Indra Cidambi, M.D.

Sure Recovery

Journaling to Recovery, Made Simple

A powerful tool on the road to recovery

Posted Jun 01, 2016

When treating addiction patients on their road to recovery, I often recommend keeping a journal. I have found that journaling is a powerful tool that not only helps patients reflect on, and express their feelings, but also examine ways to avoid relapse. Over my years of experience, however, I have found that many patients don’t follow through keeping a daily journal, citing the practice as tedious. What I teach my patients is that journaling does not have to be a synopsis of their entire day. Instead, it should be a reflection of the conflicts that impacted them during the day. One of the most effective ways to journal is when a person is able to identify and address the key issue(s) bothering them that day before going to bed. This practice helps a person in recovery be on top of the stressors they face on a daily basis.

With that in mind, I developed a highly effective method of journaling that takes two minutes or less every day. This method offers my patients personal accountability as they begin to understand the cycle of addiction and come to recognize how their build ups often lead to triggers. The technique starts with just four columns, each with only one sentence. The four columns are as follows:

What Bothers Me? Identify the issue that is bothering you and write it down in one brief sentence, or less.                                                                    

How Are You Feeling? Examine your feelings associated with this problem—are you angry, sad, happy, disappointed, guilty or resentful? Write this down in one sentence or less.

What Action Did You Take? Did you take any action to address the problem? If so, write it down in one sentence or less. If not, also record this.

What Action(s) Do You Plan To Take? If you didn’t already take action, what actions do you plan on taking? Jot this action plan down in one sentence or less.

When a person has a lot of issues impacting them, it is easier to address these problems and effectively deal with stress through learned interventions or by calling their therapist or sponsor for help. Interventions could include positive self-talk, applying learned Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, or using mindfulness techniques. However, not all issues can be effectively addressed by ones’ self. I always recommends a person have their therapists’ or sponsor’s number handy to make the call when the stressors are too overwhelming to handle alone.