How Writing Can Help in Recovery from Drug Addiction
Recovering from addiction presents you with challenges to say the least. You have to give up your drug of choice, which can be scary, literally painful, and sometimes, even sad. It’s the sadness, or rather the emotional side of addiction that I want to address here.
All addicts have underlying emotions that they suppress: Their drugs often act as a form of self-medication to dull the pain. Once the drug goes away, the pain and sadness that they’ve held back for so long comes rushing back. Dealing with this requires the addict to address these long-entrenched behaviors and to develop new skill sets so that he/ she doesn’t relapse.
That’s where writing, particularly journaling can be a huge help. It was for me. It literally helped me write out my pain, my confusion, all the things that caused me to turn to my drug of choice in the first place.
In this post, I want to talk a bit more in depth about how writing and journaling can help you cope with all the new things coming your way.
Emotion Management: 101
According to Thai Nguyen, writing for The Huffington Post, you’re emotionally intelligent when you can perceive and manage your own emotions and perceive the emotions of others. However, as I’ve already mentioned above, emotions can be tricky for the addict. It’s probably fair to say that we don’t often know how we feel. Or we’ve learned that it isn’t safe to express our emotions, even if we do know how we feel. Journaling can help this by helping us manage our emotions. Here’s how.
For the sake of example, imagine that you’ve decided to keep a reflection journal – that’s a journal where you record what happened and how you felt about what happened at the end of the day. For example, if you lose your keys and blame your wife for it, only later to find out that you had your keys all along, you’d write about that incident in your journal. You’d write your response – Did you get sarcastic? Did you yell? Did you apologize when you discovered your mistake?
Once you know what your response was to your feelings of frustration, you could use your journal to decide how you might approach a similar incident in the future. This allows you to do some role-playing so that you can learn what emotions trigger you and what you’ll do to change your behavior once they do. I used this technique quite a bit during my recovery. Still do.
Getting to Know You
Often, our emotional triggers are not immediately obvious to us. These are the triggers that put us in a tailspin and keep us tied to our addictions. However, as the University of Rochester points out, keeping a journal shows you who you are and how you react over a long period of time. Write down your feelings and responses long enough, and a pattern of your triggers will begin to emerge. Once you can see this pattern, you can take steps to change how you respond to these triggers.
For example, if your interactions with a certain friend always leave you feeling upset and stressed, this will eventually come out in your journal. From this starting point, you can then address how each incident triggered you. Did your friend say something negative? Did he/ she call you names? Once you can identify these issues, you can reflect how you can respond differently in the future. However, first, you need to know how you routinely respond before you can do something about your feelings.
There is a corollary to the passage above. Stress can make you act in ways that are not conducive to recovery if you don’t know how to handle it. And it’s typically those negative emotions we’re experiencing when we do stress out. These emotions can cause us to use if we get too overloaded.
Journaling can help with that, too. According to Psych Central, writing out your emotions can help you work through them and reduce and release the intensity of them. This allows you to lower your stress levels, which in turn, can help you manage the emotions that come up during addiction recovery.
Putting It Together
Writing and journaling about drug and alcohol addiction can be a huge help to the addict, no matter where he/ she is on the path to recovery. This blog post gives you some ideas about how to manage the situations and feelings that inevitably crop up during the process.
Paige Taylor is a life coach from Orlando, Florida, specializing in addiction. She strives to help those who battle with substance use disorder, and she occasionally writes about recovery.
She also works as an Awareness Advocate at The Recovery Village