What’s in your ‘Toolbox’
I wish I could take credit for “The Toolbox,” but it’s actually something I was introduced to in early recovery from addiction. A woman named Beth would talk about it every single time she raised her hand at a meeting. It was her solution to everything. Bad day? “The Toolbox.” Boyfriend cheating? “The Toolbox.” Company Christmas party? “The Toolbox.”
I honestly thought something was wrong with her for a long time. Perhaps the drugs had fried her brain to the point where she only knew two words and those were it. It wasn’t until I was alone in the rain at the bus stop a few months later that everything Beth ever said about that toolbox suddenly made sense.
I wasn’t expecting my old drug dealer to pull into the gas station next to the bus stop I was at, and I certainly didn’t wake up that day with the intention of having the fight of my life … with myself.
The bass from his speakers rattled the trunk of his Escalade, and it immediately sent chills down my spine. Six months earlier, that sound would have caused me to sprint into the front yard practically tripping over myself as he arrived to drop off my drugs. My mouth watered as he exited the gas station, holding up his sagging pants with one hand, and clutching a scratch-off ticket with the other. He was so close I could almost see the diamonds in his teeth.
As I went to push myself off the bench intending to call out to him, I suddenly heard Beth’s raspy, stupid voice in my head: “The Toolbox.” I closed my eyes and took a deep, frustrated breath… The bus pulled up 11 seconds later…and I stepped on. As I trudged to the back row of seats, I began to sob. It felt as if I had just walked away from the love of my life, knowing I would never see him again. I wanted to use, but I wanted to be clean. Those two desires dancing around in my heart made it almost impossible to breathe.
The toolbox saved me that day, and I’ve been reaching into it ever since.
See, we all have this “Toolbox” and each of us possesses different tools. For about ten years of my life, my toolbox consisted of one thing only—drugs. When I was sad, I reached into the toolbox and grabbed a pill. If I was depressed, I grabbed a pill. Happy? Angry? Excited? Confused? Pill, pill, pill, pill.
When I made the decision to get clean, my toolbox was suddenly empty. I would feel an emotion and furiously dig into my toolbox, only to come up empty-handed. I had no coping mechanisms, nothing to grasp onto in those times of turmoil. What was I supposed to do with all these new feelings? These feelings that up until that point had never had a chance to bubble to the surface because the moment I felt them rising I had shoved them back down with drugs.
Beth had a simple explanation for this: “Put more stuff in your toolbox.”
The day before the bus stop, my father had come to visit me at the rehab center. He was walking with a cane, as he was in the process of undergoing experimental chemo treatments that made him weak. We spent the hour laughing, reminiscing and chasing lizards. Before he left he gave me a great, big hug, and when he pulled away he squeezed my shoulders and whispered, “I am so proud of you, my beautiful daughter.”
I didn’t know it, but I had subconsciously taken that ounce of pride my father had given me and placed it into my toolbox. The very next day, I would have to reach in, and draw from the strength my Dad left me with, and that was the first of many tools I have added to my collection over the years.
My toolbox today consists of: music, meditation, bubble baths, chocolate, my children, my goals, and the fact that my mom and dad are now in Heaven cheering me on from the clouds. When the kids are driving me crazy and I want to unleash the fury of a thousand dragons, I reach in and grab my “five-minute-time-out card.” I give myself five minutes to decompress and re-enter the room refreshed.
When I want to isolate, I reach in and grab my address book filled with people in recovery to cheer me up and remind me how awesome I am.
We all have the ability to fill our toolboxes with things that allow us to navigate life on life’s terms, without feeling the need to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I am so blessed to have been given a second chance at life, and I’m incredibly grateful for Beth, for constantly talking about that stupid toolbox, because it has changed my life in ways that I can’t begin to explain.
What’s in your toolbox?
Tiffany Jenkins, the funny lady behind the Juggling the Jenkins blog and hilarious Facebook and YouTube viral videos. A wife, mother, author, content creator and recovering addict, Jenkins speaks shamelessly, openly and honestly about her past and addiction, as well as her struggles with depression and anxiety. Her newly released book, “High Achiever: The incredible true-life story of one addict’s double life” spans Jenkin’s life as an active opioid addict, her 120 days in a Florida jail and her eventual recovery.
Community Care Services is hosting Tiffany Jenkins as the featured speaker at the fourth annual “Reality of Recovery” event on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Wayne County Community College District – Downriver Campus (21000 Northline Rd. in Taylor). The community forum will offer insights, perspectives, and resources to individuals, friends and family members affected by substance abuse and addiction. General admission tickets are free, but registration is required. Limited VIP tickets are available for $25 and include reserved seating and a pre-event meet-and-greet opportunity with Jenkins who will also be selling and signing copies of her book “High Achiever.” Visit www.comcareserv.org to register.