If you’ve been in the recovery community for long you’ve probably heard something about building your toolbox. What does this mean to you?

We know that quitting drinking involves not just quitting that one thing but adding in other things — at least if you want to be successful. Many other things. Supports, encouragements, distractions, rewards, new skills, new coping mechanisms. This is your recovery toolbox. Some people call it a rucksack, backpack, suitcase. 

The reason for this language is that it’s not just one tool. You don’t grab a hammer and say you’re ready to build a house. You need hammer, saw, drill, etc etc., probably more than one of each thing. And you need to know what they’re for, how to use them, when to use them, when not to use them. 

We’re not building a house; we’re building fabulous lives. Our tools focus on getting past the struggle with alcohol and creating new habits. We manage our emotions and thoughts and behaviours, and we continue to get better and better at it. Most of the tools are simple things and the power comes from applying yourself thoughtfully to the question “what do I need?” And “how can I meet this need in a healthy way?”  Gaining skill with those two questions will enable you to build a life that’s not just tolerable but sparkly!

What’s the difference between your toolbox and self-care? Caring for yourself is one of the goals of your tools, especially when your intention is understanding yourself and caring for your deep needs. But it needs to be done thoughtfully. It’s not just taking a bath because it’s chilly, it’s not taking a bath because you have sore muscles, and definitely not just taking bath with no thought or because it’s your habit. It’s working out things like: here’s the effect of a bath, here’s when I need that and don’t need that, and here’s how I’ll tell I’m getting in that state, and here’s how I’ll use the bath in those circumstances, and here’s when I’ll avoid the bath and make a different choice.  So the sore muscles are a good analogy. What’s needing care in your spirit and how can you soothe it?

PS I have a tool belt like the one in the photo above and it’s very convenient, plus I feel super proficient wearing it.