Writing In Your Recovery


Written by Robyn

During my recovery I am becoming more and more aware of the POWER OF WORDS, the power of our language, and thus the power of our self-talk… Ok I must say this was something that was pointed out to me again and again by my therapists, the care workers, at group… but do you think I really got it? No. I was very resistant, my condition was incredibly stubborn, my own self-belief was so minute, and I had no real trust in anyone, myself included… So I didn’t really take on board what I was told.

I admire the persistence of my therapists, actually I really admire it. The patience they showed towards me, repeating the same thing over and over again, and they would just NEVER GIVE UP on me. Really, this is actually something that amazes me so much – they never gave up on me… and it was their belief in my ability to fully recover that helped keep me going.

But the work as such, believe it or not, was somehow done by me…

One of the most important steps, I realised, was the way I changed my language when writing… and this is what I want to focus on here.

When I speak of WRITING, there are two types of writing:

  • Journaling, writing a day-to-day diary
  • Writing on message boards, forums, support forums, Iceberg

I have been writing a diary on and off throughout my life. When I was travelling on my own, this often turned into the most colourful and dense descriptions of experiences, landscapes, people, events, happenings… especially in South America (hmmm, I’m drifting off dreaming a bit…). This was good, positive, constructive writing…

But there was another approach to journaling, one that I was very drawn to, and one that, in fact, really pulled me down and was detrimental to my recovery. I am talking about the blunt writing down of my thoughts, my stream of consciousness. This style had once been recommended to me in a therapy program I attended prior to Marino, and I continued this style of writing for a long time after, even during my time at the Marino Centre. I must say, I really thought that I was doing something positive with this; I was convinced that by writing down all of my fears, worries, and negative brain content, it would help me to off-load, and then I could get on with life. But this is untrue… it’s not a good idea, not when you are in the depths of condition!!! Because, as you may know by now… the condition grabs every opportunity to tell you how awful you are, and when you are vulnerable and weak you really have to stay away from journaling in this way… EVERY WORD AND EVERY THOUGHT IS AN AFFIRMATION…

This was really detrimental to my recovery process and in a matter of fact, it was pure SELF-SABOTAGE, complete and utter SABOTAGE, and it was the best way to ruin, in a couple of minutes, the benefit of an entire therapy session.

Of course, anything and everything I wrote was the most negative, horrendous, terrible self-talk that was streaming through my consciousness at the time. In this way, I repeated to myself, over and over again, all the negative and destructive thoughts and NEGATIVE AFFIRMATIONS. How can anyone recover if s/he writes this condition-talk? Actually, the diaries, I realise now, are not really mine, they are conditions. Reading back through them, it feels like a black cloud amassing over my head, a cold hand clasping my heart and it is suffocating…

I realised that in order to support my recovery process I had to change my style of writing … to no longer write down condition thoughts, but rather neutral or even positive thoughts. I’m not saying it was easy to do so, it felt as if my hand needed to be forced to write ‘I am okay’ instead of “…***…”. Sometimes I would just copy a paragraph from the ‘Recovery Now’ workbook. No matter how I felt, even completely and utterly distressed and disconnected from whatever I had written, AT LEAST I had written SOMETHING POSITIVE. If you write for several days page after page of   ‘I am okay’, at some stage your sub-conscious mind starts to listen…

If you opened my diary now, you’d read things like:

“GOOD MORNING my dear Robyn. Well, another day to be lived… I’m going to have a good day today. No matter what happens, it is something that I can and will handle” Ok, I admit, sometimes I’m winging it a bit. “Ah, I feel tired today, why did I watch that film late last night? No Robyn, stop! You chose to watch it because you really liked the actor, and you enjoyed it, didn’t you?”

So, you see… ha, my diary is a mad mess of lovely and weird, contradictory things… But I never ever let a negative feeling or expression sit there without, at the very least, writing ‘STOP’ after it… In fact, I am applying the Iceberg rules to my journaling now… keep it positive and constructive, supportive and helpful. Anything else, I shall bring to my next one-to-one session.

Oh yes, and I am learning to write some self- praise too, like, ‘well done with not letting the essays stress you out’. ☺

Anyway, this is enough for the moment.

So remember: Everything you think, write, and say to yourself, every word is an affirmation. The condition is vicious and clever and grasps every opportunity to bring us down… so watch what you are thinking, writing and saying. And should you catch condition talking away in your head or presenting itself on your journal page… close the door on her, slam the door in her face and keep her locked out…