One of the major contributors to both drug and alcohol use and addiction relapse is stress. There are many options for relieving stress, from the physical – like exercise and yoga – to spiritual pursuits such as meditation, but one approach you might not have considered is journaling. You might scoff and say that keeping a journal is something a teenage girl does, not a grown man or woman, but the act of exploring and organizing your thoughts can be very effective stress relief.
There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. You can write your thoughts down as though you were sending a letter or writing a novel, or you can scribble down a code that only you understand. Write in iambic pentameter if you want to; no one else ever has to read it unless you want them to. What’s important is that you keep track of your thoughts and feelings so that you can examine them and possibly gain some insight into yourself and your recovery. You could make pro-con lists – here are the reasons why I’m working so hard to stay sober, and here are the reasons why using again would be disastrous. Sometimes writing things down is an excellent troubleshooting tool. It might be easier to view all of the facts at once and jot down all the possible outcomes of a decision.
Journaling can also help you keep track of triggers. If you write down all times you faced temptation each day, you might begin to see a pattern. For example, Monday you saw an old friend that you used to do drugs with, and you struggled with cravings. Tuesday you drove past your old drug dealer’s house and a craving hit again. Wednesday you watched a movie where someone was using your drug of choice and temptation weighed on you once again. When you examine these things together, it’s obvious that seeing things that remind you of when you used to use drugs are a huge trigger. In knowing that, you can begin to develop strategies to avoid these things when possible, or to cope with them if they are unavoidable.
If you’ve ever spoken to a therapist or counselor, you know that the Hollywood depiction of sprawling on a couch while someone asks probing questions about your childhood isn’t always accurate. Sometimes the best part of therapy is that you can just talk about whatever you’re feeling without judgment. Journaling works the same way. Simply getting things off your chest can often calm you down if you’re feeling angry or frustrated.
Your journal can also help you keep track of the progress you’ve made. Maybe you’re struggling with severe anxiety in addition to your substance abuse. If you give yourself small goals each day and document what you achieve, you’ll begin to feel more confident and take greater steps to overcome your problems. It might not feel like much at the time, but if you look back and see that one week you only made it to your front lawn before being overcome by anxiety and the following week you managed a trip to the corner store, that’s real evidence that you’re making progress.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.