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  • Alumni Perspective: The Healing Power of Journaling

    by Nicolle N. (Munro)

    journaling-240x180It was an honour to be able to launch and facilitate my new workshop: Creative Journaling: the Promises of Recovery. It was an even bigger honour to do so with Renascent on June 30, 2013 in the basement of the Lillian and Don Wright Family Health Centre.

    I was excited as this has been a dream of mine, a goal of mine, since 1999 when it first occurred to me that I wanted to share the message that creativity and journaling are powerful tools that enhanced, grounded and improved my recovery.

    So you can imagine my excitement almost 14 years later. I was bursting with anticipation that morning. What I did not expect was that this One Day Intensive would take on a life and a spirit of its own for everyone involved.

    The participants were a diverse range of alumni, all different ages and lengths of sobriety and programs, some from residential and some from the family program as well.

    What became so clear is that no matter what program, what sobriety, what creative experience one had – it did not matter.  We were all starting the workshop in the same place and in the same way: at the beginning, which is to connect to self. Tuning in to our relationship to ourselves.

    This is the beginning of creative journaling; it’s where we all start. Taking the time to unplug from the Internet, from our iPad, our iPhone, and to connect with self and plug back into self-awareness and ongoing self care. This is the journey of getting to know who we are – in sobriety, in recovery and spiritually right now.

    What surprised me the most? More than the risk that all took to share their thoughts, hurts and fears about being creative? More than seeing that journaling is an important, healing tool for self care?  A viable outlet so that we don’t have to hold things in anymore, but can get them out on paper?

    What surprised me and struck me the most was the intimacy present in the room. It was both silent and outspoken. I realized then that the very act of creative journaling is the act of learning healthy intimacy. How to be intimate with oneself – without acting out, running to or from a substance, person or place.  Allowing ourselves the time to process helps to identify likes and dislikes, feelings and patterns. Ultimately, we will uncover and have the courage to change the things we can. I was surprised to see this so strongly, as I had never articulated it before.

    I was immediately grateful that journaling had been suggested to me by my first sponsor and by an addiction counsellor. I was filled with even more gratitude that, in spite of huge resistance, there was some part of me that had listened to these suggestions and consented to try it. A turning point of sorts, where the tiny part of me that wanted recovery said OK I will surrender to doing this STUPID journal writing thing!

    Ironically, it was journaling that would ground me all along my sobriety, literally saving my sobriety many times. How? There were numerous times in my journey of sobriety and recovery where I could not get a hold of my sponsor or my addiction counsellor. They were not available immediately and I was wrestling with myself and my demons and so much chaos that had I not had a journal to turn to – that kept me sane or stopped me from picking up a drink or a drug or some form of acting out – I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

    Instead I sat down and poured it out on paper as my sponsor and counsellor had suggested I do – my innermost thoughts and feelings, what was going through my head – so that later it helped me to explain and sort out this new thing called ME.  Journaling allowed me to be more willing when it came down to doing step work. I could sit and write it down and share it afterwards with a counsellor or sponsor. It really was the beginning of me getting to know who I really was, intimately. A big game changer for me.

    And now here I was, years later, leading this workshop.  In the morning I said a silent prayer, and began. I knew that creating a safe environment for all was paramount, that we needed time to explore, to discuss creativity, share affirmations, jump into play, using scissors, crayons, stickers to make collage boards.

    In the end, this workshop for me as a facilitator reminded me of what I always need to be reminded of – no matter how many years sober I am.

    It’s really simple. I am not in charge, really, there is a power greater than myself at work here. Big time. Keeping me in check and, at the same time, affirming that I am on the right path.

    In gratitude for all,

    Nicolle

     

    Writing Exercise:

    Spend 5 minutes writing everything that comes to mind using the following prompt. Challenge yourself to write the first things off the top of your head, even if they seem silly.  Challenge yourself to write 10 more!

    “If I had more time I would …”

     

    What some participants had to say:

    Workshop opened a new door for me. I bought the Artist’s Way.

    Stellar.

    Discipline to conquer the fear of self reflection seems less of a brick wall now and I have begun to use the index cards you suggested…

    It certainly opens up the creative channels.  I especially like how the exercises were open ended and that people were encouraged to follow their intuition.

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.