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What is a Sobriety Toolbox?

A sobriety toolbox is a collection of ‘tools’ or products, strategies, practices, and resources you can pull from as a healthy alternative to drinking. I like to think of a sobriety toolbox as a lifeline when those pesky cravings or triggers rear their ugly heads. Instead of reaching for the bottle, I reach for a tool.

Sobriety toolboxes can also be a source of inspiration. I found I had much more free time in my early days of sobriety because my favorite pastime was drinking. Once I removed alcohol, I had to find other ways to have fun or fill the time. I didn’t have the appropriate language at the time, but I now realize that finding activities to preoccupy myself was essentially implementing tools from a sobriety toolbox.

What is a ‘Sensory’ Sobriety Toolbox?

A sensory sobriety toolbox is a sobriety toolbox that adheres to the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

The five senses, from a psychological perspective, help us to gather and respond to information from the outside world or environment. We can’t always control our environment or external stimuli, so having a sensual sobriety toolbox is handy. If you feel overstimulated (or under-stimulated) by one sense, then you can implement a tool to balance that sense out. For example, you feel triggered because you catch a whiff of alcohol on your friend’s breath; to counter this trigger, you excuse yourself to the restroom and inhale some aromatic peppermint oil you keep in your purse for good measure.

How the Senses Affect Our Behaviors

Sensory perception and behavior responses are closely linked. The brain processes information from our five senses. Senses can also trigger memories…cue hearing a song from 2009 that teleports you back to a specific time/place (for me, it;’s anything from Drake’s So Far Gone mixtape).

The benefit to having a ‘sensual’ sobriety toolbox is that you can elevate your sobriety toolbox by strategically placing tools that can decontextualize perceived values or notions we hold about something. You can trick your brain into changing its belief or response towards something by manipulating the five senses.

How to Assemble A Sensory Sobriety Toolbox

Identify tools or coping mechanisms you are already implementing. It may be helpful to compile a list of these things in your journal or on your phone. Remember, the goal is to ensure these tools are healthy, not self-destructive.

Now that you have a good idea of your go-to items, it’s time to create your finished product. Next to each tool, see if you can make a connection to a sense. For example, if you put chamomile tea on your list, you can categorize that under ‘taste’. You want to

Take a look at some of my favorites (this is not an exhaustive list):

Sight

Products:

  1. Sun Therapy Lamp – A sun therapy lamp mimics sunlight, which you may not be getting enough in the wintertime. If you struggle with seasonal depression, like me, do yourself a favor and get one to boost your body’s regulation of serotonin.
  2. Affirmation Cards – perfect for visual affirmations. You can post these around your home. I like to tape them on my bathroom mirror as I’m doing my skincare routine.

Activities:

  1. Read a good book – Quit Lit is a great place to start if you’re looking to redefine your relationship with alcohol or if you’re looking for strategies to maintain you sobriety. I also recommend self-help books like The Mountain is You by Breanna West.
  2. Journal – I journal daily and have 2 – 3 journals in rotation at all times. You can also use apps like 5 minute journal.
  3. Paint – I’m not a good at painting but use it solely as a creative outlet. This has been particularly cathartic as I used to have a lot of sip and paint parties *party of one* during the pandemic. It’s nice to wake up the next day and not find paint stains in places they shouldn’t be.

Strategies/Resources

  • Add visual affirmations into your morning or evening routine.

Sound

Products:

  1. Crackle candles – mimic the sound of a fireplace and will transport you to a secluded cabin somewhere upstate. I like this WoodWick brand.

Activities:

  1. Listen to an audiobook or frequencies
  2. Go to a sound bowl meditation

Strategies/resources:

  • Try this Youtube video on frequencies for inner and physical healing.

Smell

Products:

  1. Essential oils – My favorite oils are lavender for relaxation, eucalyptus for congestion, and peppermint for mental clarity and concentration. I always keep essential oil in my purse; it’s great way to curb any cravings/triggers that may arise.

Activities:

  • Deep breathing exercises – Find stillness and feel more present in your body by practicing different deep breathing techniques.

Resources:

  • Try this 15-minute YouTube video to reduce your level of anxiety or physical discomfort.

Taste

Products

  1. Alcohol-free, non-alcoholic beverages, and mockatils are a great choice when you are looking for alternative choices. My only note is to be mindful in social settings as many AF drinks blend well in a crowd and I;d hate for you to accidently consume alcohol. In general, some sober people don’t like mocktails because they feel they may serve as. a trigger, which is totally understandable but not my experience. I love brands like Lyres , Töst and Ritual.
  2. Tea has many health benefits, such as reducing stress and your risk of cancer and diabetes. There are many types of tea but green tea is great for digestion, black tea can be a supplement for coffee, and chamomile (not a fan but can’t deny it’s benefits) is great for relaxation.

Activities:

  • Make Chocolate – Who doesn’t like chocolate?! I love it so much that I made some with a chocolatier in Costa Rica this past summer. This was such a fun and informative activity. You may be able to find a similar activity in your city. I use Airbnb experiences.

Touch

Products:

  1. Stress balls Sometimes you just need to squeeze it out. I use stress balls a lot with my students.

Activities:

  • Take a bath: A bath is like a warm hug that can envelope all five senses: add essential oil, light a candle, listen to soothing classical music (or jazz or frequencies), recite affirmations or read a book.
  • Get a massage

Resources/Strategies:

Grounding practices help recenter you in your body. Grounding is best in nature, so kick off those shoes and recalibrate.

Best of luck in assembling your sober toolbox 🙂

Follow Nadine on Instagram for more sober tips @the.soberbutterfly.

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