Tools to Help With Sobriety

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What is a Sobriety Toolbox?

A sobriety toolbox refers to the collection of resources and strategies learned during addiction treatment. People in recovery use these tools to build healthy new habits and reduce their risk of relapse.

These toolboxes include activity ideas or physical items someone can use to cope with their addiction. The tools vary based on individual needs, challenges, and abilities. 

Sober tools offer comfort, balance, and effective coping strategies for newly sober people, as well as people well into recovery. 

Tips for Building a Sobriety Toolbox 

Building a toolbox begins in early recovery when someone is first quitting drinking. Most people work with their counselors, therapists, and family members or friends to build a toolbox.

Creating a list of healthy coping skills in the early stages of recovery establishes a foundation you can use throughout your entire healing journey.

Most people include about 10 tools in their toolbox. This way, they’ll have multiple things to turn to when the desire to indulge in unhealthy coping mechanisms arises.

It’s also a good idea to write down the tools you consider most effective in your journal, on your phone, or on a slip of paper.

You can also include tangible items in your sobriety toolbox. For example:

  • Essential oils
  • A bible or prayer cards
  • Spiritual items
  • Teabags or powdered drink mixes
  • Food
  • Activity ideas
  • Phone numbers of supportive loved ones
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15 Essential Tools For Staying Sober

Here are 15 tools you can include in your sobriety toolbox:

1. Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises calm the mind and body. Breathing is a natural practice you do all day, every day.

However, many people do not breathe mindfully. In other words, their breathing is on autopilot, and they pay very little attention to how deeply they breathe or how their breathing changes with stress.

There are several breathing exercises you can practice in your free time. Add these exercises to your toolbox and turn to them when you feel anxious, stressed, or tempted to use drugs or alcohol:

  • Diaphragmatic or deep breathing, which expands the stomach and engages the diaphragm
  • 4-7-8 breathing, which involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
  • Mindful breathing, which avoids shallow breaths and irregular breathing patterns

2. Meditation

Meditation is one of the most common tools people use during recovery. It promotes relaxation, health, and awareness.

There are many different approaches to meditation. Anyone can meditate, but it might take practice to achieve the desired effect.

3. Therapy

Therapy addresses all aspects of addiction. It helps people in recovery manage their mental health. 

Getting and staying sober is challenging. But working with a mental health professional who understands these challenges can help you manage depression, anxiety, and other aspects of mental health. 

4. Social Support

Your friends, family, and peers are some of the most powerful tools in your sober toolbox. These are people who want you to succeed with sobriety.

Sometimes your loved ones need tips for how to support you. A part of the recovery process is sharing details with these people and letting them know how they can help when you struggle.

5. Recovery or Sober Support Groups

This is one of the most popular tools available. 

Many people with addiction attend 12-step or other sober support groups at the first sign of temptation. These groups are supportive environments that provide understanding amidst the challenges of sober living.

Support groups also offer ideas for building coping skills, especially for people who are still building their toolboxes. 

6. Exercise

Moving your body is one of the most effective ways to improve your health. 

Whether you are trying to manage long-term sober living or frequently face temptation, movement and exercise help. 

Not only do they improve overall physical health, but they also improve your frame of mind and distract you from temptation.

Exercise preferences vary from person to person. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Walking
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Dancing

7. Mantras and Affirmations

The words you say to yourself are powerful. Sadly, people who are nothing but outwardly kind to others often speak harshly and negatively to themselves.

Mantras and affirmations can help you break this habit and make sober living easier. 

Affirmations are positive statements that make you feel good. They become mantras when they are repeated over and over again. These statements offer comfort and eventually become beliefs.

Using mantras and affirmations might feel awkward at first. But with practice, they’ll become second nature.

Many people find it effective to combine mantras with meditation or to write affirmations on Post It notes so they see them throughout the day.

8. Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Have you reached the point in recovery where you can be around others enjoying alcoholic beverages? If so, you might find it helpful to indulge in non-alcoholic drinks you enjoy.

Having a drink in your hand also prevents others from offering you an alcoholic beverage.

Popular non-alcoholic drinks include:

  • Soda
  • Seltzer
  • Sparkling water
  • Herbal and other teas
  • Coffee

9. Nutrition

Eating a well-balanced diet is a great way to maintain good health. Many people find that feeding their bodies the nutrients they need motivates them to avoid self-harming behaviors like using drugs or alcohol.

But healthy food choices aren’t the only way food can be a part of your sober toolbox. 

Some people try indulgent treats such as candy or sweets to uplift their spirits and help avoid temptation. 

10. Creative Hobbies

Developing a hobby is one of the best tools to support your sober lifestyle.

The list of potential hobbies is endless, but many people battling addiction find that creative hobbies help the most. These activities provide an outlet for expression. 

Some creative hobbies include:

  • Journaling
  • Painting
  • Making music
  • Arts and crafts
  • Playing an instrument

11. Healing Treatments

Healing treatments such as massage, acupuncture, and hot baths provide relaxation and an opportunity to care for yourself.

If anxiety and stress are triggers for your addiction, adding healing treatments into your routine can make a big difference in your effort to stay sober. 

12. Prayer

Similar to meditation, prayer allows you to be quiet, mindful, and reflective. 

It also provides an opportunity to connect with a higher power. According to the teachings of many 12-step programs, a person’s higher power plays an important role in their recovery. 

13. Books and Learning

Reading helps your mind focus on something other than the desire to use drugs or alcohol. Books can act as an escape or a way to learn more about yourself or topics of interest.

People who don’t enjoy traditional reading might like audiobooks or podcasts. 

14. Quality Sleep

Restorative sleep is essential for good health. It’s also a powerful tool that should be included in your sober toolbox.

Lack of sleep causes a variety of problems, increasing stress and making it difficult to function. 

Coping with a craving for drugs or alcohol might be as simple as going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep.

15. Tracking Sober Days

Many people find tracking their consecutive sober days to be extremely motivating. 

This is one of the reasons peer-led groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recognize sobriety with tokens and opportunities to share with others.

It doesn’t matter how long someone has been sober. Building on what you’ve achieved so far is a great way to move forward with a positive attitude. 

Who Benefits From a Sobriety Toolbox?

Anyone can benefit from a sobriety toolbox. 

However, healthy tools are especially helpful for people who are struggling with addiction and trying to avoid relapse. 

Toolboxes are helpful regardless of which recovery phase you're in. People in early recovery greatly benefit from a list of tools to help avoid relapse immediately after leaving treatment.  

Most people continue to use the tools from their early stages of recovery for the rest of their lives. Over time, they learn more about their addiction and themselves. They know what to do and where to turn in moments of temptation and weakness. 

Updated on January 3, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment and Recovery.” Drugabuse.gov, 2018.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” www.niaaa.nih.gov, Dec. 2020.
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol Use Disorder - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic.” Mayoclinic.org, 2018.
  4. Chanell Baylor. “Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) | SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 2021.
  5. What Types of Alcohol Treatment Are Available?” NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator, 25 July 2019. 
  6. Harvard Health Publishing. “11 Ways to Curb Your Drinking.” Harvard Health, 25 Mar. 2020.

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