Can Keeping a Record of Substance Abuse Help You Get Clean?
Keeping a record of your substance abuse (or your cravings) is widely touted to be an effective method of taking control of your addiction. Cynics may assume that something as simple as keeping a record of your usage couldn’t possibly have any impact on your behavior, but many ex-addicts have pointed to the humble journal as one of the key factors in their recovery. If you’re still having trouble taking control of your addiction, writing your experiences and emotions down in black and white could be the turning point you’re waiting for.
Recording How Often and How Much You Use
The moment you decide to institute a change in your life is the true beginning of your recovery, but getting to that point isn’t easy. When you’re bogged down in the habitual and hazy world of substance abuse, the number of lines you snorted or drinks you kicked back isn’t always easy to settle on. It’s easy to forget the whisky chaser or the pill you popped at lunchtime because the actions become virtually automatic. Actively noting down when you take your drug of choice makes the truth irrefutable. You will have a clear record of just how often you rely on your substance, and this also makes it easier to translate into monetary value.
If you’ve made the decision to record your drug use, you probably do have a problem. Undoubtedly, your journal will reveal that your problem is actually much bigger than you imagined, and that you bleed cash into it for a series of extremely short-term highs. The harsh reality of the situation – written out in front of you in black and white – serves as a much-needed slap in the face. You begin to realize how much the substance does dominate your life, and it therefore helps you see the reasons you should make a change.
Recording When, Where and Why You Use
Most people who abuse substances have a unique set of internal (emotional) or external (situational) triggers that push them to use drugs. For example, a stressful day at work might always be followed by a stiff drink, or seeing a group of friends might always lead to heavy cannabis use. If you also make a note of the situation you are in at the different times you choose to take drugs, then you can more easily identify your triggers to use. The simplest things to write down are when you used, whom you were with, how you were feeling, and how much you used.
The important thing is to identify the most high-risk situations for you. Feelings of depression or even general melancholy might always precede an ecstasy binge, or it might be going to a nightclub where the drug is rife. There are probably a number of factors which make it more likely that you’re going to use, and when they occur simultaneously, you might notice that you take more. Identifying these situations helps immensely during recovery, because you will become acutely aware of the factors influencing you at any given time. It also helps to write down when you experienced a craving but didn’t use, for the same reasons.
The Emotional Side of Things
The last major benefit of keeping a journal is the ability to air your emotions to an impartial “listener.” Your journal is like a trusted confidant, showing unconditional love and understanding whilst still presenting you with the reality of your situation. Don’t be afraid to be brutally honest with yourself during your diary keeping. Do your best to document your reality, without undue embellishments or omissions. The process of writing events, emotions, and situations down on paper forces you to organize them into some form of narrative, which in turn helps you look at them from a different perspective. Looking at situations in new ways usually leads to a greater understanding and acceptance of what happened.
Research has shown that journal writing can help people recover from both physical and psychological conditions. It’s been found that people who write things down during their recovery (from various conditions) need less medication, feel less pain, are happier, and score much better on psychological tests. These marked benefits may not have been directly studied in substance abusers, but when coupled with the ample anecdotal evidence available online, they obviously still apply.
Starting Your Diary
The most difficult aspect of the entire process is getting started. In reality, it doesn’t matter when you start, and it doesn’t really matter if you manage to write in it every day. Aiming to find twenty minutes every day to write a short entry or keeping a record of your use throughout the day is ideal, but if you can’t always do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. If possible, keep it with you all day (along with a pen), or if not, try to find the time before you go to sleep each day. The more you use it, the more you’ll start to see the benefits and want to continue. Remember, your diary is completely confidential, and it’s yours, so you can fill it in however works for you. The key is to express yourself, talk about your drug use and the difficulties you face in your life, and above all to read it back and think about the patterns you start to see.