The Benefits of Journaling In Sobriety
The Benefits of Journaling In Sobriety
There are many benefits that come from journaling. You’ve probably read many articles about these benefits, and may have experienced some of those benefits yourself. If you don’t journal, I strongly suggest it. Journaling has saved my life many times over these past few years. From calming the racing storm of emotions in my head, to keeping me from committing suicide. Journaling provides many pros, and few cons.
I began journaling on July 28th, 2013. I remember that day clearly because it was the day before my bellybutton birthday (the day I was born). I was at the peak of my drinking career, and fighting with my dad and step-mom in my head. Yes, in my head. By that point, every perceived slight or wrong look you gave me was Armageddon. I would have imaginary fights with people in my head, but either be nice to them in person, or completely ignore them.
The fight I was having in my head with my dad and step-mom was over not feeling accepted at my step-grandmother’s funeral. Long story, but it ended with me not speaking to my dad for months.
Back in those days, I spent many drunken nights ranting in my journal. Or, celebrating the good days, which were few and far between. Looking back through those pages is heartbreaking to me today. The crazy scrawl of my handwriting, because I would get good and drunk first, and then journal. The entries where I was screaming in writing that I hated my dad, and wished I had never been born. Or, the entry where I wrote about closing myself into my closest the previous night, and begged god to take me away, end my life, because I couldn’t go on living that way anymore.
Those entries are difficult to read today. I don’t even have all my entries from those days of drinking either. I decided to burn them a couple years back because I thought it would be cathartic. It was, for a minute. But, today I wish I still had those entries. I wish I had them as a reminder of how far down I went before I found sobriety. On the other hand, I’m glad I don’t have them. Some things are better left in the past.
When I got sober, I continued to journal. Those early entries are part of the burned pages that I no longer have. I do however remember how beneficial journaling was to me in those first couple months of recovery.
I wrote about my day. I wrote about the triggers I experienced throughout the day. I wrote about what I was feeling. And, when my sponsor and friend both relapsed within a month of each other, I was able to write out how I felt about those experiences. Thankfully, I still have some of those entries.
My journal was my person for a long time in those early days. I hated talking on the phone (still do to this day), and texting someone felt too arduous. But writing out my thoughts and feelings was doable. It also helps that writing comes naturally to me. I’ve always been able to express myself easier in writing than in verbal communication.
When I was a little over a year sober, I had an especially bad night. Thoughts of suicide stayed with me until I was 1 year and 9 months sober. On that bad night, I had thoughts of suicide running through my head all day, and they continued into the night. I had a plan in mind for how I was going to do it. And, for some divine reason, I decided to write it out before I took action.
I started with how I was feeling that night. That I was thinking of suicide. And, I wrote out exactly how I was going to do it. I got as far as saying I would write a letter to my sponsor, my uncle, and my sister, telling them I was sorry, and then I broke down. Thinking about my plan wasn’t enough to break the spell. But, writing it out was. By writing out my plan, I saw it in black and white. It gave me a chance to process what I was thinking and feeling in that moment. It also gave me perspective into what I was about to do.
I honestly believe that I would not be here, writing this blog post today, if I had decided to forego that journal entry that night. If I had decided to go through with my plans, instead of journaling first, I don’t think I would be alive right now. Scary thought. And today, I still have that entry to look back on, and remember that dark time. It’s something I never want to forget because it allows me to see just how far I’ve come over the years.
Journaling these past few years has also allowed me to practice Step 11. There are two parts to Step 11:
1: Prayer and meditation
2: A nightly inventory
Through journaling, I can practice my own form of meditation. As you know, the goal of meditation is to quiet the mind, and when I’m writing, my mind calms down. I’m more centered, more focused, and my mind isn’t going a million miles a minute.
I also practice the other part of Step 11, which is taking a nightly inventory, through journaling. Instead of following the 12 questions outlined in the Big Book, I write out the events of the day. Not only has this allowed me to free myself of anything I’ve been holding on to, but it also frees my brain up to remember things I forgot about. There have been many times where something happened during the day that I forgot about, but remembered when I did my nightly journal inventory.
Journaling my inventory has also provided me with a way to connect current problems, fears, and worries with the root cause of the problem, fear, or worry.
A perfect example of this is my fear and aggression towards authority figures. I uncovered the root of this fear and aggression while journaling one night. It stems partly from my mom, and partly from my dad yelling at us as kids. Or, another example is, I give up at the first sign of struggle. If I’m trying something new, and it gets too hard or scary, I give up. This stems from the day my mom left.
You see, by journaling, I go into a flow state. I zone out and just write. This process has become much faster since I switched over to my computer now. But, it allows me to let go of trying to think, and lets my subconscious mind take over. I am able to solve problems easier when I journal on a consistent basis too. I’m much less moody because I don’t have so many thoughts ping-ponging around in my head. And, I’m generally much happier.
The next time you’re feeling doubtful, afraid, overwhelmed, or all of the above, write. Take out your notebook and just start writing. Take out your computer and open a Word document, or similar program, and just start typing.
The words may be slow coming out at first. This is because sometimes, if there’s a lot that needs to come out, the words get clogged. If this happens, just start writing. Start with something simple like, “I don’t know where to start. Too many thoughts in my head right now”. By starting with something simple like that, you open that clog and allow your thoughts to run free.
Like I said, journaling has many benefits, and more pros than cons. Try journaling for a month, and see how much better you feel. Even if you only have five minutes a day, that’s better than nothing. The point is, don’t fight it, just do it. You’ll be glad you did.
If you have experience with journaling, share the benefits you’ve received as a result in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!