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The Power of Writing


The Health Benefits

One of the unique and important features of the Allies in Recovery site is the Private Journal we offer our members. As you work through the video modules, read our articles, and enjoy the Sanctuary, you will notice that we regularly encourage you to record your reactions and thoughts in your Private Journal  and in the Key Observations.

Some of the questions we ask you to consider as you work through the AiR program are…What triggers your Loved One’s use? What rewards does your Loved One most appreciate? What do you feel, think and do when your Loved One is using?

This is not merely a rote exercise. A number of studies have shown that writing regularly in a journal can improve both mental and physical health. As Dr. Steven Stosny writes at Psychology Today, journaling has many benefits.

“Journaling can have a positive effect on your behavior and well being,” writes Stosny, if it…

  • Makes you step back and evaluate your thoughts, emotions, and behavior

  • Explores solutions

  • Brings your emotions and motivations into alignment with your deepest values

  • Converts negative energy into positive creativity and growth

  • Lowers your emotional reactivity to others

  • Increases tolerance of ambiguity, ambivalence, and unpredictability, which are part of normal living

  • Helps you see other people’s perspectives alongside your own

  • Makes you feel more humane

  • Helps you take a definite course of action.

But, as Stosny details, if writing makes you live too much in your head, encourages self-obsession, wallowing in negativity, or is a vehicle of blame instead of a tool for solutions, you will not experience the same benefits.

Using the Tools on the AiR Website

The AiR journal, as well as the Track Your Progress and Key Observation features, are all tools to help you step back, assess your feelings, and capture important discoveries, so that you can begin to encourage real change in yourself and the relationship with your Loved One. 

The best way to care for your Loved One is to care for yourself, and devoting time to writing and self-evaluation is a key part of the recovery process. It is not selfish to devote time to this practice. Just the opposite in fact. 

When was the last time you “tracked your progress” on the AiR site or recorded your private thoughts in your journal after watching a video module or reading a sanctuary post? 

Not using these helpful tools is a lot like reading a how-to book on knitting without ever picking up yarn or knitting needles. It is not enough to simply read about change. You must take action if you want real change in your life and the life of your Loved One. 

(Photo by Mild Mannered Photographer via Compfight)

Why Me?

You may be thinking, “But why should I be the one to do all of this work? It is my husband or child or parent who is the real problem.”

It is true. You didn’t cause the problem, and your Loved One’s actions and consequences are their own responsibility. But as a concerned family member, you are not a helpless victim. 

Studies show that you can play a crucial role in recovery by improving communication, rewarding non-use, and stepping away when use occurs (the process we call CRAFT). 

Conflict inevitably plays out in the home. Your role in this family dynamic can either encourage or discourage recovery. Which would you rather do?

Our goal at AiR is to give you the tools you need to encourage this positive change. You are not to blame for your Loved One’s addiction, but you have the power to influence the situation and to reduce suffering. Completing the Key Observations, for example, is an important opportunity to critically assess your Loved One’s behavior and to make an action plan. Journaling about your feelings is not only good for you, but also good for your Loved One. Self-care and pro-activeness take energy and effort. Are you giving these activities the attention they deserve?

Journal Exercise

When you think about your Loved One’s addiction issues, what feelings arise? Do you feel sad, angry, discouraged, hopeful, hopeless? Record these feelings in your journal.

Do you truly believe that you can have a positive influence over your Loved One and help them towards recovery? If so, what tools and skills have you learned, through AiR or elsewhere, that will help you in this process? What techniques are working? What areas still need attention?

If you do not feel you can encourage change in your Loved One, what negative feelings or beliefs are standing in your way? 

Think of one area of repeated conflict with your Loved One. (Perhaps you have the same fight each time your Loved One comes home drunk, for example.) How might you respond differently the next time a similar conflict arises? Are there tools on the AiR site that might help you become more positive and proactive and shift this conflict so that it doesn’t follow the usual negative script? Perhaps you can watch our module on communication, ask a question on the blog, or complete a relevant section of the Key Observations?

Write down one positive action step you can take today to shift your relationship with your Loved One. 



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)