My Recovery Toolkit

By Olivia Pennelle 01/20/17

Routine is a powerful recovery tool. How do you start? Write. Upon waking: pick up your pen and write about how you slept, how you feel, your plan for the day.

My Recovery Toolkit
Get it all in order.

When we arrive in recovery, we are a shell of a person. We have little or no comprehension of adulthood and a complete inability to cope with life (albeit in varying degrees). While some might have held down a job in active addiction, they may have been in such emotional turmoil that it was masked with overbearing control and a highly medicated state. So much so that they think that the outside world couldn’t see. Spending every waking hour (beyond their job) using as much as was physically possible, while pretending to be functioning in the world—this was me. Or, at the other extreme, others have known great loss: homes, loved ones, jobs, the clothes on their back and their sanity. What we have in common is a disease that ravages our mind, body and spirit in such a way that we are not living a fulfilling life, we are just existing. We all experience this pain. So it is only natural that when we land in recovery; we need help how to live and to live a life that we love.

This article hopes to explore how we can do that, with particular emphasis on providing practical tools. I think it is important to explore self-esteem building activities in a community which can, sometimes, over-emphasize the negative aspects of our character. It is my firm belief that in building a routine, you can achieve manageability, connection with oneself and develop self-confidence. And that makes for a happy recovery. 

My Rock Bottom

I landed at my rock bottom with a thud, defeated. I was in a state of shock. Not only was I dealing with the physical aftereffects of one monumental blowout, I was in the worst emotional state of my life; I thought I was going to die and I had zero self esteem or identity. It was like, after 20 years, I had suddenly woken up and had no idea who I was, what had happened or why I existed. I could not have been more disconnected from myself. 

I never want to go back to that place.

I had utterly had enough. Two things then happened: I had reached that point of surrender, and I asked for help. These are two things I had never married together before, and I believe that gave me the keys to the kingdom.

Learning to Live

Asking for help was something this self-sufficient woman was uncomfortable with. But I realized that I couldn’t do this alone; I had exhausted every possible avenue of trying to fix myself, failing miserably each time. So I asked and I was given help, in bucket loads. The first place I received that help was at 12-step meetings. I was given refuge, somewhere that was safe and where I was genuinely cared for. I benefited from an instantaneous fellowship of like-minded others that offered me a level of empathy so powerful that it would propel me into a life beyond my wildest dreams for the next five years. I had truly arrived home.

For the first year of my recovery, those women showed me love so great that I felt safe and cared for. Years later, what they did reminds me of my favorite Rilke poem:

“Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.”

They gave me their hand and they walked me through recovery, and that provided such great comfort in the pain of that first year.

Figuring Out How

Being the practical, solution-oriented person that I am, I needed to figure out this recovery business. So, just as I had asked for help, I asked: how? It was suggested that I implement a routine, which I still do today, four-and-a-half years later, and I can tell you that it is honestly the most powerful recovery tool I have. Simply, they suggested that I write. Is that it?! you might ask. Well, with someone who doesn’t know how to live, engage with themselves or others, this is quite possibly the most daunting task to undertake. I literally felt disabled. I had absolutely no idea how. So I asked. 

Writing Routine 

They suggested that I buy a journal and implement a daily writing routine.

Upon waking: pick up your pen and write about how you slept, how you feel, any dreams you had and your plan for the day. Read a page of a daily meditation book and reflect. Then ask for help, do whatever you did when you realized that you’re not able to do this alone. Ask the universe, a god of your understanding, your bedroom wall, anything that is greater than you.

Before bed: pick up your pen, write about how your day went, any thoughts, feelings or reflections. The most important of all: write about what you have done right today. Here, I’ll start you off: 

• you’re clean/sober

• you’ve invested time in writing and connecting with yourself today

• you’ve made it through another day

• you’ve shown humility and your humanness in asking for help

• you are learning how to live

• you’re doing okay

This daily practice helps connect your mind, body and spirit, because you are taking the time to reflect, to feel and to process. You are investing time in you and that is a very loving activity. Let’s face it, we hardly showed ourselves love all of those years we were hurting our bodies. 

I’ve since expanded that toolkit to incorporate other tools which are vital to my holistic recovery. To me, my recovery has to be holistic; I have to take care of my whole self. That includes:

Food & Menu Planning 

Every Saturday morning, I pick up my cookbooks, my notebook and plan out my meals for the week. Then I go food shopping. Doing that not only helps me manage my nutritional intake, but it saves money because I only buy what is on the list for the meals I am eating that week, and I am less likely to eat takeout. In doing this, I was able to concentrate on nourishing myself well, and focusing on losing 50 pounds. 


This is vital to my recovery. It gives me such peace that I cannot experience elsewhere. It gives me the ahhh feeling that I was chasing in drugs for so many years. There is a synergy that occurs in its practice, between my soul, mind and body. It realigns me and irons out my kinks. To me, it is just as important as meetings.

Quality Nothing Time

Whilst it’s important to invest time in practical solutions to our dis-ease, it’s just as important to have quiet time. What I mean by that is quality time doing nothing, no Netflix or hours watching TV. I’m talking about sitting quietly. Meditating. Being with your thoughts. I remember when I first tried this, I couldn’t bear it for longer than a couple of minutes. Now, I crave it. It’s funny, how recovery works and how we learn to reconnect with ourselves. 

Recovery is a beautiful thing. And I am eternally grateful for it. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix