The power of externalizing thoughts (a.k.a get the shit out of your brain)

man typing at laptop

One of the most powerful aspects of blogging for me was externalising my thoughts - getting my dark drinking secrets and twisted boozy beliefs out of my brain and onto the page (or screen in this case).

When I first planned on getting sober I decided to write to myself daily in order to stay on top of my thoughts and keep myself honest. The only reason I did it on the computer rather than in a diary was because I type fast - and the only reason I did it in a blog rather than a Word document was because I thought a blog would be like a ready-made online journal that would hold all my words in one place. I had no idea people would start reading and interacting with me. I just had a feeling that using the written word to talk to myself would be an effective way to control my brain.

I was right.

The process of articulating and externalizing my thoughts and feelings was incredibly powerful and healing. Twisted beliefs or shameful memories that swirled around inside my head would be corralled into words and sentences, they'd travel down my arms and through my finger-tips and onto the keyboard and then they'd show up in black and white on the screen. The shit from inside my head. In black and white. On the screen. My truths, formulated into the written word.

Very healing and very freeing.

I figured stuff out as I was typing it out, and because I was protected by an anonymous moniker I wasn’t filtering my communication for any audience. By sharing my secrets with brutal honestly on my blog my shame started to lift and I began to heal.

The fact that people started reading my blog and leaving me comments helping me along the way was an amazing, wonderful, stupendous bonus!!!!! It sent my recovery plan into the stratosphere!!!!!

* Externalising my thoughts = powerful and healing.

* Externalising my thoughts AND gaining love & support from likeminded people online = priceless.

Addiction experts around the world will tell you how powerful blogging (or usually they say 'journalling') can be. Take this from The Recovery Book: "Writing things down can be a very powerful way to process your feelings and get them 'out of your head'. Often, problems don't seem quite so big or so awful once you've worked through them on paper. A journal is also a great way to keep an eye on your progress over time. A year or two from now, you might look back on what you wrote and be astonished at what you have accomplished." (2014, p. 195)

This was one of the big reasons I wanted to set up this site. Not only did I want to offer a place where visitors to my blog could talk to and support each other more easily, but I wanted to provide an online environment where others could easily and quickly type out their own feelings or thoughts without having to start up a blog of their own (although many of our members do!) or go out and buy a journal.

It's so gratifying now that we're up and running to hear from members how writing out their truths is helping (and of course receiving sympathy, empathy & support from others who can relate is also super-cool). I spotted this in the Members Feed a couple of days ago:

Member: "I think writing down my cravings and getting feedback from people here has really lessened their power."

And this ...

Member: "It’s amazing how that makes me feel better….. I might have to just write these feelings out more often. Good stuff!"

So dearest darling lurker… if you are reading this now and have yet to type out anything of your own.. I challenge you to put your first comment below. You can do it anonymously!! No-one will know who you are, I promise. Just say a few words, something about your drinking or your fear about a booze-free life, or a memory you are ashamed of or a wish or hope you hold for the future. You never know.. that little bit of externalization might be the start of a beautiful journey for you.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. Trijntje 4 years ago

    I was out of NZ for 6 weeks and was able to stop a few days before leaving. I was free of alcohol all that time and felt great and peaceful . I am back 1 month and gradually got enslaved again for explainable but not excusable reasons.I have to take control again and regain the respect for myself and my partner.
    I cannot afford physically and mentally this torture. This has wrecked and ruined my life for years and years. Brief periods of sobriety followed by relapse when something has thrown me.
    Another day 1 for me

  2. Juperino 9 years ago

    Hey just lovingvthis challenge agree with the blog just externalized a lot with awesome people sadly I can’t see them for quite a time. Greetings

  3. ginclear 9 years ago

    ok Im ready to start Monday

    • Author
      Mrs D 9 years ago

      Hey @ginclear sounds great! Make sure you go into our ‘Members Feed’ (click on the ‘our community’ button on the top right of the screen) and start updating there to talk in real time with other community members… you’ll be great! So awesome you are here xxx

    • ginclear 9 years ago

      Mrs D.You sent me an email as I sent one to you saying that I had read your book. Im making this commitment starting Monday. My head is slowly getting into the right frame. Having had 2 much and then driving tonight. What an idiot I am!!
      Im hoping to be strong and positive.

      Counting down the days and getting journals in place different drinks in fridge and also making sure I have plenty of healthy food.

