Journaling is an effective addiction recovery tool when practised often in recovery, particularly in the first year of recovery. The practice and discipline of journaling are both therapeutic and cathartic as the writer takes time out each day to journal thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, memories, reflections and aspirations. Essentially journaling is giving expression and acknowledgement to your inner world, bringing the inside out. Journaling is a way to mindfully create self-awareness and slow down each day.
“Journaling gives me time to find reasons to be grateful and express gratitude for where I am after everything I have been through.”
My client, Dave who is in his mid-fifties is now over a year in strong, successful recovery. He started journaling the first week he started therapy. He was starting a sexual recovery process and working through a difficult mid-life healing crisis. He found journaling powerful and healing, as do many people who are healing from adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) and sexual trauma, like Dave who is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
I invited Dave who at that time had embraced a compassionate and open attitude to his recovery journey to share his own experience of how his first 100 days of journaling had benefited his recovery. Here is Dave’s written personal experience of journaling which he hopes will provide some hope and inspiration to others who are healing from childhood trauma or in early recovery…
“I am now over 100 days into journaling, almost every single day and it has been an important part of my early active sexual recovery. My Psychotherapist Orlagh Reid encouraged me to start journaling for ten minutes a day as a way to focus on my recovery. It has been such an unexpectedly positive experience that she invited me to write and share what journaling has meant to me to encourage others also starting this journey.
I have struggled to break an addiction cycle to pornography and adult chat sites, called ‘acting out’. I have worked through my traumatic history of being sexually abused as a child throughout my adult life which has been so personally healing. However, a number of times I have decided and tried to stop using pornography but found I was unable.
I have been through counselling three times with different therapists and only on this third time have I really focused on the addiction recovery aspect of my journey with Orlagh and also taken up journaling as a personal development tool. This time I think mainly because through the work with my counsellor I finally understand my attachment style and addiction cycles and how that has impacted my feelings, thoughts and behaviours throughout my adult life.
“Journaling allows me time to reflect regularly on what I want, why I want it and how best to be present with my feelings and thoughts.”
I feel that journaling has helped me succeed this time around 100 days into my sexual recovery. It has enabled me to reflect on my feelings each day and gives me time and space to slow down, allowing my thinking brain to catch up with my emotional brain. This way, simply through journaling, I can decide for myself what is best for me and learn not to act impulsively.
Journaling has strengthened my own intrinsic internal motivation to succeed and to move forward from childhood trauma and the stress of hidden porn use. It is helping me to heal my wounded inner child. Previously I was relying mainly on external motivators such as counselling and importantly my wife’s desire for me to recover and heal, but these were not enough to succeed in breaking my addiction cycle. Now I understand this cycle in much more detail from my therapy sessions and reading, and now my motivation comes from deep within.
Journaling allows me time to reflect regularly on what I want, why I want it and how best to be present with my feelings and thoughts. Now, I can process difficult feelings and thoughts and am able to plan how I can move forward with them. Writing regularly allows me to step outside myself and then read what is going on for me. This way I am always reflecting, reminding myself why I want to change my coping strategies and behavioural patterns from those unhealthy ones that are now in my past.
Journaling gives me time to find reasons to be grateful and express gratitude for where I am after everything I have been through. I now know that I now have the strength to get through difficult times and thoughts, instead of jumping to avoid them or finding unhealthy ways to cope.
It has also helped me recognise and reflect on times when I have not been positive in my relationship and allows me to personally develop more constructive ways to work our way through this difficult healing time of our relationship. It has helped us so much that my wife of her own accord and as part of trying to heal from the hurt and betrayal I caused her is now journaling for herself, as she says, ‘to help get her head into a better space too’.
‘Essentially journaling is giving expression and acknowledgement to your inner world, bringing the inside out. Journaling is a way to mindfully create self-awareness and slow down.’ – Orlagh Reid
I would have been a sceptic and always felt that my mind was strong enough to get through and succeed in breaking my addiction to sexually explicit content, but each time I failed. Now my recovery and self-awareness are strong. I have good support from my therapist and partner, and I feel this is the final part of my personal healing.
I strongly advocate now to give journaling a try. If it works for you, it can become a very good channel to self-support and develop self-awareness through your life.“
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