Oct 11, 2017 | By Tim Stoddart

10 Recovery Cliches (And Why They Matter)


sobriety quotes

We’ve all heard them. Chances are, we’ve seen them in old picture frames that act as a background in our twelve-step meetings. Sometimes it seems like they’ve been collecting dust on the walls since the 1800’s. I’ve been known to roll my eyes when someone says them. But what’s behind these simple slogans has so much more meaning than we actually realize.

As a new person in recovery, some of these sayings can be hard to grasp if there is no context and life behind them. Here are just a few we’ve put together for you and how you can put them into practical use.

Slogans are wisdom written in shorthand

1. One Day At A Time

If we think about a life-time ahead without drugs or alcohol it can get pretty overwhelming.

When I got sober, I struggled with the one-day-at-a-time philosophy. I spent most of my time living in the past, or future tripping. I fantasized about what I was going to accomplish “one day.” There’s no time like now. If I spend too much time thinking about what I’m going to accomplish or the damage I’ve done to others, I miss the opportunity of living in the present and seeing what I can accomplish today.

2. Live and Let Live

Sometimes people suck. Learning to live with differences is essential to our comfort and our recovery. For so long we have loved to place the blame on other people for our drinking, using or behaviors. When we can start enjoying the way we live our own lives, then we can be content to let other people live the way they want, and have no desire to find fault.

3. Easy Does It

As addicts and alcoholics we like to complicate things. Relax!

Take it easy and don’t be so hard on yourself! This saying applies no matter how long you’ve been sober and is essential for continued recovery.

4. Don’t Quit Before The Miracle Happens

If anything, this statement kept me around for one more day. I rolled my eyes but secretly wondered what this “miracle” was that everyone was talking about. We only find out how much better we have become once we overcome a challenge. The only way to succeed is to be persistent, put in the hard work and never give up. You’ll probably be surprised of everything you can achieve when you’re sober!

5. Keep It Simple

We’ve already complicated our lives enough. If you’re new in recovery, too much information can sometimes be destructive. Why add more twists and turns? Sobriety can be simple if it is broken down to us in a simple way. If it gets too complicated, it seems easier to throw in the towel and go back to what we know second-hand. Getting sober isn’t about trying harder, it’s about giving up the ways that aren’t working anymore. It’s about following instructions rather to reconstruct them aimlessly.

6. HALT! (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)

Those four words can become a recipe for relapse. God knows I lived them everyday for years. These words simply look uninviting, and should you find yourself experiencing these, it would be wise to do exactly what the acronym says. Halt! Stop and ask yourself, what exactly is going on with me? Nourish your body, talk it out, call your supports, and get some rest! After all, we didn’t get sober to be miserable!

7. Let Go and Let God

For so long, my mantra was “keep holding on and I’ll manipulate my way to get what I want.” Accepting our Higher Power’s will is never an easy process. In early recovery it’s hard to get used to the fact that sometimes I don’t actually know what is best for me. Still, at times, I often find myself playing God, and when I do, end up in a much worse head-space. This cliche holds more weight when put into action. When I actually let go, my gratitude grows.

8. This Too Shall Pass

The first time I heard this I didn’t believe it was true. But the next day, I felt a little different about it. What would you know? The cliche came to fruition! I’ve learned over the years that everything changes. That fear you’re feeling? That anxiety? It’s all temporary. If you’re facing something negative, take a walk, talk with a friend, or read a book. Chances are, the feelings will change.

9. One Is Too Many And A Thousand Is Never Enough

This cliche is pretty much self-explanatory. I always wished that I could drink like other people. For a long time I tried having a limit. “No more than three!” Then, there were four, then five, and then I lost count. Truth is, it was that first drink that sent me on a downhill spiral. Once that happened, I morphed into a hot mess who couldn’t stop drinking and lost everything due to “just one more.”

10. To Thine Own Self Be True

How much of your talk matches your walk? Do your insides match your outsides? This slogan was originally made famous by William Shakespeare in his play, “Hamlet,” but today it is commonly known in the recovery world. For so long I was a deceitful, lying, person not only to others around me, but to myself. If we aren’t true to ourselves, how can we be true to others around us? If we are truthful, we can be happy and content and live meaningful lives.

2 responses to “10 Recovery Cliches (And Why They Matter)

  • Delaine Ross

    7 years ago

    My favorite is “Play the tape through.” That helps me when I romanticize the first drink…. knowing that it won’t be pretty because it won’t stop at one!

    I was in a 12 Step Meeting recently and the topic was “Your favorite AA cliche and why.” 🙂

  • Roxanne Moore

    6 years ago

    Great article! These statements are like a secret language among sober people…and so much more, as they become a lifestyle… And like Delaine Ross, one of the first ones I was taught was “play the tape all the way through” which was invaluable in my early days… 🙂

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