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The Power of Recovery Journaling

Addiction recovery involves a lot of self-reflection and exploration of someone’s own identity. There are many ways that each person can choose to go about exploring their own mental state and experiences in recovery, but recovery journaling can provide the most beneficial, direct form of this exploration. Keeping an addiction recovery journal can allow someone to not only understand their own personal triggers and progress a bit better but also provides an outlet for all of the emotions that someone will experience over the course of the recovery process. 

The Many Forms of Addiction Recovery Journals

Keeping a recovery journal is more than writing in a diary, though that is certainly one of the forms that it can take.There are many ways for someone to journal their thoughts and feelings, as well as track their drug and alcohol dependence. Some people may choose to keep a dedicated notebook journal where they can physically record the progressions of the day and how each of them felt in the moment. Being able to take all of the stresses and anxieties of the day, as well as all of the urges or triggers that someone may have experienced, and put them on paper can be an empowering experience. It can feel as if someone is removing those stresses from their body and putting them on the paper itself. This approach also allows someone to look at each event, or even the day, as one complete whole, and record details based on the knowledge of how things turned out, and with the most important information recorded. However, this kind of curated journaling isn’t the only way to keep an addiction recovery journal.  

Recovery journaling can also take the form of a stream of consciousness as someone simply writes down the things that pop into their head. This form allows for a more raw, intense kind of expression that allows the emotions to speak for themselves. This stream of consciousness approach also allows someone to be more genuine with themselves and their own feelings, but may also delve more into the emotional and metaphysical side of one’s experience, and leave out details of someone’s environment that may help in trigger identification.

However, recovery journaling is more than only recording when someone is feeling anxious or depressed in their recovery, or when they are experiencing urges. Keeping a drug and alcohol dependence journal can also record all of the days in which someone abstained from drinking, or acting on an urge to use drugs again. It can be a list of successes, or a list of thanks and gratitude that provide someone with a way to see all of the positive impacts in their lives, even when days are difficult and stressful. 

Finding a Medium that Works for You

Writing is something that is very fluid, and there are a number of personal reasons that someone should keep a recovery journal. As a result, there is no need to worry about someone’s own proficiency as a writer. There won’t be anybody checking for spelling or grammar mistakes, and there isn’t a required word count at the end of each day. While some will still use a pencil and paper approach, it is also possible to keep a drug and alcohol dependence journal or recovery journal completely digitally by simply typing up one’s feelings when possible. Others may find comfort and benefit from texting themselves when they are experiencing highly emotional or difficult times in order to record an uninhibited, in the moment account of the feelings. Even choosing to create a video or audio journal are options for those who would rather not put pen to paper directly, or type out their feelings. All are possible, and which kind of recovery journaling someone employs is entirely up to them. 

recovery journaling

The Benefits of Keeping a Recovery Journal

There are many ways in which having this written record of one’s feelings and events can help someone at all stages of the recovery process. First and foremost, it can be a way of tracking someone’s progress through recovery. It can always be a motivational tool that allows someone to look back at their drug and alcohol dependence from when they started their recovery, and see the number of changes in their emotional state after going through detox. The pride that comes with seeing someone’s progress over time from their own point of view is profound, and can motivate someone to continue through the recovery process even when they are feeling particularly tested. 

It can also help tremendously when identifying trends in someone’s emotional state. Triggers can be very subtle, and difficult to identify. As someone records the various times that they feel the urge to use an addictive substance again, they can also look back and see if there are commonalities between the experiences. Similar people present, a similar time of day, or similar locations are just a few of the things to look for when using a recovery journal in order to identify potential triggers. 

Lastly, it is a place where someone can simply feel safe in their expression of their own feelings without the fear of being judged. It is a place where they can be as vulnerable as they feel they need to be, as there is no pressure to share the contents of the journal with anybody. The recovery journal is something that is wholly one’s own, and choosing to share it with others or not is a decision entirely up to the individual. This kind of privacy may be beneficial for those in recovery, while others may use it as a way to formulate their thoughts and feelings before sharing it with a loved one or professional, should they so choose. If someone chooses not to share, there are options for keeping the journal private. Keeping it hidden if it has a physical form can help with a sense of security. Digital journals can also be password protected in order to access or be carried around exclusively on a USB drive so someone can constantly be aware of its location. 

Just Keep At It

Keeping a recovery journal or drug and alcohol dependency journal can be very beneficial, as long as someone actively records their feelings and thoughts within it. However, the important part is writing every day, with less emphasis put on how much each person writes. For some days, a single sentence may encapsulate effectively all that someone wants to say, while other days may require more space than that. There is no set time limit that someone needs to impose upon themselves or set word count that they need to reach in order to make effective use of a recovery journal. 

Addiction Recovery Journal Prompts

Writer’s block is something that can afflict anybody at any time. Especially when someone is just beginning to get into the practice of recovery journaling, it can be difficult to know where to start. While the stream of consciousness style of writing can help with this, it isn’t a guarantee. Therefore, there is a list of recovery journaling ideas for addiction recovery below that can help someone get started with their recovery journal, or simply overcome a particularly tough bout with writer’s block.

journaling in recovery

1.) What is a character that you respect or identify with? 

This prompt simply asks the person to pick a character from any medium (cinema, television, book, video game, or even real-life person) and ask them to explore the traits that character expresses that have an impact on the individual. This kind of writing not only forces the writer to think about the other people and characters in their lives, but also forces them to address the traits that are important to them, or that they would like to develop for themselves. 

2.) Describe a childhood memory

Childhood memories can be viewed through a romanticized lens, but the happiness that may be there can be important for someone. It can not just remind someone that happiness is possible, but also forces them to explore the various relationships that they had with their family and the good times that are a part of their lives, outside of their addiction. 

3.) What does recovery mean to you? 

This prompt has the writer explore their own relationship with the recovery process, as well as their hopes and goals for recovery. Recovery itself can mean different things for different people, and exploring the potential of seeing their recovery through can be a huge motivational tool. This can also be used to find the issues or dissonance that someone may have with their particular model of treatment, and can be used to adjust the direction that their recovery is going. 

4.) Describe what you want to do to relax this weekend

This prompt can help people keep goals in reach, as well as explore their desires outside of addiction. For some, these things can take immediate form, such as simply getting a good amount of rest or to watch a movie. Others may describe the quintessence of their goals outside of recovery and can help them paint their own portrait of what their life may look like as they successfully move through recovery. 

5.) What was a time where you wish you had said something but kept quiet? 

This prompt has someone look back on their own decision in life. It can give light to an opportunity that they feel they missed out on and can help someone see the various ways in which they can correct themselves in the future. It can also help prompt people to chase after important relationships or to reevaluate areas of their lives where they wish to pour themselves. 


Creating a recovery journal is just one way in which someone can begin to explore their own, complicated recovery process and address many of the emotions that they may harbor through difficult times. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, Chateau Recovery can provide a personal, comfortable place to begin your recovery journey. Chateau Recovery offers a wide array of various different programs and therapeutic models, all of which can be personalized to fit your own unique strengths, needs, and goals in recovery. No two journeys through recovery will look the same, and the caring staff at Chateau are available to help you find your own path to sobriety. To speak to a trained staff member about the various programs offered, or for questions about your unique situation and the various options that may be available to you, contact Chateau Recovery today at (435) 222-5225.

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