The idea that recovery means recovering our selves sounds like a simple formula, but it is hard to make the equation work unless you know what you are solving for. It could be recovery equals rebuilding your self-esteem, or reclaiming purpose or finding equilibrium. Or maybe it is what you value outside of yourself, a home, a family, and friendships. Or all of the above. Whatever else we share on this journey, we have all lost something dear—motivation enough to embark on this road to recovery.
There is no magic to this formula. The key is to find and understand the essential elements and life experiences that helps form the person we are at our best, are trying to get back to, or maybe even want to become. One way to unlock those memories entails spending time with pen and paper. Journal writing is therapeutic, and can certainly help with self-awareness, but where do you even start?
Instead of thinking of the journal as empty sheets of paper, consider them doorways to the past, to times half-forgotten, to emotions that have been locked away, to nurturing times with friends and family. You are at liberty to rediscover those intrinsic moments that make up who you are.
If you are ready to write, here is one way to get started. Consider capturing a moment. That means reliving a time when something so special happened that is at the core of your being. It could be big, like a wedding or birth, or smaller, like a special vacation or just the best game you ever played. Or maybe it’s just one tiny moment: that seashell that still sits on your shelf.
Write with all your senses: the smells, the colors, the sounds, the heat of the sun, the cold of the pool, the bittersweet taste of mint or the bite of a carnival hot dog. Become a reporter. Immerse yourself. Remember things you didn’t even think you knew: the music, your heartbeat, the clothes you wore—or didn’t! You pick the moment. It is your intent that counts: to reclaim from your past the power to make a better future.
So here is my advice. Take your pen and paper to a quiet place, take a deep breath, and breathe again. Get as still as you can and open the door to your thoughts. You will be amazed at what you can uncover and then discover. The result is all yours.
Nora Slattery is a certified Journal to the Self™ instructor. She teaches a workshop created by the Center for Journal Therapy. She is currently working on a memoir in the UCLA Writer’s Program. For workshop information: firstname.lastname@example.org.