being a good Englishwoman I took advantage of the recent Bank Holiday to have a jolly good sort out in my garden shed.

the photo is not my shed, by the way! it’s of the gardeners’ bothy at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, where the National Trust have taken the interesting decision to leave the buildings mostly unrestored, to evoke the decay and neglect experienced by many great English houses in the 20th century. the bothy has the most beautiful flaking blue paint on the plaster…

there are tools in my shed that I had forgotten I had, which I seized upon with glee.

there are tools which I no longer have a use for.

there are small but revolting discoveries (a long dead mouse, a forgotten half sack of potatoes) which I clear away, shuddering and relieved.

year two of sobriety can seem much like this, its seasonality like getting out the garden implements again at each particular time of year – whether it’s the bulb planter, the lawn edger, or the ability to navigate a local fair without a brimming pint of cider in my hand. all possible, again, the second time around.

and I am seeing once more that, no, I really don’t need that tool I clung onto with such desperation in the past. that the new tools serve me better.

co-incidentally I also found this great post – ‘What’s In Your Mental Health Toolbox?’ here are some extracts. I particularly like her description of meditation as duct tape!

‘I have spent years assembling my mental health tool box and getting well acquainted with each item in it.  Unlike my power drill, I have actually read the owner’s manual for each item in the box.

Meditation is the duct tape of my mental health toolbox because it works in every situation for me, no matter what is happening. I have a daily practice. Meditation soothes and calms me while keeping me centered and helping me to maintain a healthy attitude regardless of the external circumstances of my life. 

Physical exercise and yoga are as my WD-40. Physical exercise keeps the endorphins flowing and keeps my brain cells growing and oxygenated while yoga teaches me stillness and concentration in mind and body.

Like the must-have Phillips’ head and flat head screw drivers in every toolbox, thought reframing (read more: Turn It Around and Poison Ivy of the Mind) and visualization. (read more: Picture This! and Get the Picture)  

Music, writing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are the assorted, essential nails and screws in my tool box.

These practices are invaluable tools to me which cost nothing and can be taken with me wherever I go.  I  know that, with these tools in my tool box, I can successfully navigate anything life may throw at me and that I will not only survive, but thrive even.  These mental health tools are the only true constants and the only things which I can control in an ever-changing world.  This is what I have found works for me.

I would encourage you to assemble your own toolbox.  Maybe you already have one. Maybe your tools are well worn from use or maybe they’re a little dusty and could stand to see the light of day.  You have to find the right tools that work for you in your own life.  Your toolbox may include some of the practices mentioned above or anything ranging from running, chanting, riding your motorcycle, talking to a therapist, journaling, painting or playing a musical instrument, participating in a drumming circle, hiking, volunteering, or singing.  The point is to find what works for you and do it with regularity to your benefit.’

alcohol used to be the one tool in my box. the huge hammer that I attempted to use in every scenario. well, that didn’t work too well, after a while. when we stop using alcohol we have to find other tools, and we are astonished and delighted to find, as Mrs D says, that they work better.

so, what are your favourite tools? do you have any which haven’t seen the light of day for a while?

I have had some low moments, turning out my shed. this video lifted my spirits – perhaps it might lift yours if you are feeling as if your toolbox is empty and there is no way you can perform the task you must? because whatever tool you need is already out there. it’s just a question of finding it.

and there is room at the sober table for everyone. dancing barefoot recommended!

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