As you engage in trauma recovery through therapy, 12-Step fellowships, and other means, it’s helpful to have a recovery toolbox—an accessible catalog of resources to support your recovery—that is readily available in several places (i.e. in your journal, on your phone, and by your bed).
The purpose of this is twofold: these tools will help you stay engaged in your recovery. Secondly, the life-changing experience of trauma recovery can be unsettling, and it’s important to have tools to help ground you and stay connected.
There are some tools that will show up in most everyone’s toolbox (like journaling), but there are some that will be unique to you. Your recovery toolbox isn’t static. Things will be added throughout your journey.
I’ve listed some ideas below; some are tangible, some are conceptual. Make note of any that resonate with you. I also suggest that you ask others in recovery what tools they use.
Intention: Be intentional about your trauma recovery. Set aside time for reading and reflection. Do the work in between therapy sessions or 12-Step meetings.
Willingness: Be as open as you can to whatever you’re working on, changes that are happening, etc. The tiniest bit of willingness goes a long way. If you’re willing to be willing to be willing (or willing, to be willing to be willing...), that works.
Guide: Therapist, sponsor, and/or mentor—or all of the above. We really need people that are further along the path than we are. I firmly believe at some point in our journey, everyone needs a skilled therapist that can help unravel the effects of childhood trauma.
Things that ground you: I suggest you have at least a few tactile things in this category (peppermints; a scented candle; a smooth stone or something that has some weight; a blanket). It can also be helpful to have a physical space for some of these things, like a special box, so that they’re easily accessible.
Recovery literature: Therapy-related books, articles, blog posts, 12-Step literature, quotes that are meaningful, daily readers. Words that encourage, challenge, and teach you and help you connect to yourself and your story in a deeper way.
Writing: Journaling, step work, poetry. Writing can give us clarity and help us connect to our experiences. I recommend that most, if not all, of your writing is done by hand. Devices can be helpful to capture thoughts, but typing on one can keep you removed from these reflections.
Community: I shared my thoughts about the importance of community here. Trauma recovery must happen in the context of community—like-minded people who are all on a journey of healing and recovery. I cannot stress that enough.
Creativity: Art and/or music, either enjoying it or creating it. Whatever art and creativity look like for you.
Movement: Exercise, yoga, dance, splashing in puddles, hiking, walking, swimming. Most of us with a trauma history had (and usually still have) a strong freeze response. And all of us hold trauma in our bodies. Moving your body is one way to let your brain and body know that your old reality (that of childhood trauma) isn’t your current reality.
Prayer and/or meditation: This could be connecting with your Higher Power, doing a guided meditation, whatever works for you.
Affirmations: When used appropriately, affirmations can be helpful. It’s not about positivity. It’s about stating what’s true, even if it doesn’t feel true (i.e., I have a voice and it’s okay that I use it; I am not available for limiting beliefs today).
This list is a starting point. Whether you’re new to trauma recovery or have been on the journey a while, I hope you’ve found a tool or two that will be helpful for you.
Peace on the journey,