      Has anyone set up an award system for themselves?

      ok see you all on Monday 19th January

  4. absolute76 9 years ago

    Well Mrs D, here I am taking up your challenge.
    I too am 11 days into sobriety, just as you are paintthemoon74. It started out easier than I thought it would be, but a bad day / stressful week and all of a sudden I’m feeling torn and grumpy and longing for something to take it away. But just as I’ve read in Mrs D’s book and blog, the feeling of climbing into bed each night with no booze in my system is FABULOUS.
    I really liked the comment above about drinking moderately being an ‘absolute concept’. Because for me it’s those thoughts of – “I only want one little glass of wine”, or “I’ve drunk in small amounts and been fine before!”…but the problem is that the drinking moderately was the exception and not the rule. It was unusual for me to WANT to drink moderately – and more like a constant fight or bargaining game inside my head usually only won by moderation because I needed a decent sleep or couldn’t get away with a sore head in the morning. When I think about how much alcohol has consumed my thoughts – it’s exhausting! What a waste of thinking space and time and effort!! What other things could I have achieved / thought of / dreamt about / motivated myself to accomplish with all that energy that went into drinking and desperately trying to moderate my drinking?
    I know it’s early early days for me…but already I just don’t think about alcohol so much. Not drinking is actually easier than drinking in some ways.
    WOW – now there’s a revelation I didn’t expect..

  5. QuietlyDone 9 years ago

    Great post once again Mrs. D, the wit, compassion, raw pain, and incredible kindness here are a huge help. The feelings written and reflected upon are priceless. Thank you!

  6. Anonymous 9 years ago

    I am a little over 3 years sober like you. I just found this blog, and love it!!
    I never thought I could achieve an alcohol-free life, not even a possibility. My life had revolved around drinking for more than 20 years, I tried getting sober as an alternative to suicide. I have my life back, I’m happier than I have ever been. My only regret about getting sober is that it didn’t happen earlier. It’s not a burden or chore, it’s a wonderful relief of what life can be. It’s not overnight or easy but you get there. I take it daily and treat every day as the gift that it is.

    • Rosieoutlook 9 years ago

      Your words are Inspiring! Thank you

  7. Catherine Dold 9 years ago

    Hey Mrs. D!

    Thanks so much for mentioning The Recovery Book in your post. I totally agree — writing things down is some powerful stuff. I wish we could have included even more about the power of journaling in the book — just no room! (We hope to do a workbook in the near future, however, and could include more info in there.)

    Congrats on your sobriety and your blog.

    ~ Catherine (co-author of The Recovery Book –

  8. Anonymous 9 years ago

    Technically not my first post but I have been lurking for the past couple of months and this is my first post about me. I have various jumbled thoughts swimming around in my head… I don’t think I’m capable of moderation anymore. Although I was once, maybe I’m just not trying hard enough. If it’s a matter of re-training your brain, why can’t I retrain my brain to moderate? But everything and everyone out there tells me that’s not possible. So when I make the final decision to go alcohol-free I want to make sure I’m ready and I’m fully committed, otherwise it just won’t work. But when will I be ready? I feel I’m getting closer every day. I realised yesterday I’ve started to think of myself as two separate parts, my brain and my body. And I feel so sorry for my poor little body.. when I think about – and literally feel – what my poor little liver and kidneys are going through (and the rest of it), it really begs the question, why am I doing this to myself???

    • voffvoff 9 years ago

      Dear anonymous. Welcome! Today is my second day without any alcohol for a long, long time. I’ve tried moderation too and it always seemed to work for a couple of days. After that followed a couple of days of heavy drinking to compensate and back to the usual bottle a day + consumption. Not sure what happened this time… I’ ve been waiting and waiting for something to happend or the ‘right’ occasion and suddenly, two days ago, I decided that I might be able to give it a serious go. Not sure I’m ready but this feels interesting and exciting all at the same time. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

    • paintthemoon74 9 years ago

      I like this post and relate strongly to it. When is enough enough? When we’ve lost everything? Held onto something’s but lost others Taken yet another risk another drink. Courage to change courage to face things you can change you are not alone. For me Christmas this year was my catalyst I snuck extra drinks in left right and centre. I needed it or so I thought. Day 11 it’s baby micro steps for me my only thing I daily resolve is I will not pick up the first drink today whatever happens. That’s enough for me to do right now

    • Anonymous 9 years ago

      I tried drinking moderately for years, and it worked some of the time, but drinking moderately is an absolute concept. It’s not that you can do it sometimes. I discuss with myself often–getting and staying sober, at least for me, was far easier than trying to drink moderately. Sobriety will free you from that hell, at least for me.

    • Anonymous 9 years ago

      Read Alan Carr’s book – the easyway to control alcohol. There are loads of intelligent, motivated, clever people that drink too much. It’s not because you’re not motivated or strong willed enough that it’s difficult to quit, it is because alcohol is a drug. Thinking about it in that context makes it easier.

    • maryisnotafairy 9 years ago

      I think of it like my off switch is broken. Normal drinkers can have a drink or 2 once a week and never think about it again. If I have a drink or 2 I 1. Probably won’t stop at that 2. If I do, I will still be thinking about it. And I will want to do it again the next day. Repeat that over and over. I don’t have an “off” once it’s “on”. So I just never turn it on.

