By: Kate Mills is an analytics specialist and content creator for the RECO Intensive Outpatient Program. Responsible for curating RECO’s social media accounts, website content, and blog posts, she spends her workdays writing for and interacting with the RECO community, and believes that everyone has a story to tell.
“The universe is made of stories, not atoms,” Muriel Rukeyser once wrote.
As we wake up and interact with the world around us, we write stories every day. We create dialogue; we meet new characters; we breathe. We write stories through the simple process of living—a story that we often forget to write down.
Particularly in times of transition, the act of journaling serves to benefit the writer’s perception. A conscious detailing of thoughts onto paper allows an individual to re-experience, or perhaps even experience for the first time, an emotion, choice, or situation that once felt unclear. In rereading past journal entries, the writer can create meaningful connections between past and present, beginning an impactful conversation with his/herself.
The relationships that we make in writing are an important exercise in self-expression. Beginning a conversation with the person you are becoming allows you to document your progress in real-time, no matter what point in your journey you have reached.
Particularly in the realm of recovery, journaling holds many pathways to healing. The practice has been proven to promote accountability, alleviate stress, and encourage self-actualization. As you see your emotions and thoughts reveal themselves on paper, you become more aware and in control of your reactions to difficult circumstances and situations.
The health benefits of writing things down are many; the art form has served as a creative catharsis since the inception of writing itself. It is more than a method of communication; it is a tool with which we can acknowledge old habits and create new ones; it is an inner language of self that we can grow just as simply as we can pick up a pencil or pen.
Whether you have kept a journal in the past or not, getting started with journaling in recovery may seem like a daunting proposition.
Sometimes we feel pressured to make our writing representative of what we want it to look like, rather than a more honest self-portrait. This is normal. The process of letting go of these expectations is what will serve your writing—and your recovery—to exist in its most authentic state.
We all have a story to tell. Writing grants us with the gift to document memories, to process past experiences, and to “talk” to our emotions. No matter if you are sharing your writings with others or keeping them to yourself, the words that you produce have the capability to release stressors, to teach patience, and to grieve loss. As the product of your mind and imagination, your words have the power to make great change in your life.
To get started, consider keeping a journal of letters, a short-line synopsis of your daily activities, or even a stream-of-consciousness diary (an unedited freewriting exercise in which you can write about whatever you’d like).
A blank piece of paper or an empty laptop screen are all you need to begin. It may not be easy at first, though the experience, as it unfolds, can surprise you. Words can surprise you. Thoughts can surprise you.
You, the writer—can surprise you.
Through encouraging your creative self, you create possibility. As you think with purpose and write with intention, you draw closer to understanding and insight. The results do not need to be newsworthy or technically sound; they only need to be a representation of you.
Your story is a powerful one—for the simple reason that you are writing it, every day, as you move through your recovery.
Through journaling, you leave behind clues that you can connect over time. You can remember what you were doing “this time” last week, month, or year. You can find patterns. You can find hope.
The universe is made up of stories.
You have the power to write yours.