The Difference Between a Recovery Diary and a Recovery Journal

When working with those that are new to the recovery and sobriety journey and discussing the simple recovery practices that help support their recovery from addictions and illness, I often get asked: what is the difference between a recovery diary and a recovery journal?

To put it simply, a recovery diary helps you to plan while a recovery journal helps you to process. While these are both two very different tools with unique benefits for each, both the diary and journal share the same important purpose – to support your recovery.

In the early stages of recovery, you may choose to use both tools while you find your own natural rhythm in recovery and decide what works best for you. Try both the diary and journal for a few weeks or months and see what you might like best.

To put it simply, a recovery diary helps you to plan while a recovery journal helps you to process.”

What may work for you in early recovery may not continue to benefit you down the line, so keeping your recovery tools and practices diverse through out your journey can help keep you motivated.

Recovery diary

A recovery diary helps you to plan and prepare your days/weeks and keep track of appointments, personal therapy, support group meetings, events, goals, and track sobriety milestones. It can also help you to prepare in advance for upcoming birthday and family events, celebrations and plans which can be times of acting out and using when in an active addiction.

Typically, slips, lapses, and relapses are predictable occurrences rather than unexpected, spontaneous events once recovery has begun.  So, by ensuring you have good support in place or a backup plan in advance, you increase your resilience to get through these events. 

Being mindful and good forward planning of potential challenging people, situations, and events will give you the power to make informed decisions and choices regarding upcoming plans that could compromise your recovery and the progress you have worked so hard for.  

By mindfully acknowledging these events, it allows you plenty of time to prepare for them and even discuss them in advance with your therapist, sponsor, peers, and family.

Recovery journal

A recovery journal is for writing down and processing thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the present, tapping into your own inner process. This is a wonderful way to process your inner world psychologically and emotionally in a practical ‘doing’ exercise. Journaling teaches you to actively work through, process and acknowledge rather than dismiss and suppress emotions, feelings and thoughts which often happens in active addiction.

Allow yourself to be curious and reflective of thoughts and experiences rather than judgemental and critical in your journaling. Expect to feel emotional, unsettled and even moved as feelings arise and surface in this practice, take it slow and gentle. It can be a deep, reflective practice allowing you to explore and unleash your individuality and your beautiful and authentic self. Allow yourself to let go and be creative and unbridled in your inner and outer journaling practice.

You can also use your journal to reflect on what you have discussed in personal therapy and in your support groups or as a nice way of noting inspiring quotes or even books and podcasts that resonate with you and which have been recommended.

Now that you understand the different between a recovery diary and a recovery journal you can choose to use these tools in your daily recovery and self-development practice.  

Whether you are using a recovery diary, recovery journal, or both, keep them within reach every single day and consider adding them to your daily recovery practice. 

For those in a relationship and working towards a strong recovery place, this helps establish trust and a sense of assertiveness as partners see you using your recovery journal and diary regularly. These small, practical changes your partner sees you make are very positive for them. Using a diary and journaling shows your partner that you are actively focused on your recovery, which naturally helps build trust.  

Despite their differences, a recovery diary and a recovery journal will both help you stay focused, motivated, and empowered in your recovery.  

Used together, a recovery diary and a recovery journal can be a powerful combination for being actively and mindfully dedicated not just on your recovery and sobriety but on creating a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life.


Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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