Question 9: “Have you done some journaling today?”
If you are trying to overcome any compulsive or addictive behaviors you need to keep a journal.
As you might guess, I enjoy writing; it allows me to be creative in an environment other than Excel (I work as a Finance Analyst). And although I enjoy writing I don’t write in my journal every day, so I can imagine that those who don’t enjoy writing might have even fewer journal entries than I do. You might not even own a journal to write in…that could prove costly.
Question 9 applies not only to those with a fondness for wielding a pen (or word processing software) but to all those who want to defeat their own destructive behaviors. The reason lies in the nature of the Addiction Cycle.
Let me demonstrate with a hypothetical dieting situation: 1) You feel stressed out at work and you start thinking about that chocolate you want but know you are not supposed to eat; 2) You start planning a route past that one woman’s desk that always has Hershey’s Kisses in a bowl; 3) You take a walk past her desk, take a piece of the forbidden treat, and eat it; 4) You remember your diet, feel guilty, and vow to stick to the plan from now on…until you get home and your kids stress you out…
At this point you have made it all the way around the Addiction Cycle and you are threatening to enter it again. If this example pertained to a recovery program, you would have lost your sobriety.
As I demonstrated in an earlier post, there is an equation you can use to determine whether you will act out in any situation. If: (Pain you are currently experiencing) > (Perceived pain after acting out), you will act out. All of the Steps and Questions I discuss are either trying to get your current pain lowered, or to get you to realistically asses how much pain you will experience after acting out.
One of the reasons people repeat destructive behaviors are because the denominator in the equation above (Perceived pain after acting out) tends to shrink over time due to faulty or selective memory. People choose to forget how ashamed and disappointed they felt the last time they acted out. This is why writing in a journal during the Addiction Cycle is so important! You need to record your thoughts and feelings so that every time you fall back into the Cycle you will be reminded of the potential for pain and misery by your own words.
Before I entered recovery I often thought to myself after acting out, “I should write down how terrible I feel right now…maybe leave myself a little note next to the computer to remind me not to use pornography again.” But I never did.
You can also learn from your journal entries by recording the facts surrounding your entry into the Addiction Cycle and avoid those situations in the future. When journaling in the Addiction Cycle you should record things like:
- Where you were when you entered the Cycle
- Who triggered you
- What you felt just before entering the Cycle (especially if you were feeling of hungry, angry, lonely or tired)
- Which of the 8 Steps you failed to use
- Which of the 21 Questions you failed to ask yourself
Today’s Challenge: Buy a journal. Carry it around with you or leave it in your car so that you can get to it quickly when you enter the Addiction Cycle. The next time you enter the Cycle take detailed notes as outlined above. Review previous days’ notes.