Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 5: Packing for the Journey Home

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The Value of Documenting Your Journey

Woman writing on a pad of paper and making a few notes about her recovery

While "one day at a time" is an excellent victory yardstick, imagine the value of being able to look back and see what each day was like.

Consider jotting down a few calendar notes or diary entries about early recovery and the challenges overcome. Although not necessary to success, doing so could prove valuable later.

Why would anyone want to vividly recall the first few days of recovery, days which could reflect a tumultuous blend of frustrations, anxieties, crave episodes, anger, bargaining and sadness? For the same reason we need to remember - in as much detail as possible - daily life as an actively feeding addict.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "those who forget the past are destined to repeat it." It's hard to imagine a situation where it rings truer than with drug recovery and relapse.

Humans tend to repress and inhibit negative emotional memories, and emotional experiences in general.[145] Instead, we remember and replay the good, while forgetting the bad.

Imagine if it were otherwise. A vivid picture of all the pain, anxiety and hurt of all our yesterdays would be a heavy burden to bear.

While your mind may quickly suppress memories of the challenges overcome, ink on paper or words typed into a computer are durable. The best way to protect against complacency isn't by forgetting what bondage or recovery was like, but by accurately recalling them.

It's wise to make a record of both the reasons you want to break free and what the first couple of weeks were like. Consider sending yourself an e-mail before bed. And here's an example of why.

Imagine hitting what feels like a recovery plateau, where you no longer sense improvement. Imagine feeling stuck and wondering if it's going to remain this way for good, as if your rose bud stopped opening.

Now, imagine being able to look back and read your own progress notes. Like having a medical chart during a hospital stay, your record can provide accurate perspective of how far you've come.

It can help calm concerns that recovery has stalled. And although at times nearly impossible to see, I assure you, recovery's rose bud continues to slowly unfold.

Imagine the benefit of journaling each and every day. Imagine the relapse prevention benefit of re-reading your journal one, five or even ten years later.

Consider making yourself a present gift of future memory. Look at it as free insurance against complacency and relapse. A few memory-jogging notes when starting out could become invaluable during challenge, lulls or once complacency arrives.

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145. Davis PJ, et al, Repression and the inaccessibility of affective memories, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 1987, Volume 52(1), Pages 155-162; also see Depue BE, et al, Prefrontal regions orchestrate suppression of emotional memories via a two-phase process, Science July 13, 2007, Volume 317(5835), Pages 215-219.

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Page created June 26, 2015 and last updated January 28, 2018 by John R. Polito