Secrets and Truth – Writing it Down in a Recovery Journal

recovery journal woman in bed writing

Equal parts therapy, catharsis, and creative expression – the recovery journal


Remember when you were twelve and kept a Dear Diary with a little gold lock and key? Remember the feeling of daring and hesitation when you wrote exactly how you felt about the boy who sat before you in science class or how mad you were at your best friend? Writing a journal in recovery may unearth some of those same sophomoric emotions, but putting it down on paper crystalizes how you are feeling, just like it did in junior high school.


Recovery Journal

Equal parts therapy, catharsis, and creative expression writing a recovery journal is an effective tool for charting your progress in early recovery and beyond. Journaling can also help to define stressors and triggers, increase motivation to change your life for the better, and even help to prevent relapse. Sobriety is like a step stool – the more legs the stool has, the stronger the support. Writing in a daily journal is another way to strengthen accountability and routine and center your sober resolve.


Excuses adults use to avoid journaling:

  • Embarrassed about a perceived lack of writing skill
  • No time to sit and write in a sobriety journal
  • Writer’s block or no idea what to write
  • You don’t like to write
  • The real fear that someone will read what has been written and be shocked or hurt.


Benefits of journaling:

  • It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and chart patterns of behavior and emotions with complete honesty
  • Writing it down helps to identify stressors and potential triggers to relapse
  • Figuring out how you feel relieves stress
  • Long-held misunderstandings can be cleared up by analyzing both sides of a debate
  • Journaling encourages critical thinking
  • Writing is a form of artistic expression, and like art therapy, creative writing can be a valuable tool in healing.


Recovery Journal Styles

There is a variety of journal styles to choose from. With stream-of-consciousness journals, you write down the first thing that comes into your head and how it made you feel. A daily diary charts what occurred on a particular day – as mundane as a trip to the grocery store or as intense as how you felt when you pushed your cart past the beer cooler. A prayer, spiritual or gratitude journal puts life’s issues and worries into perspective. Lifestyle journals chronicle progress with exercise, academics, or other positive undertakings.


There is no good excuse for not giving it a try. Find something inspiring and beautiful to write in, get a pen you love, and begin. The rarity of putting pen to paper should motivate you. You can secure your diary in a safe place, and re-read it occasionally. It is yours alone (unless you want to share it). And just like in junior high school, your sobriety journal will be a safe place to tell the truth and all your secrets without fear of judgment or reprisal.


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit