Benefits of Journaling in Addiction Recovery

Why Should Keep a Journal in Addiction Recovery
Recovery Unplugged Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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Keeping a journal in addiction recovery has many benefits, not only for yourself but also for your team of care providers and support staff. It allows you to maintain a daily record of your thoughts and behaviors, permitting you to uncover some previously unnoticed, negative thought patterns. Journaling is a major component of both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), two of the most common therapies for substance use disorder (SUD). Additionally, having a daily account of your physical side effects and the way you feel emotionally is also important for your treatment team. It may seem like a strenuous task at first but believe it or not, many people in recovery find it to be useful.

How Is Journaling Helpful in Addiction Recovery?

Sometimes it is hard to find a healthy way to express your emotions. Journaling helps you cope with depression, process stress and control anxiety. It can also assist you in managing your symptoms while boosting your mood. Journaling gives you a space to practice positive coping skills like self-talk and correcting negative behaviors and thought patterns that can disrupt your recovery. By keeping you mindful of your daily symptoms, it will make it easier for you to discover previously unknown triggers and ways to cope. Journaling is helpful in recovery because it allows you to prioritize your concerns, fears, and issues. After realizing what stressors are caused by which problems you and your care team will include ways to minimize your stress and resolve the issue(s) at hand.

How Do I Journal

When starting your journal, try to write one entry per day. For many, the best time to write is at the end of the day – so you can record all of the day’s happenings. Write down whatever thoughts negatively impacted you during that day. This gives you a clearer perspective and helps you to better understand and confront your problems. Adding positive thoughts, feelings or situations is a good thing to do as it reminds you that there is some positivity and you are moving forward in your recovery. You can write about anything. Always date your entries and try to include as many details about your day as you are able. Your journal is a safe place where you can write about whatever you want.

In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), journaling is part of their 12-step program. They consider keeping a journal in addiction recovery  to be important because you can record and reflect on what you learned during your meetings. You can always go back and read old entries to remind yourself of what you learned and how you have progressed. According to AA, journaling requires intense self-reflection and is imperative to recovery. You can share it with your counselor or you may wish to keep it private. Either way, it is beneficial. Once you complete treatment, you can still profit from referring back to your journal or even continue journaling.

Does Journaling Really Help People with Substance Use Disorders?

According to one study regarding a dialectical behavioral training program, individuals with co-occurring disorders and/or a dual diagnosis – including borderline personality (BPD) and substance abuse disorder (SUD) benefited from the coping skills they learned – along with journaling – and these provided them with ways in which to confront and manage their symptoms. The results from this particular study showed decreased binge drinking and substance use from the start of treatment to the six-month follow-up. It also increased practicing mindfulness and reduced negative emotional and unhealthy coping skills.

In another study that included incarcerated, male inmates diagnosed with substance abuse disorder (SUD) who were arrested due to drug-related offenses (and had been incarcerated at least one time during the previous year), those who were given instructions on how to journal versus those who were not, rearrest was lower for the group that journaled (51 percent) following the 12 months after the study was initiated than it was for the group that received a different form of intervention (66 percent). Other populations discussed in this study who have been proven to benefit from journaling include women in recovery from trauma, youth with drug-related legal charges, individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction, those with a co-occurring diagnosis and people who participate in community-based and residential programs.

In one study that included Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), of the participants who went to AA meetings for at least 27 weeks during their first year, 67 percent remained in recovery as compared to 34 percent who did not attend AA at the 16-year follow-up. Those who received therapy also had a higher rate of abstinence compared to those who did not; 56 percent versus 39 percent, respectively.

How Do I Organize My Thoughts?

We all find it difficult at times to organize our thoughts. When it comes to journaling, it is helpful to make a habit of the way in which you decide how it will be recorded. Choose a time at which you will write an entry daily. As previously mentioned in this article, doing so at night is most beneficial. Do you want to write by hand in a notebook or do you wish to do so virtually? Science shows that writing by hand can be beneficial as it is helpful in remembering what you have written. Either will do finely. Some things to consider when using a paper journal include incorporating drawings and other forms of art such as music. A benefit of having a virtual journal is that it may be saved online, accessed anywhere at any time and you do not have to be concerned about losing it. Do not worry about your spelling or your grammar. As long as you understand and can read back what you write, you are journaling effectively.

Journaling atRecovery Unplugged

At Recovery Unplugged, we utilize journaling and creative writing heavily in our treatment approaches as part of our rehab programs. Creativity is not only appreciated but nurtured here, with music also being an adjunct to therapy. We recognize the power of these exercise to help clients articulate their emotions and proces their trauma. Our programs are covered by most insurance providers and we have centers in Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Lakeworth, Nashville and Northern Virginia. We offer varying levels of care; inpatient, outpatient, residential, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), detox and intensive outpatient (IOP). We have a full team of medical professionals and support staff to help you to start your process of recovery. Reach out to us today for help. You may even chat with us online. Take the first step. You can do it. We can do it together.

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