How Keeping a Journal Can Keep You From Relapsing

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Did you start a journal while you were in rehabilitation? Did you keep it up when you left inpatient treatment? Or maybe you’ve never started a journal at all but it’s never too late to start. Let’s face it–some days you can use all the help you can get to stay sober and resist those cravings. Here’s how a journal can help.

The Different Types of Journaling

In case you’ve never heard of them or forgotten, here are the four basic types of journaling:

  • A basic diary
  • Journaling for gratitude
  • Reflecting on the day’s events
  • A goal-focused approach

A basic diary isn’t going to give too much insight into your mental processes as it’s merely a recounting of the day’s activities. Journaling for gratitude is listing the things you are grateful for every day and reflecting on the day’s events lets you think deeper about the meaning of the choices you’ve made. A goal-focused approach can list the things you need to do to achieve your goals.

How Should I Set Aside Time for Journaling?

Every person has their preferred way of journaling and once you’ve picked a type, you have to figure out how and when you can make time to write.

To better concentrate, most people need a quiet place where they won’t be distracted. You may think you won’t be distracted by everyday things but what about when your phone dings with a text message or your favorite TV show comes on? Set aside 20 to 30 minutes every day to write about your feelings and take time now and then to read back about what you’ve written.

Instead of journaling all at once, you may want to write down little pieces of your day as they happen. If that’s the case, keep your pen and journal handy.

If you’re involved in any kind of counseling, you may choose to share parts of your journal with your therapist so that you can work together on gaining insight into your motivations and modifying any behaviors you need to change.

What Are the Benefits of Journaling?

We’ve covered the “how” of journaling, now it’s time to cover the “why.”  First of all, journaling can help you better keep track of your progress since everything is written down. This can give you insight into the things that trigger and craving and make you want to relapse. Once you identify what your triggers are, you can take steps to avoid those things.

If you’re trying to stick to a strict daily schedule, you can also track that in the pages of your journal. We mentioned before how important it is to keep a fairly full schedule so you stay busy and don’t get in trouble. It’s also helpful to write out your plans for the next day. If you don’t, it’s like going to the grocery store without a shopping list. You never know what you’ll come home with if you don’t have a plan. Make a list of the next day’s schedule and do your best to stick to it.

Managing Emotional Problems

If you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety or depression, journaling becomes even more important. Writing about a problem helps get it off your mind and release a lot of the stress or anxiety associated with it. Try to pinpoint the things that cause you stress or anxiety and talk to your therapist about them at your next session.

You can do the same for depression. If you’re having a lot of negative thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, it’s important to reach out to someone and talk to them but it’s also important to write it down. By identifying negative thoughts in a journal, you can begin to change them by planning new automatic thoughts. For example, instead of automatically thinking you’ll never be any good at some activity, replace that negativity with telling yourself that you’re a beginner and you still have a lot to learn. You’ll get better with practice.

You can also review the journal with your therapist to see if you need additional support for depression and counseling to help you stay mentally healthy, as well as not allowing depression to cause you to relapse back into substance abuse.

Become Your Therapist

While it may not be as good as having a professional therapist, keeping a journal can provide a therapeutic self-examination when you’re not in a counseling session. If you’re honest with yourself in your journal, you will hold yourself accountable when you have negative thoughts or behaviors. You can also make a plan to correct them. You can use a journal to boost yourself up with positive self-talk. It’s fairly easy to write something on a good day that you need to read on a rough day.

It sounds like cliche advice, but journaling can help you stay on track in recovery and prevent a relapse from happening. Compared to an inpatient stay, dealing with the outside world can cause you stress from a job, finding an apartment, reestablishing relationships, and fighting those cravings. When you write in a journal you also have a resource for when you’re fighting a relapse because you can better assess your progress, learn about the things that trigger you, and figure out how to better deal with those things. Here at Everlast Recovery Center, we know how difficult the transition from inpatient rehab to recovery can be. Some people may find themselves completely starting their lives over from scratch. We will help give you the tools you need to stay sober and be successful in recovery. Journaling is only one method to help you stay sober. Here at our Riverside, California facility, we offer counseling as well as holistic therapies that can go home with you, such as yoga or art therapy. We help teach you how to control those cravings and overcome them. Give us a call today at 866-DETOX-25.


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