How Recovery from Addiction is a Lot Like Writing

For many individuals in early recovery, self-expression can be a significant hurdle – perhaps one of the most significant. They have difficulty finding the words to describe how they’re feeling. It’s difficult to ask for help when you really don’t know what you need. Expressive arts and experiential therapies are a part of many recovery programs. Writing is one way a lot of people come to realize their true thoughts and feelings. Early recovery can be compared to many of life’s difficult chapters, and it is surprising how recovery is a lot like writing. For those who choose the pen (or keyboard), a remarkable, personal journey awaits.

As a writer who works in recovery, I’ve seen the parallels:

Recovery from Addiction

Pre-Contemplation: You think you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but you’re not sure. Examine the reasons you think you might be. Legal, financial, health, relationship, or employment problems are some signs that your substance use has become substance abuse. Talk with someone you trust. Research. Write down your thoughts.

Contemplation: You now admit that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and you know you need to make a change. It’s time to seek help. Talk about it – there’s no right or perfect way to recover. This is up to you. Explore your options, but take action. Make an appointment with an addiction specialist or a treatment center.

Preparation: Look over your past choices and consequences. What do you want your life to look like going forward? What kinds of changes are you willing to make?

Action: This is the physical process of early recovery – engage in detoxification, treatment and/or therapy. This is a sometimes difficult but, ultimately, satisfying experience. You’re doing it!

Maintenance: Recovery takes time, but with persistence, dedication, courage, and some support, you’ve made it through the tough, early days of recovery and you’re well on your way to the life you want to live. It’s time to share what you have with others. Help someone who is struggling by sharing your own recovery process with them.


Pre-Write: Find Your Idea. Decide to write and commit to the task. Explore your initial thoughts about what you want to write. Think about it. Talk to others. Research. Brainstorm. Make lists. Plan. Outline.

Write: Begin writing it all down. Don’t worry about spelling, structure, or clarity. These are your thoughts and knowledge. Get it on the page in whatever format you choose (narrative prose, poetry, script, etc.). As you write, more ideas will come – write them down.

Revise: Re-read your draft. Does what you’ve written say what you intended to say? Will your reader (if there is one) understand your point, or is something still missing? Organize your thoughts. Add what was missing. Rearrange as necessary and remove what doesn’t make sense.

Edit: Check for grammar, spelling, mechanics, and structure, and make all necessary changes. Watch for too much repetition. This detailed process is arduous, but you’ll love your work more for your efforts. Take your time. If it gets overwhelming, ask for help – an extra set of eyes can be very helpful if you cannot see the forest for the trees.

Publish: Now you have a finished piece of work. Sit back, smile, and then hand it off for someone else to enjoy. Celebrate your diligence, then sit back down and start something new!

If you or a loved one are interested in leaving addiction behind and writing a new chapter in your story, our addiction treatment center can help. Please contact us today.

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