One of the wellness practices most often recommended during recovery is that of journaling. When we struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, our therapists suggest that we journal about our feelings, our fears, and the past traumas that might be contributing to our emotional pain. When we're living with addiction, we journal about the things that trigger us to use our drugs of choice, that cause us stress and overwhelm, and that lead us to relapse. Sometimes after we've finished a recovery program, we stop doing many of the healing practices that were regular parts of our daily routines while in treatment. Many of us start defaulting on all the things we did for ourselves, especially our self-care practices and self-exploration work. We often like to think that because we've finished a program, the bulk of our recovery work is done, and we can go back to our regular lives and pick up right where we left off with our normal routines and lifestyles. We don't always think to use wellness tools like journaling to help ourselves stay on track in our recovery. Sometimes we doubt whether or not writing can even help us. How can we use journaling in our recovery work after we complete treatment?
Reflecting On Our Work
Our time in treatment can be one of the most transformative experiences of our lives. It can help us achieve sobriety, sometimes for the first time. It can help us dig ourselves out of our recurring patterns of deep, dark depression. It can help us to confront our inner selves, all of the issues and wounds affecting our mental and emotional health. We want to reflect on this very important time. We want to look at all the things we've learned, all the ways in which we've grown, all the important changes we've made in our lives. We can journal on all of this, being open and honest with ourselves as we write. We can journal about what we felt was effective about our treatment programs, and what we might have done differently if we were to enter treatment again. Along those lines, we can journal about some of the suggestions and recommendations we might make to our facilities, and the concerns we have, and we can contact our facilities and discuss these things if we feel comfortable doing so. All of this reflection work is part of our ongoing healing. It helps us take inventory of the work we've done, the progress we've made, and how much transformation we've already undergone, while also looking to the future to consider what work we still have yet to do.
Continuing the Self-Reflection Process
Where are we in our recovery? What do we still have to work on? What bad habits do we still have to shed? What isn't working for us? What is continuing to trigger us and cause us stress? What makes us want to return to our drugs of choice? What makes us feel as though we're at risk for relapsing or having another episode of depression or other mental illness? We can journal about all of our current feelings and all of the ongoing challenges we're still facing after treatment. Our self-reflection process doesn't end just because we've completed our treatment programs; quite to the contrary actually. We're now being challenged to keep up with all the great work we've already done. We're being tested mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Can we withstand the temptation of our addictive urges once we're back home in our regular living environments and starting back up with our normal routines? Can we continue to do the healing work that will help us stay sober? Can we do everything we need to do to make sure we are strong and resilient? Can we prevent another bout of mental illness from overtaking our lives?
Coping with Relapse
Relapse is an unfortunate reality for so many of us struggling with addiction and mental illness. The patterns of addiction, depression and other mental and emotional health issues tend to be recurring. It takes us time to unravel all of the deeply rooted underlying issues fueling our challenges. It takes us a great deal of emotional work to figure out what has been causing us so much pain over the years. We might not be successful after our first attempt at a treatment program. We might find ourselves using our drugs of choice or getting depressed all over again.
We can journal about all of the thoughts, feelings and events related to our relapse. What led up to the relapse? What things contributed? What followed? How did we respond to the relapse? Did we seek out help? Did we talk about it with people we trust? Did we isolate ourselves? When we relapse, we can be hit with all kinds of really tough emotions – shame, regret, disappointment, frustration, sadness, fear. We feel as though we've failed ourselves and let our loved ones down, along with all the people who helped us get better. We're ashamed of ourselves. We feel defeated. Sometimes we feel totally fed up with ourselves. We feel deeply sad that we worked so hard only to falter backwards, to have to start our recovery programs all over again. We're afraid we'll only continue to relapse and that we'll never succeed in our recovery. We can journal about all of these feelings. As hard as it can be to confront them, expressing them and moving through them is extremely therapeutic, and it can offer us important life lessons that can help us to prevent another relapse in the future.
Journaling is a form of self-expression, a way to connect with our innermost selves, our thoughts, feelings and life experiences. If it resonates with you, give journaling a try as part of your ongoing recovery work.
At WinGate Wilderness Therapy, we believe in the importance of helping you learn more about yourself as an individual, and we work with you to design a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.
Reach out for support today.
P.O. Box 347 Kanab, UT 84741