Writing as Catharsis in Addiction Recovery

Writing can provide a therapeutic outlet which can have a tremendous impact on a person’s insight and ability to see things differently. The general practice of writing can be especially beneficial for individuals in recovery from addiction or trauma as a cathartic tool.


Benefits of Writing

When people write about life, more is provided than just a record of thoughts and ideas. Some of the benefits of writing may include:

  • An outlet for people to vent concerns and frustrations. Internalization of feelings can feel overwhelming but writing down what is on the heart and in the mind can help lighten a person’s burdens for a time.
  • Individuals can tap into the subconscious mind. Stream of conscious writing allows a person to write without thinking to see what flows outward. An individual reads back what is written and may be amazed to see what has come out.
  • People may be stressed over things that are unclear or not within an individual’s control. Thinking can become panicked while writing provides a stable, consistent place to see things more clearly when it is written down. A journal is particularly helpful in this regard to create a timeline and start to heal wounds of the past.
  • Writing can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety as a form of self-therapy.
  • Accountability is key in recovery. Through documentation of a goal or aspirations, an individual is more likely to feel committed to the goals and actions.


Step 4

Step 4 of a 12-step program suggests members make a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory.’ Through doing this, individuals create a moral inventory while others write an actual life story, sometimes hundreds of pages long. When people write about the past it can be a form of purging. Step 10 may also involve writing as a person takes personal inventory. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members keep a diary to write in every day which helps bring clarity and focus.


Journaling in Recovery

Journaling in recovery may be beneficial for individuals trying to loose the chains of addiction. Several different styles emerge as possibilities:

  • Diary journal. This type of journal is most familiar to people and involves daily updates on a person’s life
  • Gratitude journal. The purpose of this writing seeks to increase positive thinking and gratitude. An individual records positive things happening in life. It can be an invaluable resource.
  • Spiritual journal. A spiritual journey is usually part of the recovery process so documenting it can be helpful to notice patterns and shifts along the way.
  • Health and exercise journal. People write down weight loss goals, health goals and progress notes to help stay motivated.


An individual interested in writing can develop a practice by buying a nice journal and pen. Finding a secure place for the journal is important to feel safe writing down thoughts and ideas. Begin with writing what comes to mind and make time everyday to write.


Recovery is a lifelong journey. Individuals who seek positive recovery tools and practice gratitude generally have a better outcome in recovery. If you are seeking a community and support for your recovery journey, call the Villa today. Let us help guide you to the best resources for what’s ahead.