When I quit drinking in August of 2020, I knew that I had to find a way to make it stick this time. Going back to drinking was absolutely not an option. No matter what I tried, it just kept getting worse and worse, and I was terrified of what would happen if I couldn’t manage to stay stopped. I had some idea of how to navigate my early days because I had quit so many times before but the concept of maintaining long-term sobriety was completely and utterly foreign to me. Then I stumbled upon BOOM.
Around the time I joined, there were a lot of people posting about maintaining a Sober Toolbox. I’ll admit that it sounded kind of stupid to me at first, but I had made up my mind to do anything and everything I could possibly do to stay sober, so I figured I may as well give it a try. As it turned out, the idea I scoffed at ended up being the most important thing I did for myself early on. I haven’t seen much talk about Sober Toolboxes lately, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit the concept, especially since we have a lot of new members joining us recently.
The idea is essentially this: you fill your Sober Toolbox with all the things that you can reach for to help you stay sober in a variety of situations, just like you fill a regular toolbox with tools to help you fix a variety of problems. You’ll want to include both emergency supplies (things you can reach for when a craving comes out of nowhere) as well as things that make your sober self feel good (things to reach for to give your sobriety a little TLC).
I never made an actual, physical Sober Toolbox – mine was a mental list that I would go through in my mind several times a day – but plenty of people posted pictures of ones they had made. Some people filled an actual box, and some people made a list (I seem to remember one person even drew pictures of their tools). It doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters is that you do it in a way that works for you. So, in honor of being ten months sober, I will share the top ten things in my Sober Toolbox – 5 emergency tools and 5 sober self-care tools.
- Sugar. Sugar was the first thing I reached for when an intense craving hit. It satisfied the hand-to-mouth habit as well as giving my brain the dopamine hit it was looking for.
- Showers. Showers were high on the list for the anxiety that came with early sobriety. They gave me a safe space to relax and calm down.
- The BOOM Community and Boozemusings Blog. Coming here always helped when I was feeling lonely, or alone in my sobriety. Being able to read about others’ experiences and share my own helped me understand that I did not have to do this all by myself.
- Ginger Ale. I know this sounds weird, but pouring Ginger Ale over ice in my favorite whiskey glass calmed my brain down when it wanted to drink. It was close enough in color and the feel of the glass in my hand was exactly the same. I’m sure the sugar was helpful in and of itself as well.
- Video games or puzzles. Video games or puzzles were my go-to when I started to feel like I needed something to do with my hands. I had a lot of nervous energy early on and keeping my hands occupied was a huge help when I needed to keep Snidely in his corner.
Sober Self-Care Tools
- Baths. I took a long, hot bath in epsom salts every Sunday evening for quite a while. I’ve gotten out of the habit a bit now but early on that quiet time was essential to manage all the stressors I wasn’t used to coping with sans booze.
- Exercise. I try to take a nice, long walk with my son every evening. We miss some days, but it always feels good to move my body, and using the time to connect with my kiddo is the icing on the cake. It helps keep me present, and, again, helps me manage stress.
- Cooking. I’ve learned a lot of new, healthy recipes since I quit drinking. My body definitely needed the nutrients early on since I had been getting most of my calories from alcohol for quite a while. Now it just feels good to put good food into my body.
- Sleep. There are still nights when I just have to go to bed early and turn my brain off. Even when I’m not having a rough day, making sure I get enough sleep helps me prevent the rough days from happening to begin with.
- Being lazy. I cannot stress this enough: it is ok to take some time for yourself. I used to stress myself out to the point where I would freeze up. I couldn’t get anything done, but I would drive myself crazy thinking about all the things I had to do. Learning how to take a step back and take a night (or even a whole weekend) away from the To-Do list has been hugely helpful in keeping me both sane and sober.
Now that I’ve shared some of my Sober Tools, let’s hear from all of you! What do you keep in your Sober Toolboxes?
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