Health Fitness

The power of the undelivered letter for those in recovery

Throughout the centuries, people have used unsent letters to heal and renew. The therapists tell us to write to our deceased parents, cut out the heart, and burn the letter. Friends tell us to “discard” unhealthy relationships. Even companies “write off” bad debts.

To write a letter not sent for personal well-being, simply address a sheet of paper or a page from your journal to the intended recipient. Then take 15-20 minutes to really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts. In your writing, you can relate your emotions to various situations or experiences. How has your relationship with this person affected who you would like to become, who you have been in the past, or who you are now? Is there any unfinished business? Are there questions that have remained unanswered? What are the most significant positive experiences with this person? How will you change as a letter writer as a result? The point is to be completely honest with yourself. Remember that the whole purpose of writing is for you and you alone. When you’re done, you can choose to reread the letter or not. It’s your choice. Either way, just fold the paper. So bad. rip it shred it Pull the chain Throw the pieces into the ocean or let the wind blow them away. Just don’t mail the letter.

The power of the pen, and especially the undelivered letter, is especially significant for people recovering from substance abuse. Whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, eating addiction, or gambling disorder, expressive writing can help in the recovery process.

For this article, I have outlined the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and juxtaposed the writing opportunities in each step, several of which include the Unsent Letter.

step number

Step Description

writing opportunity


We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.

Write your drinking/drug biography from the beginning. She could take the form of a letter to her old “drinking self”, or to a bottle or drug.


We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Write a thank you letter to your Higher Power.


We made the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood it.

Again, writing to God, this time writing the Third Step prayer.


We took a searching and courageous moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 4 is one of the steps that involves more writing. Writing in this case is in the form of lists and explanatory sentences.


We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our mistakes.

While the actual step work is often face-to-face, write in your journal about your feelings and emotions after taking this step.


We were completely willing for God to remove all these character defects.

The writing here is listing character flaws.


We humbly ask you to eliminate our shortcomings.

Once again, writing letters to God is an acceptable way to complete this step.


We made a list of all the people we had harmed and set out to make amends for all of them.

Writing the list here helps in personal disposition and faith.


He made direct amends to those people whenever possible, except when doing so would hurt them or others.

The unsent letter is a powerful means of making amends in many cases. If someone has passed away, an unsent letter is a positive way to express remorse and ask for forgiveness. If a direct redress would insult someone, an unsent letter describing the incident in question is a perfect way to make redress.


We continue to take personal inventory and when we’re wrong we admit it right away.

Developing a regular practice of journaling is a positive and healthy way to keep track of personal inventory. Additionally, journal entries can provide valuable information on recurring themes and growth.


He sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood it, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.

Writing your own prayers, poems, and even songs is a wonderful way to explore meditation and one’s relationship with a Higher Power.


Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Visit and the Write to Recover workshop to learn ways to explore recovery principles and practices in our lives through the written word.

In almost every step, the recovery work involves expressive writing and, most certainly, the Unsent Letter. Everyone write!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *