This article was originally published on PscyhCentral.com.
Telling Your Story: 5 Ways Writing is Essential to Recovery
Writing is a hugely important tool for those in recovery from chemical dependency, sex addiction and for emotional growth and recovery in general. Writing about yourself is a form of self-care but it is much more. In addiction treatment, it is a systematic set of exercises for self-exploration. Here are some reasons why you must do the written tasks of treatment and make writing a part of your recovery practice.
Writing reduces shame
Often people can write about something before they can talk about it. Some things that have been kept secret for a long time may be too embarrassing to say out loud, even in a meeting with other addicts or patients. In writing about difficult things they become less overwhelming. Writing is a step along the way to living in integrity.
Writing reinforces your sense of self
In addiction treatment writing implies that you accept the fact that you must take responsibility to complete certain tasks as part of your recovery. It means you “come to your own assistance.” In this way you begin to believe that you can rely on yourself to self-activate, set boundaries and make your life manageable. It enhances the feeling of the value and substance of your life.
Writing is a spiritual activity
Writing about yourself is a meditative activity. It involves stillness and attentiveness to yourself on an intuitive level. It is private; you are not addressing anyone except yourself and your “higher power.” It is a solitary and soothing practice. Writing is a mindfulness practice. It allows you to begin to be mindful of your whole inner life.
Writing propels your recovery forward
Because it gives permission to consider all the big and little events of your life and history, writing allows you make sense out of where you came from and where you are now. It is a way to connect the dots of your feelings, fears, dreams, fantasies and memories. Writing deepens self-awareness and self-insight on an emotional as well as intellectual level.
In writing you construct your personal narrative
Many of us grow up with a personal narrative that was told to us by others. This is a story of our life that may not match the reality of what happened to us. Some people had such a disorganized attachment history growing up that they never formed a narrative of their life at all. Either way the story doesn’t depict who we really are. It is a representation of a false self. In writing we challenge what is false in that life narrative and write a more realistic and coherent one.
Writing should be satisfying and comforting. How you write will be as important as what you write. If you are working a 12-step program you will be encouraged to be “thorough and fearless” in your self examination. In addiction recovery task work you will need to be as clear and honest as possible. But you will also need to be non-judgmental and compassionate with yourself. Writing is not an exercise in self-criticism.
Writing as a habit of recovery can become your special time to think, observe and understand.