How to Manage Addiction with Journaling

Four Methods:Identifying Your Emotions in WritingUsing Your Journal to Identify Relapse SignsUsing Your Journal to Cope with Social PressuresTrying Different Techniques

When you are recovering from an addiction, there are many different treatment options that can help you to recover. Journaling is a good way to track your emotions, addiction triggers, and stressful situations. You can also use it to help you develop plans to help you cope with your emotions and to identify relapse signs, so journaling is an excellent addition to your recovery plan.

Method 1
Identifying Your Emotions in Writing

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    Identify the problem.[1] You can use your journal to keep track of challenges in your life and how they are affecting you. If you are having an off day, then start by describing what is bothering you.
    • Ask yourself, “What is bothering me?”
    • Describe the people, situations, and things that are bothering you. For example, did you have a bad day at work? Did you get into an argument with your significant other? Explain what happened in as much detail as you can.
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    Describe how you are feeling.[2] After you have identified the problem, you will need to look at your feelings surrounding the problem. Write about the feelings you are having currently or reflect on the feelings that you were having earlier.
    • Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Or, “What was I feeling when the problem occurred?”
    • Describe your feelings in as much detail as you can. For example, if you had a bad day a work, you might be feeling sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
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    Explain your response.[3] Next, you will need to think about how you responded to the situation and to your emotions. For example, did you blow up at a coworker because you were getting behind and he interrupted you? Did you think about using?
    • Ask yourself, “How did I respond to the situation and to my emotions?”
    • Describe what you did to cope with your situation and feelings.
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    Decide what you will do next.[4] After looking at what happened, you can also use your journal to help you design a plan for how best to move forward. For example, you might decide that you owe your coworker an apology for yelling at him. Or, you might decide that you need to work on developing some better coping techniques for stressful situations.
    • Ask yourself, “What is my plan?”
    • Describe what you plan to do to resolve the situation and how you plan to prevent a similar problem in the future.

Method 2
Using Your Journal to Identify Relapse Signs

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    Write about thoughts of using. One of the early signs of relapse is thinking about using drugs and/or alcohol. This may be accompanied by a change in attitude towards using.[5] For example, your fearful thoughts about using and becoming addicted again may be replaced by a strong desire to use.
    • Write about any thoughts you are having about using. What have you been thinking about doing? When do you have these thoughts?
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    Identify triggers. Being around drugs and/or paraphernalia can trigger a desire to use in some people, which is why it is a good idea to remove all substances and paraphernalia from your home. You should also avoid situations where you might be exposed to substances and/or paraphernalia.[6] If you find that you are triggered by other things, you can write about them in your journal.
    • Write about any people, places, objects, situations, or other things that seem to trigger a desire to use. For example, you might find that a certain person who you used to use with might trigger your desire to use. Describe the thoughts and feelings that you have when you see this person.
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    Watch for mood and attitude shifts. One of the more subtle signs that can indicate a relapse is a change in your mood and/or attitude.[7] For example, you might go from feeling happy to feeling depressed. Or, you might go from feeling grateful that you are in recovery to feeling resentful that you have to go to meetings.
    • Record any changes in your attitude and/or mood by writing about them in your journal.
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    Share your concerns with your counselor or sponsor. To reduce the chances of a relapse, make sure that you talk to your counselor or sponsor about any relapse signs that you have noticed.[8]
    • Be honest about your thoughts and feelings when you share with your counselor or sponsor. Sharing what you have recorded in your journal may help you to prevent a relapse.

Method 3
Using Your Journal to Cope with Social Pressures

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    Identify the event or situation that you are worried about.[9] Journaling may also help you to cope with a stressful event or social situation that might trigger your desire to use. First, identify the event and any relevant details about it.
    • List when the event or social situation is, where it will be, who will be there, what it is for, and why you want/need to attend it.
    • A worrisome event could take many forms. For example, you might have a family gathering that you are worried about, an upcoming business trip, or just an outing with friends.
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    Express your thoughts and feelings about the event or situation.[10] After you have identified relevant details about the event, you will need to think about how it makes you feel. Record your thoughts and feelings surrounding the event in your journal.
    • For example, you might identify that you are feeling worried, anxious, and excited. Try to examine these feelings and explain where they might be coming from.
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    Decide what you will do to cope.[11] After you have identified your emotions regarding the event, try to look at how you will cope with these emotions during the event. What will you do to avoid allowing these feelings to affect you? How will you avoid a situation where you might be tempted to use? For example, you might decide that you will:
    • only stay for a limited amount of time, such as one hour.
    • call your counselor or sponsor before and after the event.
    • excuse yourself to go and do some deep breathing exercises if you get overwhelmed.
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    Evaluate your results.[12] After the event, you can also use your journal to reflect on how you handled the situation and how you might improve your results in the future. For example, did you stick to your plan? How did you feel during and after the event? What might you do differently next time?
    • Describe how you think things went and how it made you feel.

Method 4
Trying Different Techniques

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    Try different types of journaling. There are multiple different types of journaling that you can do. The type of journaling you choose to do will be based on personal preference, your recovery process, and where you are in your recovery. These different types include:[13]
    • A stream of consciousness journal, where you just write whatever comes into your head without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or format.
    • A diary journal, where you discuss all the important things that happen in your day.
    • A gratitude journal, where you focus on the positive things in life apart from any negative feelings you go through.
    • A spiritual journal, where you document your ongoing spiritual development.
    • A health or exercise journal, where you discuss how you are working towards a healthy lifestyle as part of your recovery.
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    Do it every day. Journaling now and then can be helpful, but journaling every may be even more helpful. Try your best to write in your journal every day. This will help you keep track of your thoughts and your recovery progress on a daily basis.[14]
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    Write for a short amount of time. You don't have to journal for long periods of time every day. This could get overwhelming and make you quit before it has a chance to help you with your addiction. Try to aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day of journaling.[15]
    • If 20 to 30 minutes is too much, start smaller. Start by writing for five minutes a day and then work up to the longer time period.
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    Do it before bedtime. It may be hard to find time to journal during your day. However, instead of putting it off or not doing it at all, cut out a slot of time before bed to write in your journal. This is a good time of day to reflect on everything that happened and for you to analyze all of your thoughts.
    • Keep a journal by your bed or in your favorite chair in your bedroom where you can write your entry at night.[16]
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    Find a private place to write. When you write, it can be easy to get distracted if you are in a busy area. This will make it easier to focus on your emotions and feelings as you journal every day. However, if you cannot find a quiet spot, then writing while you are on the go is fine too.
    • If you are out and about, try to find a private, tucked away place such as a quiet corner of a coffee shop or your local library.
    • If you are at home, find a quiet spot in your house where you won't be bothered by family or roommates.[17]
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    Verbalize your journal. If you don't like writing or can't for some reason, try talking instead of writing your journal. This can help if you aren't a fan of writing things down or if you find it difficult to do so.
    • Find a voice recorder or use a voice recording app on your phone to record your journal entries.
    • You can make video journals if you like that form better as well.[18]
    • If you do verbal or video journaling, review your recordings every so often to reflect on your journaling.


  • Keep your journal in a safe place if you do not want other people to be able to find and read it. Try stowing it in a closed or locked drawer if you worry that your family or roommates may invade your privacy.

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Categories: Addictions