I got sober in 2009. If you want to read how I got to this place, you can do that here. When I first got sober, I started collecting tools. Tools to get me through the day, the hours, the events life throws your way, both good and bad. Too often I see people in long term recovery “fall off the wagon”, people with much more time than me, people with 10, 15, even 20 plus years of sobriety. Which carries a frightening truth, that no matter how much time we might have, none of us are impervious to the possibility of relapse.
With all that in mind, over the last 7+ years, I have continued to add to that tool box. I have retired some of them, but I keep them on the shelf so to speak, as a reminder of what once was. I have found, however, that the most important tools in my recovery are to be open, willing and teachable. This allows me to look at new tools and re-evaluate the ones I am currently using. The ultimate goal is to be at peace in recovery. Otherwise, what is the point?
Here are the tools which are currently most useful to me at more than 7 years removed from my active addiction:
Five Recovery Tools
1. Being Of Service
I don’t go to 12 step meetings but have a huge desire to help others in recovery. So, I started writing. I also have a yoga class called SOULFUeL and I am not anonymous. I don’t wear a billboard or shout from the rooftops that I am sober or that i’m a woman in long term sobriety, but I share in my class, I write about recovery. You wouldn’t believe how many times, at one event, I get asked why I am not drinking. By being open and honest and authentic about my path, it gives other people an opening.; a safe place to ask questions or simply to say “me too!”. It’s powerful.
2. Fitness and Nutrition
I play golf, I run, I participate in group fitness classes, and practice yoga. I do my best to eat well. Prior to getting sober, I rarely ate sugar. Desserts didn’t interest me (probably because I didn’t want to have less room for booze.) But needless to say, about 4 months into sobriety, I craved sugar. And I noticed that I had the same “binging” ability with sugar as I did booze. If you are in recovery, you’re probably already aware of this phenomenon.
Scientists have found that sugar is addictive & stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. Just like those hard-core drugs, getting offsugar leads to withdrawal and cravings, requiring an actual detox process to wean off. ~The Daily Burn
That being said, I am careful about what I eat. I am not a saint by any means. I don’t believe in deprivation or absolutes but I am mindful of what I put in to my body. The fitness component is my meditation. When I am going to a class whether it be yoga or Orange Theory Fitness, I set an intention to be there. And when I am being active, it is more likely that I am not going to eat a half a dozen donuts.
3. Self -Awareness
This permeates my entire recovery experience. It permeates my decision making, my emotions, my feelings, my entire *self*. Believe it or not, this actually permeates my financial life, simply by being self- aware and present to what I am doing. Some examples: As I am driving running the 5,000th errand and I see a Starbucks. My car starts drifting toward the drive thru… Do I actually even *want* a coffee right now or I am just doing this out of habit? I really don’t want the coffee or I really do. Either way, I am happy and present with the decision. Same thing with the internet shopping. Do I really even want that book right now or I am just bored, irritated, mad, etc.? Either way, I am happy with my decision, because I actually *made one*.
4. Rigorous Honesty
This is not always easy, because it includes *me*. Sometimes, I don’t want to know the truth. I don’t want to make the decisions that are required after knowing the the truth. But I am fully aware of the yucky-ness that happens when I don’t. When I stay in something or with someone that my Soul knows I shouldn’t be doing, my Soul knows that I am not telling the truth. The other honesty component is to others. This means that I set boundaries with people that are jackarses. As a 40+ year old person, I don’t need to explain to you why you are a jackarse and why I am not calling you anymore… unless you ask. First, I set my own boundary. If said person recognizes that I am not as available and then asks why I am not available, then I will, with Grace, explain why. This is not fun. It wasn’t fun at 11 and it isn’t fun now. It is, however, necessary to my peace within recovery.
I wrote a whole post on tribe *here*. It is so sacred and important to me and my mental and emotional health. The most difficult thing about Tribe is the acceptance that it will change. It changes because we change and because others change. That’s ok. We are all allowed to change and figure out and grow. And sometimes you find that you are in a tribe and that it isn’t anything like you thought it was going to be. It’s not a mistake or a failure, it’s an indication that another tribe is awaiting your arrival.
The biggest mistake I have made with tribes is staying too long after I saw the handwriting on the wall. Your tribe may only have one person in it, it may have 10 or 100. The number of people in the tribe is not an indication of its worthiness or awesomeness. The tribe holds us up and we hold the tribe up. We cry, laugh, joke around, share recipes and the best way to stretch our hamstrings. We hold each other when our kids go off to college or when breaks an arm. We rally when one gets sick or celebrates a victory. *My* recovery is dependent on a tribe.
I use to HATE writing. I never journaled for fear that if I die, someone might actually read what I was thinking! I love to write now. I love that even if I am the only one that reads this, I get to look back in a couple of months and see what tools I was using, see what I have exchanged or added to my set of tools, see what is working and what needs to change.
What’s in your toolbox? I can’t wait to see.