Daily journalling offers a chance for reflection, inspiration and joy

Jo Ferbrache, who blogs under the name Sober Jo, discusses her love of journalling, a hobby she took up to chronicle her efforts to cut alcohol out of her life

Jo Ferbrache, aka Sober Jo                                                             Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30748240)
Jo Ferbrache, aka Sober Jo Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30748240)

BEFORE taking on my Sober Charity Challenge, I set up a blog to document the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The blog’s purpose was to hold me accountable to people who had sponsored me, but it ended up as a therapeutic way to get out of my head while both reflecting on the change I was experiencing and sharing my journey with others.

I realised that I hadn’t written down how I felt since I was a teenager. Back then, I used to cram my diaries full of memories, secrets, angst, photos, doodles, ideas and love notes, but, somewhere along the way, I stopped doing this.

Perhaps we judge ourselves more for our thoughts and feelings as we grow older? I know that to read those journals now would be cringeworthy but, at the time, it was an excellent way to process all of the new emotions that seemed to be gifted daily.

And so, probably for the first time since then, I had to deal with feelings that I’d previously drowned out and suppressed with alcohol; the blog and a written journal gave me space to decompartmentalise things. I also had a lot of inspiration and new ideas, and I needed somewhere to document everything.

I enjoy reviewing my victories and writing down key lessons that I learned along the way. I write short notes throughout my journal for the times that I might need a little extra boost and reminders to practise gratitude – an exercise that has helped to ground me.

I also write positive affirmations, stating what I want to feel. The more I say these out loud and write them in my journal, the more I believe them and live by them.

My journal offers a prompt for reflection at the end of each month. The questions that I spend time writing and thinking about include:

What was the most memorable part of the month? Describe it.

What were the biggest lessons you’ve learned in the past month?

Review your journal. Are you happy with how you spent your time? What might you do differently next month?

How are you different between this past month and the month before it?

What or who are you incredibly grateful for this past month?

If you knew you couldn’t fail next month, what would you do?

On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel overall about the past month?

I also tracked how much money I’d raised for charity.

I begin each month by setting intentions, outlining what I want to focus on, people I want to see, places I want to go – and even writing a ‘not-to-do’ list, always with ‘drinking alcohol’ at the top with a big cross through it.

I schedule rewards to symbolise having achieved something – ‘my first sober everything’ – and this includes birthdays, hen dos, weddings, Christmas, holidays, the list goes on. After all, I saved a fortune not drinking and could afford to invest in myself.

As soon as I’d felt like I’d moved forward, something would come along and challenge me (it still does now over two years in), dragging me backwards and leaving me to feel vulnerable and triggered. These moments became easier to track via writing about them in my journal daily, which significantly impacted my level of self-awareness. It’s also a great way to show yourself how far you have come, too.

When you write in a journal it is important not to judge yourself for what comes out. You do not have to be a professional writer. Unless you choose to share it with others, it is only for your eyes. Let the words flow. What comes out might be nonsense or it might be the ‘a-ha!’ moment you’ve been waiting to discover. Reflect on what you write with kindness. If someone opened up their heart to you, you would offer them words of support, not judgment – so do the same for yourself.

Sometimes I do it in the morning, sometimes I take a break at lunch, and sometimes I do it before I go to bed. It is down to each individual when they can give themselves the time.

I enjoy creating a mindful moment through a ritual of smelly candles, a beautiful journal, a mug of warming herbal tea – but, if preferred, you could just use a piece of paper. There is no right or wrong way. I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hands when I stopped drinking and was recovering, and I wanted to spend it wisely.

Did I mention that keeping a journal is scientifically proven to reduce stress and help mental wellbeing? There is plenty of research and evidence to support this claim.

Sharing experiences through my blog also added awareness about a topic that doesn’t get discussed much. I was amazed by how many people reached out to me, identifying themselves as a ‘grey-area “problem” drinker’. They knew that alcohol wasn’t serving them anymore and that life would change if they were to stop drinking, and they thanked me for my honesty. By wearing my heart on my sleeve and being vulnerable, people related to my story and thought about their own relationship with alcohol.

Words hold so much power, and journalling is an activity that I will take great pleasure in for as long as possible.

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