Personal Growth


Using Writing to Further Your RecoveryWhile it won’t cure substance abuse issues on its own, writing offers many therapeutic benefits to people in recovery. Even if you’ve never had the urge to jot down your thoughts in the past, writing can be a powerful tool for physical, mental, and spiritual healing.

How Writing Helps in Addiction Recovery

In today’s fast-paced world, many people jump from one activity to another without ever pausing to consider the consequences of the choices they make. Those who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol are often even more frantic—using substance abuse to avoid uncomfortable self-reflection.

Writing allows you to take the time to contemplate your life story without any outside distractions. It’s a way to better understand your past, present, and future.

Some of the benefits of writing while in recovery include:

  • Processing past trauma, such as physical or verbal abuse
  • Coping with loss, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship because of your addiction
  • Understanding the roots of your addiction
  • Tackling challenges associated with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Taking a second look at your emotional response to specific situations
  • Reframing your thoughts on specific recovery challenges
  • Acting as a distraction technique for coping with cravings
  • Documenting your progress so you can see how far you’ve come when you’re feeling discouraged
  • Gaining a better understanding of your personal strengths and weaknesses

Anyone can benefit from writing while in recovery, but this activity is particularly helpful for those with more introverted personalities. If you struggle to feel comfortable sharing openly in a group, writing down your thoughts may be a way to process issues on your own terms. Finding a way to open up without fear, anxiety, or shame can give you the boost you need to continue moving forward in your recovery.

How to Get Started

The act of writing is a highly individual process, so there is no right or wrong way to go about incorporating writing into your recovery plan. Depending on your preferences, your writing can take many forms. For example:

  • Private journal entry
  • Letter to a friend
  • Memoir
  • List
  • Song lyrics
  • Poetry
  • Short story
  • Novel

Some prompts you might use include:

  • Write a letter to yourself as a child, teen, or young adult
  • Describe the moment that make you realize you needed to seek addiction treatment
  • Explain how you handle your cravings
  • Describe how you imagine your life after six months, one year, two years, etc. in recovery
  • List all of your recovery accomplishments and describe how they make you feel
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member who has supported you throughout your recovery journey

Although typing may seem like the natural choice, the old-fashioned method of putting pen to paper may help you connect with your emotions on a primal level. Use whatever method feels most natural.

The best way to overcome writer’s block is to make writing a part of your daily routine. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to write, preferably in a quiet place with no distractions.

As you write, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. Focus simply on getting your thoughts down on paper. You can always edit and revise at a later date if you feel it’s necessary. Remember, even professional writers don’t create award-winning prose on the first try.

Sharing Your Work

It’s fine to want to keep your writing private. However, sharing your work with a broader audience can offer a number of advantages as well. For example:

  • Positive feedback that boosts self-esteem
  • Emotional satisfaction from helping others with their recovery journey
  • Feeling less isolated as you learn how others have connected to your addiction and recovery story.
  • Reader insights that make you think about your specific recovery challenges in a new way

In addition to sharing with your counselor or the members of your 12-step group, you may choose to seek out writing workshops for people in recovery or to start a blog.

Tapping into the Power of Creativity to Make a New Life for Yourself

You may find that you enjoy writing exclusively, but writing can also be combined with other holistic therapies for addiction recovery. Music, art, or dance therapy can all be used to explore many of the same issues while providing a creative outlet. No matter what path you choose to pursue, finding sober ways to express yourself can help you build a future without the burdens of addiction.

By Dana Hinders

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Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders

How to build a recovery playlist

Music can be a wonderful source of support, inspiration, and motivation during the recovery process. Consider developing your own addiction recovery playlist to help you tackle the challenges of sober living, using these popular songs as a starting point.

Breaking the Habit – Linkin Park

I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream.
But now I have some clarity to show you what I mean.
I don’t know how I got this way.
I’ll never be alright,
So I’m breaking the habit.
I’m breaking the habit.
I’m breaking the habit tonight.

“Breaking the Habit” is a song about hitting rock bottom. The lyrics express frustration with the burdens of addiction, as well as an understanding that nothing gets better unless you make a conscious decision to change your own behavior.

Amazing – Aerosmith

It’s amazing.
With the blink of an eye, you finally see the light.
It’s amazing.
When the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright.

Aerosmith’s popular power ballad begins by describing a life of pain caused by drug abuse, but shows how drastically life can change if you find the courage to ask for help. If you’re in the early stages of recovery, this is a song to remind you that things will get better.

My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road.
I try not to hold on to what is gone.
I try to do right what is wrong.
I try to keep on keepin’ on.

When you’re in recovery, it’s easy to get distracted by guilt over past mistakes and anxiety about the future. “My Silver Lining” is a reminder to focus on the present and take your recovery one day at a time.

Recover – Natasha Bedingfield

Been torn apart,
Got so many scratches and scars.
Maybe they won’t all go away,
But they’ll fade.
Maybe time can mend us together again.
It’s not what we’ve done but, how far we’ve come.

“Recover” is a powerful song because it acknowledges that addiction causes lasting pain, but gives hope that recovery is possible. Think of this song as a reminder that your own scars are a badge of honor and a sign of survival. They tell the story of all you’ve been through and prove that you’re strong enough to conquer the world.

Survivor – Destiny’s Child

Now that you’re out of my life, I’m so much better.
You thought that I’d be weak without you, but I’m stronger.
You thought that I’d be broke without you, but I’m richer.
You thought that I’d be sad without you, I laugh harder.
Thought I wouldn’t grow without you, now I’m wiser.

This song is about getting over a bad breakup, but it’s not difficult to see the parallel between ending a toxic romance and overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. Think of it as a catchy tune to help you remember all the ways your life has improved since you made the decision to get clean.

Titanium – David Guetta featuring Sia

I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose.
Fire away, fire away.
Ricochet, you take your aim.
Fire away, fire away.
You shoot me down, but I won’t fall.
I am titanium.

“Titanium” is a song about inner strength and finding it in yourself to overcome whatever obstacles the world throws at you. It’s a song that resonates with many people who’ve turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma in their lives.

Firework – Katy Perry

You don’t have to feel like a wasted space.
You’re original, cannot be replaced.
If you only knew what the future holds.
After a hurricane, comes a rainbow.

More than just a popular dance number, “Firework” offers a powerful message about embracing your individuality. It’s a worthy addition to any recovery playlist, especially if you’re struggling to redefine your sense of self without drugs and alcohol.

Hold Fast – Mercy Me

Hold fast
Help is on the way.
Hold fast
He’s come to save the day.
What I’ve learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is your grasp.

Contemporary Christian band MercyMe sings about the power of Christ’s love, urging anyone who is going through a difficult time to turn to their faith as a source of strength. Even though this song isn’t specifically about addiction, it’s a message that resonates with many who are in recovery.

The Man I Want to Be – Chris Young

I wanna be a good man,
A ‘do like I should’ man.
I wanna be the kind of man the mirror likes to see.
I wanna be a strong man
And admit that I was wrong, man.
God, I’m asking you to come change me
To the man I wanna be.

Country music singer Chris Young expresses the desire to make big changes in life, while acknowledging that this is a job too big to undertake alone. This song reminds us that all things are possible with God’s help.

By Dana Hinders

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