It is no mystery that working the 12 steps involves a lot of writing. We have the entire fourth step which demands that we put pen to paper and physically write out all of those columns. Nightly inventories should be written out also. For many of us who have gone through as treatment programs rely on the 12 steps, there is writing involved in that process. For many of us, writing in this way may well be something have not done since we were in grade school. So it is that I am aware of the challenge of advocating still more writing in the form of a personal journal. At the same time, I will state emphatically that there is tremendous value in keeping a journal.
From our first tentative steps in recovery, we are dealing with a flood of thoughts and feelings which, at times, become overwhelming. Coming to sobriety is a massive blessing but it brings many things out which we may not be prepared to deal with. Like most men, I felt the need to sort everything out at once and get myself under control. That illusion of control needs to be dealt with first and foremost. Keeping a personal journal allows us a space—a private space—to put these thoughts down and deal with them. By writing things down we at least gain a sense of proportion. Once the thoughts and feelings are written down, we can look at them and begin to make some sense out of them. One of the advantages of a personal journal is that we do not have to make sense as we write. We are writing this for ourselves and therefore no one will ever see it. It will not be graded or judged in any way. We simply write our thoughts down and look them over. From this we can gain some perspective on those thoughts.
Psychologists have shown that there is real therapeutic benefit to keeping a journal. People in general, and people in recovery in particular, are able to keep things such as and anxiety, stress, and even depression form becoming debilitating by writing about their thoughts and feelings in a personal journal. To this extent, the journal becomes a useful assistant to our work in the steps and through treatment.
I have found as I stay sober and work recovery longer, the more the journal is an asset to me. As I move away from those early days when getting sober was an immediate priority, I need the daily reminder that I still need the steps and the features of recovery. I am still an alcoholic and I am always one drink or drug away from being right where I was when I started. Resentment and self-pity still comes on me and keeping a personal journal gives me physical evidence of thoughts which lead to those twin demons.
Most of us look at a journal and wonder what to write. WE all know what to write. We all have thoughts throughout any given day. The challenge with the journal is to take the time to write them down. Get a journal that looks right to you, that feels right to you. Invest in a decent pen. Begin writing it all down. Journaling can only help with recovery.