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Creative Writing May Help in the Recovery Process

May 29, 2014

In some ways, the physical tolls of substance abuse can be easier to address than the emotional ones. Medical science has advanced to the point where addiction is correctly categorized as a disease in need of treatment, and in some cases specially formulated medications can help ease the symptoms of people suffering through acute withdrawal syndrome.

Less well-regimented is the approach to curing the emotional scars left behind by drug and alcohol abuse. In many cases, people are driven back to substance abuse by emotional swings, not by irresistible cravings. While addiction treatment centers across the country are staffed with professional counselors and therapists who have extensive experience helping people come to terms with their pasts, some people may benefit from a more introspective approach to recovery. In these cases, therapy through creative writing may be just the solution.

Putting Pen to Paper

Though people in a recovery program have made a willful choice to improve their lives, these people may not be ready to open up to the world about their issues. They may not even be comfortable discussing these problems with a therapist. However, creative writing therapy allows people in recovery to have a conversation with themselves and their own stories. explained that when used in the right setting, creative writing can allow former drug and alcohol users to address their emotional issues without airing them out to the world. Those in recovery may still be emotionally raw after drastic changes in their lives have led them to recovery, and they may not be ready to stand up in front of a group of people and admit their faults.

Moreover, creative writing can allow people to realize thoughts and feelings they were unaware they had. After all, the field of creative writing is filled with self-centric maxims like, “Write what you know.” If people in treatment write a poem or a short story, chances are that the subconscious issues that could potentially pose a threat to the success of their recoveries will end up on the page. Once this happens, people in recovery may wonder what other thoughts are hiding inside them, prompting significant and therapeutic introspection.

Does creative writing work for those in recovery?

Writing for Addiction Today, recovery specialist Fiona Friend recounted a creative writing session she led at an addiction treatment center. She instructed her students, all adults in recovery for substance abuse, through nonfiction, fiction and poetry exercises that were designed to allow them to put the thoughts they could not say onto the page.

When the class finished, Friend had her students fill out a questionnaire on the class. When asked if they thought creative writing was therapeutic, 100 percent said yes. When asked why, responses varied – some said they had not thought that directly about themselves for years, while others were able to find new perspectives by writing on events in their pasts.

Though almost 70 percent admitted that they did not initially believe that a creative writing class would help them in their efforts to stay sober, 90 percent believed the class would have a direct impact on their recovery efforts when asked the same question after their last session.

Creative writing is not a cure-all for addiction therapy, but it may be another tool that people in recovery can use to increase their chances of success. While the physical issues of addiction are best left to professionals, individuals themselves must face the emotional hurdles of substance abuse.

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