  9. Anonymous 9 years ago

    It was an article on Stuff I think and a link to the video of Mrs D’s documentary that made me finally move from contemplation to action. My husband & I both downloaded the Alan Carr ebook and read it at the same time as we both wanted to change our behaviour. The book made a lot of sense, and reading it at the same time we could talk about our thoughts and feelings together. Have since come back to this blog every few days for some more positive reinforcement, and now on day 97:).

    • Anonymous 9 years ago

      I too just finished reading Allan Carr…. great stuff. Really worthwhile read to change how you think about alcohol. The only thing I did ‘wrong’ was that I had already been sober for 3 weeks prior to reading the book. But really who gives a toss, im STILL sober

  10. thirstystill 9 years ago

    Writing really helped me quit drinking, too. By writing my contradictory thoughts, I could get some distance from them and that helped me see how contradictory some of them were. Doing that plus reading blogs also helped me see how similar my problem was to the problem so many others were facing, and sometimes resolving, and the solidarity was an incredible support for me. So hello lurkers! I second Mrs D and the other commenters who urge you to chime in on the conversation when you feel ready. You don’t have to commit to quitting, you just have to talk about what’s going on. xo

  11. KAM 9 years ago

    Reading this blot and occasionally responding has helped me be accountable. I have tried this sober thing countless times. I would go ten days without drinking and read this bloc and others everyday but as soon as I slip back into my boozey routine…I stop reading and stop responding. Likely because there hasn’t been a bloc or a comment that I have read that I couldn’t relate too. Recently, I went 35 days (the longest since being pregnant with my son nearly 4 years ago) sober but broke on my birthday. From thanksgiving day until new years day I drank in excess everyday. And during that time I didn’t visit, read,or comment on any blog. Im taking another stab at it…haven’t had a drink since January 2nd and I know a great part of that I attribute to this blot. Reading about others and externalizing my thoughts is helping me tremendously. Ive thought about starting my own blot but for now I’m going to just continue reading and posting to help get me yo where I want

    • paintthemoon74 9 years ago

      Go go you x

    • KAM 9 years ago

      Sorry..that should read “ive thought about starting my own BLOG but for now I’m going to just continue reading and posting to help me get to where I want to be” (stankin autospell) 🙂

  12. elliott 9 years ago

    Thanks for this post Mrs D ! I did not realize why I was being more successful this time in giving up the booze until I read this post ! It is working better this time because I am writing down my thoughts and feelings! And when I re-read them it helps me understand myself, and re-inforces that I need to be here at Living Sober!
    Also, I have always been better at the written word than the spoken one! And being able to do it anonymously has been an added bonus! I reckon I’d be too shy to reveal my true feelings orally at an AA meeting!
    So a Big Thanks for setting up this site for a lot of us who would be uncomfortable for various reasons at AA meetings!

    • Prozac 9 years ago

      So true,I am with you on this.I love writing,always have done,its so cathartic .Im very grateful for this site and people are so supportive

  13. Anonymous 9 years ago

    I’m a lurker. I’m still drinking but would love to stop one day

    • Hart 9 years ago

      Hi lurker, good on you for posting. I lurked for a week or so in December, but got so caught up in the blog, found it so inspiring & relevant to me, that I just had to join in. I am 38 days sober with the help of Mrs D’s book (reading through for the 2nd time now) & her incredible blogs. Hang in there & big hugsXo

  14. grannie 9 years ago

    A very timely post for me. I am reading this at 4.48am having been awake for the last two hours.
    Yesterday I decided I would start a blog up for myself about loosing weight as it has been a major demon for me since I was a small child because my mother was huge. I used alc as an adult to ‘stop me getting fat’ as I knew thin drunks. It didn’t work and now I am going to use a blog to get all the shit out of my brain . Already after one day so much is coming out.
    Thanks for sharing your post

  15. SueK 9 years ago

    Sorry, I’m not a lurker… but I want to write something anyway. When I first quit drinking, I lurked on blogs for ages. I really needed the help, but I didn’t want to get involved by commenting, as that would have been a public admission of having a problem, and I wasn’t ready for that. Eventually I got a bit more brave. The first comment I ever made on a blog or any sober-type anything, was on @Mrs-D ‘s blog, just saying an innocent “hello and thanks for sharing I’m really learning a lot from you, and I’m in NZ too — there is a lot of booze here eh?” Look where that got me!!!!! I honestly would not have remained sober and become so totally committed to it without the support of this online world. THANKS YOU online support. I’m so glad we met and started talking.

    • DaisyH 9 years ago

      Great things come from kind honest words and the connections we make. Beautiful post @mrs-d and @sueK and all of you fabulous lurkers and those who’ve delurked and are helping keep me sober. Thank you all. Fab post

    • behind-the-sofa 9 years ago

      lol Sue! apologizing for not being a lurker!!

    • Hart 9 years ago

      That is so cool SueK, I have read your posts since I registered, awsom & inspiring. Im so grateful to all who participate on this – whole new online world – that has opened up to me, so thanksXo

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