In 1986, James W. Pennekbaker, a pioneer in writing therapy, did the first of numerous experiments that involved writing down feelings. Since then many scientists have attempted to replicate his protocols. The results of these experiments unanimously show that when a person writes about upsetting events in their lives, it improves their physical and mental health. Meaning that there is substantiated proof that writing helps trauma victims heal. Why does it work? Because it is a coping skill that we can latch onto and repeat anywhere, especially with today’s technology. There is always something on hand with which you can put thoughts and feelings down whenever the urge hits you—pen and paper, cell phone, computer . . . a napkin if you have to.
A great way to start the process of penning your therapy and writing your way through recovery is through free writing. A practice a person can use to improve the quality of their writing and the thought process which goes into creating genuine sentences. In free writing you can use any object you want to start off a string of associations.
Look at any object then write the first thing that comes to mind. Then keep writing without stopping, rereading, or crossing out. By triggering this chain-reaction, soon an image will come to you, then a memory, and before you know it, you’ll have a paragraph. Later, when you’ve had time to step away and then come back to read your journal with fresh eyes, you’ll find that what you wrote will be a manifestation of these associations, each one unique to you and your experience.
In the 12 Step program, keeping a journal is recommended so that recovering addicts and alcoholics alike will have a tool to identify emotional sobriety and mental stress associated with their behaviors, their past experiences, trauma and with a life of active drug or alcohol use. Journaling often purges negativity, or at least helps recovering addicts address negative issues to better understand the feelings and actions associated with their past.