Jot It Down: Daily Journaling Can Enhance Your Addiction Treatment and Recovery Experience

It is a near certainty that everyone, at one time or another, has kept a diary or a journal. Usually it’s when we are children and young adults, and many people grow out of it. But think about whyjournaling was such a comfort to you back then: you were able to trust it with anything, knowing it would never judge you or look at you with disdain when you made a mistake or did something you shouldn’t have.

Personal shame and guilt are extremely tough feelings to deal with, and they are two of the primary painful emotions that recovering addicts experience. It is enough of a challenge to deal with these difficult emotions on their own, but it can be even more intense when making the commitment to addiction treatment and recovery. While it might sound like a scary or daunting task, confronting those emotions in a healthy and manageable way can actually enhance your treatment and recovery experience at Alta Mira. Journaling or jotting down a personal daily log in a notebook can be one of the best ways to begin developing trust with yourself, and can also help you ease into having discussions about your emotions with those around you.

Your personal journey

Have you ever wished you could go back in time to a different point in your life, simply to remember what it felt like? Whether those times were good or bad, journals can help transport you back, help you think about where you once were and where you are now. One way that journaling is used in treatment at Alta Mira is as a sounding board for your daily thoughts, feelings, questions, and even memories. In the beginning, it might seem uncomfortable to be totally honest in your journal—but in doing so, you can learn and grow in deeper ways during treatment and into recovery.

It isn’t easy, opening yourself up and being vulnerable about your past and your pain. However, not only will doing so allow you to truly heal, but it can also engage others who might be in the same place, and inspire them to take action in their battles with addiction. Take Jean, author of UnPickled blog and recovering alcoholic: she was once so private about her struggles that no one even knew about them. She started her online journaling endeavor on her first day of sobriety, with an aim to help give others the courage to recognize and begin treating their addictions. The honesty that seemed so scary to Jean at first has now become the foundation for her successes both personally and professionally, and she has shared the gift of connection with others.

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Setting and visualizing your goals

During your time in treatment and into recovery, it is important that you set manageable goals for yourself from the very beginning. Journaling can be a part of this. You can begin with something like a daily to-do list: as you write in your journal, include recording a few small goals: read fifty pages of a book, exercise for thirty minutes, etc. Start with a few goals for the day. Stay dedicated to them and complete them. Once you’re feeling confident about meeting smaller goals, you can begin to make larger ones on a weekly or monthly basis, and complete smaller tasks to help obtain those dreams.

Let’s revisit Jean: she has been a source of strength for so many people, but it wasn’t always that way. She had to make lists, too, in order to generate the bravery and motivation to create a blog and post it online. Even if you don’t happen to meet one or more of your goals on any given day, don’t let that deter you from taking steps toward the things you want to accomplish.

Looking into a mirror

One of the most important things you can do on your journey through both treatment and recovery is to reflect on yourself and how far you’ve come. This can be measured in many terms, and you may find that you’ve grown more in certain areas over others—and that is totally normal. Let’s say you’ve been really great about writing down your thoughts for the day, but haven’t done as good of a job at meeting your daily task list as you’d like. That’s okay! Make one of your aims to get better at completing your list, while maintaining your daily habit of journaling.

It might make sense for your first goal to be the creation of a daily journaling habit, since this is a major way you can self-reflect. Your journal is a mirror of what’s going on inside of you, and all of that knowledge can really help you learn and grow. When you are able to look back and actually read about your progress in your own words, it can be an extremely powerful tool. Perhaps you share some of your stories of growth with those you trust in a group therapy session, and inspire someone in some way.

It can be tough creating a new habit. Scientifically speaking, it is supposed to take twenty-one days to transform an action into a natural habit—but that’s only three weeks! You’ve got the rest of your life to change, grow, and evolve into yourself, and through journaling, you can actually record the metamorphosis. When you combine a daily log with other important aspects of treatment at Alta Mira, you will be able to not only enhance your addiction treatment and recovery, but your relationship with yourself as well.


Alta Mira Recovery Programs specialize in world-class residential rehabilitation for addiction and co-occurring disorders. If you have any questions about yourself or a loved one, please reach out to us–we’re available to listen.