I talk about my recovery toolbox like it’s something I carry around with me. As if I were a carpenter about to build a home or a plumber about to fix a broken water heater. I suppose in a sense, I carry my toolbox around with me. When I close my eyes, I can see it. It’s red and worn from all the use I put it through for almost a decade. It has some really cool decals on it too. You know the ones you can get from the places you visit? Like NYC? Mine have my anon letters: AA and SANON.
As I mentally open up the toolbox, that’s where I find the really cool stuff. These are the tools that I’ve learned along the way and have given me the ability to hit the pause button when things in my world are getting stressful or even chaotic. I have two sets of tools that help. The ones that help me do a quick pause and the ones that help me do a hard pause. I use them for my sobriety and my healing.
What I love about all of them is that they’re all there for me, in this one neat little mental place, so when I’m feeling flustered, I can think, “Okay, what will help me right now?” Then I try a tool and if it doesn’t work, I move onto the next tool, then the next, until I’m in a better headspace.
My quick pause, the things I can do while I’m at work, driving, or even out shopping, include:
· Deep breathing: those belly breaths are so cleansing for me.
· Staying in the present: I remember where I am at this very moment in time so I don’t go down the rabbit hole of anger, resentment, temptation, etc. For me that looks like, “I’m sitting in my office chair and grateful to have this job,” or “I’m walking in the mall and see the smile on a child’s face.”
· I say a quick prayer or recite the Serenity prayer.
· Count. Yep, it sounds a bit corny but for me, but it’s a great distraction.
· I remember why I’m in recovery. My “Why Statement” is a great motivator to stay on a healthy path.
My hard pause, the ones I can do daily to help keep me in good emotional health include:
· Spending time with my family.
· Hanging out with my dogs.
· Exercise (I finally got my lazy butt on the treadmill and dancing again).
· Gardening – even in the winter I can tend to my succulents and the plants I grow in my in my indoor garden.
· Visiting the beach or any other body of water. I have a lake with a fountain and trees near my work that I love to visit. Even in the cold weather I can sit in my car and enjoy the view.
· Cleaning. There is something about having a clean home that makes me feel accomplished.
· Writing a new gratitude list. I usually have one rolling around my head all the time but if I hit a rough patch, it helps to write a list and challenge myself with new things.
· Affirmation cards.
· Watch something funny/sad: sometimes I just need to laugh…or cry.
· Write a letter, card, or text to someone and let them know I’m thinking of them or appreciate them.
· Guided imagery.
· Positive self-talk.
· Call a friend.
· Treat myself.
What tools do you have in your recovery/healing toolbox? If you’re not in recovery, what do you do to lift your spirits?