing, though, and I suggest that people in recovery begin journaling before Step Four.

Here’s why:

Journaling Allows for Introspection

During addiction, we are often out of touch with our feelings. Let’s be real; most of us used to suppress painful feelings. When we become sober, journaling allows us to gently begin expressing our feelings. I understand that it sounds scary to feel your feelings without drugs – especially if you have been abused or have experienced trauma. I was terrified to feel my feelings, but I was told that they only way out is THROUGH, and there is much truth in that. Remember, you don’t have to journal about trauma on your first entry.

All you need to do is write, get comfortable with a pen, pencil, or a keyboard. In the beginning, let your thoughts flow OUT of you. You’ll need to look inward to discover what you are grateful for. Looking inward is the beginning of introspection and it allows you to become comfortable with listening to your thoughts.

How to Start Journaling

If you’ve never used a journal before, starting may seem overwhelming. Let’s dispel some myths about journaling. You don’t have to be a writer to keep a journal. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re a good writer. The journal does not care about your writing style. It’s simply a place to house your thoughts. It will never be graded and will never judge you.

Getting started is easy; all you need is a pen and a pad. If you are new and don’t know what to write about, here are a few suggestions:

  • Write about the physical and emotional consequences you’ve experienced because of drugs and alcohol. This is a good way to smash denial.
  • Write a letter to your drug of choice and break up with it. (I’ve done this. It’s an awesome exercise.)
  • Write a gratitude list. Early sobriety is NOT fun. Your gratitude could be that you’ve had one clean day, you laughed during a meeting, your obsession for using left you for minutes. It is a positive redirecting of your thoughts that can give you the desire to stay sober tomorrow.
  • Write about your day. If you are new and struggling with adapting to residential recovery, write about your frustrations. Putting your feelings on paper can release negative feelings.
  • Write a story or a poem. If you enjoy writing, allow yourself some creative freedom. Disappear into your imagination for a little while and do some creative writing. Allow yourself to remember what you once loved about expressing yourself with words.

Journaling Your Way to Healing

If you begin journaling early in recovery, writing will not feel foreign to you when you get to your fourth step. You’ll have become familiar with writing and allowing feelings to flow out of you and onto a page. That’s a great head start.

If you pray, it can be very helpful to pray and ask God to let you see the truth through your writing. One of the reasons, sponsors suggesting journaling is that writing can naturally lead you to a healing truth. The process of putting pen to paper can be magical. Here is a real-life example of how writing can throw open a life-changing truth you need to see.

When I was writing my fourth step, I was writing my resentments about my father. Before I started writing, I asked God to let me see what I needed to see. I wrote down my resentments. I didn’t have many of them, but the relationship with my father was the one that I wanted to heal most of all. Once I’d written the resentments down, I then worked on figuring out what part I played in our relationship. I didn’t immediately see it. I prayed and read back through my resentments and noticed that in all of them I blamed him for not saving me from one thing or another. My part struck me like a lightning bolt – I had never told my father I needed to be saved! This was not an easy pill to swallow, but it was the most healing truth I’ve ever received. From the day of that realization to today, I’ve never been dishonest with my father. When I need help, I ask for it, and never once has he not responded with either help or loving, parental guidance.

Journaling in Early Sobriety Primes Us for Writing our Fourth Step

The best tip anyone can give you about the fourth step, is that half measures avail us nothing. Step Four is not the time to short-change yourself. Most people approach this step with a bit of fear. That’s ok. Remember, that you’ve just finished Step Three and have turned your will over to the God of your understanding. God or whoever you determine to be your higher power will walk you through Step Four and the uncomfortable feelings that may arise.

If, like me, you’ve had trauma in your past, Step Four may bring back some uncomfortable memories. Please remember, the only way out is through. And, spiritual growth is often borne of pain. Talk to your sponsor, your counselor, and your friends as you work through the fourth step. Let dozens of people share their experience, strength, and hope with you.

And there’s this. If you work your first fourth step thoroughly, you’ll never have to do it again. When you are done, you’ll share it in Step Five, and begin changing your life in Steps Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine.

Working Step Four is the best gift you can give yourself. It releases decades of pain. Your sponsor can help you see yourself clearly for perhaps the first time in your life. Best of all, it can release decades of shame related to abuse you may have suffered through.

Journaling is one of the healthiest forms of self-expression, especially in recovery. Give it a fair shot and see what miracles pop off the page and into your heart.

Embrace the Future and Get Sober Today.

If you’re ready to jump-start your life, call us at (770) 493-7750.