Here we are mid-December and I am hitting my tenth month of sobriety! I get a lot of questions asking how I have made it this far without a re-lapse…especially because I don’t go to AA. It is because I have an arsenal of tools in what I like to call my sobriety toolbox.
These “tools” are simply coping mechanisms I use instead of booze to relieve stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are my two greatest triggers so it is important to keep those from rearing their ugly heads.
For the most part, at 10 months sober I have no inclination to slip back to my old habits. My life is so much better now that I am not drinking my self into a stupor every day. I plan to write a celebratory post on February 22, 2018 to tell you all the ways my life has changed in my first sober year.
“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
I won’t lie to you, the first 6 months were the toughest for me to get through. I was still adjusting to my medications and struggling to find a new “normal.” After that, things became a lot easier. I think this varies for everyone though.
What’s in my sobriety toolbox?
I love to read personal development books so when I first quit drinking I bought several popular books about getting sober. Some were memoirs and others were more…technical? I am not sure that is the right word, but these books offered actionable ideas to getting sober or offered real research on the matter.
The two that helped me the most were Alan Carr’s “The Easy Way to Quit Drinking for Women” and Annie Grace’s “The Naked Mind.”
Memoirs are great if you like them however, they only really added an element of inspiration to my sobriety journey.
What I liked about Alan Carr’s book was that it was written specifically to women and addressed the reasons why women drink. We are very different creatures from men, so I really liked that Carr recognized the need to address women and men a bit differently.
To be honest, the book started off a little annoying at first, but after some research I understood that is just the “method.” This is the very first book that I read and it helped me so much that it is where I recommend every woman should start their sobriety journey (well, after a visit to your doctor of course 😉 ).
Annie Grace’s book provides a personal element as well as a ton of great research on the effects of booze on our bodies and minds. It was really an interesting (and a little scary when you realize what you were doing to your body!) read.
I keep these in my sobriety toolbox because I refer to them when I feel weak or super stressed and they help me refocus.
Sidenote: Alan Carr has written some other “easy way” books to help people overcome other addictions.
Related Article: Why I Quit Drinking
I love to write and when I decided to get sober I dove head first into journaling. This is a great way for me to get my feelings out and to reflect on them.
This is especially helpful when I go back a week or so later to re-evaluate a situation. In the heat of the moment things can seem so much bigger, but many times after I have cooled off, the things I was upset about were rather silly or very small issues.
However, there are those times that I still get burned up about things weeks or even months later. If I notice that, it means to address the issue and then move on.
Reading my very first sobriety journal entries are a great reminder of how far I have come. I was in such a sick, sad place when I first quit drinking. It is also really inspiring to read the evolution of my mind through the pages of my journal.
They slowly evolve from very dark entries to happier, light-hearted, looking forward to the future type entries.
Journaling is also a fantastic creative outlet for me and I find it very relaxing.
Related Article: Journaling for Self-Discovery
Hip Sobriety is a blog devoted to getting and staying sober. This blog has also helped validate my journey as someone who chose not to go the AA route.
I simply chose another path and that doesn’t make my journey any less important than someone who goes to AA every week and has a sponsor.
Another thing she points out is that getting sober is a conscious decision and we shouldn’t have to carry around labels and be looked down upon for our choices.
This was refreshing after feeling very ashamed when people who were very close to me said stuff like, “What are you, some kind of alcoholic!” and “I knew it!” when I came out of the boozer closet.
Seriously people. Those comments ARE NOT HELPFUL!!! Seriously.
In fact, I got the whole “toolbox” idea from Hip Sobriety. She has a fantastic post all about why a sobriety toolbox is important with a ton of really awesome ideas. Give it a read here if you have time.
Because everyone is so unique it is important to find what tools work for each individual. My “tools” are very different from hers. Yours will be different from mine.
Related Article: Booze Free Ways to Handle Stress
Having a variety of non-alcoholic beverages on hand at all times.
This is really helpful for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that I am a creature of habit and my habits are hard to break. I had a drink in my hand every, single day by 4pm at the latest for YEARS!
When I quit drinking I missed having something to sip on all evening. All of a sudden I had nothing to do with my hands and mouth. I know that sounds totally strange, but in my earliest days of sobriety it was a huge void.
Why they still play such a large role now is because I don’t want to feel like I am depriving myself any more than I have to. Drinking plain ‘ol water all the time is boring and I start feeling like I am missing out.
Now I sip on herbal tea in the evenings, have a sparking water with my dinner, coffee with breakfast and an afternoon agua fresca.
I always take a little something with me on the go too. Most of the time it is tea or flavored water in a travel mug.
A lot of people may not understand this one, but my dogs provide a great source of happiness and comfort when I am having a rough day.
They are always right there with me and they don’t care if I can’t seem to get out of bed and put myself together for the day. They are just as happy to sit on my feet as they are to go on a long hike.
When I am having a down day simply going out and playing with them is enough to pull me out of my funk.
If I am feeling antsy I take them out for a long walk and they provide a good distraction. I do spend a lot of time alone now that all the kids are in school full time and my dogs keep me company.
We have 3 dogs and they are a lot of responsibility so I don’t suggest getting a dog on a whim. However, I do think that they are great companions. Just think long and hard before bringing home a new family member.
Related Article: Should You Get a Family Dog?
I have talked about the benefits of exercise many times so this may come as no surprise. Exercise is great for relieving stress and releasing feel-good hormones in your brain.
If I don’t exercise regularly I can feel a difference in my mood. You don’t have to workout for hours on end to feel a difference in your psyche. Just get your blood moving and a little fresh air to start with.
My sweet spot for exercising is 45 minutes to 1 hour. Any less and I don’t feel like I have “worked” and any more I feel like I over did it.
If you are new to exercising you should talk to your doctor to see what a good starting point may be for you.
Related Article: Why All Women Should Lift Weights
These are the 6 main tools I use to stay sober. Like I have said before, this is not an easy path to take. But, it has been way more than worth the effort.
Ten months ago I was convinced I was dying of a horrible disease and that is what brought me into the doctor’s office in the first place. As it turns out, it was alcoholism and very severe depression that was making me feel so bad.
Today, I am a much different person and am thankful that I have been able to make the turn around without too much difficulty.
So tell me, what do you struggle with? Do you have any tools that help you cope? I would love to hear from you!