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When I got sober, I had to learn how to deal with emotions in other ways that to numb them with drugs and alcohol. Now, this is what I call my My Sobriety Toolbox. This is not something tangible that I carry around with me, but, instead, a list that ebbs and flows with tools I use when I am sad, anxious, upset, and, especially, when I am tempted to drink or use again.
For so long, I used negative emotions as an excuse to use drugs and alcohol.
“If you had the day I had, then you would be drinking.”
“If you had the CHILDHOOD I had, you would be doing drugs.”
Heck, I even used positive emotions as an excuse to drink! Taco Tuesday, my cat’s birthday, a passed test — name the celebration and my friends and I had the decor to throw a party.
Now, my life is not as focused on the high highs and the low lows. I like it better this way. It took me a while to develop My Sobriety Toolbox that I use on a daily basis, hopefully, some of my new coping mechanisms will help you stay sober as well.
1. Reading & meditating in the morning
Reading and meditating in the morning is a practice that I began when I first got sober. I still would not consider myself a “morning person,” but I enjoy having time to myself in the morning to get me in the right headspace to conquer the day.
I have a few “day-by-day” books that I read in the morning to inspire me and get me in a good mood.
Then, I write in a small notebook. You can receive my free morning mindset journal prompts by subscribing to my email list here!
After I jot those lists down, I either turn on a guided meditation from my morning playlist on YouTube, or I turn on a timer on my phone and meditate quietly. I am definitely in the amateur stages of meditation and do not pretend to be an expert. However, like everyone that raves about meditation, I can tell a difference in my productivity and mood throughout the day when I spend a few minutes focusing on my breath in the mornings. This routine is key for me to stay sober from drugs and alcohol.
I have a more detailed post about my full morning routine here!
2. Phone a friend
I’m old-school. I love talking on the phone. My sister, who is Gen Z will ignore my call with a text replying, “Hey, what’s up?” Texting is awesome and is a great tool for communicating quickly, but calling and actually speaking to someone about my problems is like a mini therapy session.
Talking about an issue or problem with a friend can instantly change my mood and help me to see a new perspective. This person does not necessarily have to be my sponsor, but any friend in sobriety.
Another thing that my first sponsor had me do when I first got sober from drugs and alcohol, was to call two other alcoholics daily. This exercise not only forged connections to other alcoholics, but it also helped me to get out of my own head. Sometimes I will just ask a simple question like “What’s going on with you?” or “What was your experience with ABC or dealing with XYZ?” Then, I JUST LISTENED. This is KEY! Simply listening to what another person is going through gets me out of thinking about myself all the time and helps me to think about how I can help others. For me, talking about an issue constantly just makes me think about it more and more. Hearing what someone is going through not only builds connections with good friends but also helps me to focus on someone else.
Wow, I had no idea how much I enjoyed exercise until I got sober from drugs and alcohol. I know that it is overstated, especially in the “athleisure” movement, but exercise helps me immensely with stress relief. Exercise helps me sleep, brightens my mood, and de-stresses my brain instantly.
My go-to exercise is Zumba. I mentally cannot be sad or upset while I’m shaking my booty to Beyoncé along with 50 other women. Zumba has also helped me to go with the flow and let go of my perfectionism. I LOVE to dance, but I did not grow up dancing. I grew up playing tennis since I was five years old, which is definitely an in-your-head game and focused on perfectionism. Dancing for exercise is all about letting loose and having fun. And OMG we have fun! Solo dance parties in your living room also something I highly recommend.
There are lots of different ways to move your body. I enjoy running and yoga and venturing out of those comfort zones. I’ve done kickboxing, bounce (trampoline exercise, have you seen Busy Phillips’ Instagram stories?), paddle-boarding, kayaking, rock-climbing, barre, you name it, I’ve tried it!
Find an exercise that you enjoy and stick to it! What exercise makes you lose yourself in the moment? I’ve found that putting time for exercise in my planner or calendar makes me much more likely to GO! Get in the habit of going no matter how you feel. If you are an addict like me, you’ll enjoy the all-natural-serotonin-rush.
4. Volunteer or help someone
Nothing kicks my butt into shape like helping a fellow alcoholic or addict. Sometimes the only way to make you see how much you have been given in life is to help someone else.
Helping another person also helps me. I start feeling better about myself when I do things that I am proud of. Doing esteemable acts helps me build my self-esteem.
When I was first getting sober, I picked up a woman from a treatment center to take her to a meeting. I was living with my mom at the time, and I started complaining about how I wanted to move out. The woman looked about me with her eyes wide and said, “You get to live with your mom? That’s so awesome. I wish I could live with my mom.” Wow. I was instantly reminded of how lucky and fortunate I was. So many recovering people would give anything to live at home with their parents, and there I was complaining about it. I went home that night and thanked my mom for allowing me to live with her.
5. Go to a 12-Step meeting.
I know that meetings aren’t everyone’s thing, but meetings brighten my mood immensely and help me to get out of my head. Going to a meeting also encourages me to talk to other people and get advice while I am there. I enjoy being around other people who can offer their opinion on whatever is going on.
Never been to 12-Step meeting? I have a guide on how to go to your first meeting here!
If you are not able to get to a meeting, there are a lot of speakers on YouTube! Here is a link to some of my favorites.
A few of my favorite ways to relax are to: read a new book, watch a weird documentary, write in a journal, or to self-care it out with a face mask in the bathtub. Now that I don’t get high, I’ve found reading to be very enjoyable. I always thought that I didn’t have time, but now I make time before bed to read for pleasure. How do you like to relax?
7. Eat fried chicken
Yes, I can be an emotional eater. It’s okay to indulge every once in a while on a different kind of vice, a new drug of choice that won’t completely ruin your life and land you in jail or dead on the street somewhere (because we all know how real that is). Fried chicken is my new drug of choice. Take yourself on a lunch break. Heck, if you’re eating fried chicken at 7 AM then more power to you. (Shoutout to Gus’s Fried Chicken).
The point is, I’m an alcoholic. I’m going to have to give in to my little pleasures sometimes!
Do you love ice cream? Then eat some! Celebrate your little wins along the way of your sobriety journey. I am serious about my recovery, but I can’t be serious all of the time.
These methods are how I stay sober today. My Sobriety Toolbox helps me when I am feeling tempted to drink or use. I also use them as the foundation of my sobriety. If and when I really want to drink, I am already in the habit of using these skills. The idea of actually taking the steps to go use drugs or drink is not even on my radar.
Let me know in the comments below what tools are in your sobriety toolbox to help you stay sober! You can also read this post: What is Sobriety?