Some recovering addicts make a daily practice of writing. It often helps us clarify what we are thinking and feeling. It becomes an opportunity to commune with the deeper parts of ourselves. Writing can be especially useful when we feel overwhelmed by strong feelings, obsessive thinking, or impulses toward our addiction. It may be something you want to do regularly or from time-to-time. While there are numerous ways to use writing to enhance and support your recovery, many have found the following four exercises to be particularly helpful.
Coming to terms with powerlessness is central to recovery and is a task of Step One. Even if you are not yet working the steps, you can begin to look at what it means to be powerless. When you feel overwhelmed with the desire to act out, write about what you are feeling and thinking. Writing about powerlessness is a means of breaking through denial. It may also help to diffuse the power these impulses hold over us.
When we admit our powerlessness and seek help from those around us, we tap into our willingness to find a Higher Power. The admission that we can’t go it alone is the beginning of a new way of life.
Unacknowledged fear is often a pervasive aspect of our addictive thinking and behavior. Our sexual compulsions mask our awareness of the power this emotion has over us. By taking the time to write our fears down, we become more conscious of them and begin to understand how they influence us. Some fears seem to drop away just from being exposed to the light of reason.
Whether we end up taking specific actions, or turning these feelings over to our Higher Power, we have taken an active stance and are no longer victimized by this emotion. Doing this exercise may help to release the energy tied up in our fears and support healthier solutions to the issues in our lives. Writing about fear in greater detail will also be a part of completing the Fourth Step.
Like fear, resentments distort our thoughts and feelings. They undermine our serenity, shut us off from God, and leave us more prone to acting out sexually.
In this writing exercise we put down on paper what we are resentful about. We attempt to look honestly for the part we play in the situation. We ask ourselves how we have set it in motion or kept it going. While it is a fact that people sometimes do things that threaten or hurt us, we don’t have power over what they do. The purpose of this exercise is to help us understand that we have choices around our own behavior and our reactions to others.
It is often our own character defects that keep us stuck in resentment. Laying all this out on paper is the beginning of a spiritual process that enables us to let go of these damaging feelings. Many members find that praying for those we resent encourages compassion for ourselves and for them. Writing about resentment, with your sponsor’s guidance, will also be a part of Step Four.
4. Gratitude List
The process of recovery may be rocky and challenging. Especially in the beginning, our addictive impulses may feel out of control and overwhelming. We may lose sight of what is going right in our lives and of the many things that nourish and sustain us. Making a list of things we are grateful for keeps us more balanced. There is always something to be grateful for, such as a good night’s sleep, health, friends, or sobriety. When times get rough, we can return to our gratitude list for an instant boost to our morale. Sometimes just saying out loud that we are grateful for this day of sobriety helps to reinforce our commitment to stay abstinent. Gratitude is an attitude we choose for living well.