recovery quotes and sayings

Recovery Quotes and Sayings

Recovery quotes and sayings offer sage wisdom in small nuggets that everyone can remember and relate to.

The first time I walked into a 12-step meeting, I felt like everyone was speaking a different language. People were throwing around so many quotes, sayings and acronyms that people were that I had never heard before. It took me a few months to acclimate and start speaking “recovery.” For those of you new to the rooms or who have someone you love in recovery, here’s a summary of some of the top recovery quotes and sayings and what they mean.


It works if you work it and you’re worth it


This phrase is often heard at the end of the closing prayer at a 12-step meeting. Basically, it’s saying that the 12 steps will work as long as you put the effort into doing them to the best of your ability, and you are worth the work!




HALT stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.” It is a way of checking in with yourself before you pick up a drink or a drug, or before you act out in an unhealthy way. Why do I have the urge to drink/use right now? Why am I upset? Why am I reacting this way? – am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired?


Progress, not perfection


Many alcoholics are extremely hard on themselves. Reminding ourselves that its progress, not perfection that is important, helps us to celebrate small victories and enjoy the journey of recovery. Sobriety is not a race and there is no finish line.


One day at a time – ODAT


Thinking about never drinking again is overwhelming. That’s why we tell ourselves to take our recovery one day at a time. Today, I won’t drink. I tell myself this every day, and it’s kept me sober, one day at a time, for five years.


Let go and let God


Alcoholics and addicts have controlled situations and manipulated people in order to have things run the way they want them to. We all know how well this turned out and this saying has to do with that need to control. The third step in recovery is where we make the decision to let our higher power perform its function of maintaining cosmic order. This saying is helpful during difficult times or when we are struggling with trying to control a situation. We want to meddle and put out fires in order to look good. We don’t understand the meaning of a loved ones death, hardship, why a friend is mistreating us, or financial ruin. We find that when we let go of the need to control what the results will be and let our higher power handle them, a sense of peace and balance is restored.


If you hang out in a barbershop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut


This has to do with the people, places and things you surround yourself with in recovery. Just like if you hang out in a barbershop long enough, eventually you will get a haircut…if you hang out in a bar or with other people in active addiction long enough, you’re going to drink.


Stay on the train, the scenery will change


This saying goes hand in hand with “We don’t drink and use, no matter what.” Recovery (and life) is full of peaks and valleys, ups and downs. It’s easy when you’re down to think that things will never get better. But by staying on the recovery train, and not picking up a drink, no matter what, the scenery will change. Things will get better. The more adverse situations we move through in this way, supply us with more self-esteem, more courage, more fortitude and we find that the ride just gets sweeter with time.


Come all the way in and sit all the way down


In order to fully recover, we have to give 100%. There can be no half commitment to recovery. Many people will come to meetings late and leave early – for a variety of reasons: embarrassment, ego, etc. They text while the meeting is in progress or talk to their friends. In short, they are not fully present. So at 12 step meetings, we say to “come all the way in and sit all the way down,” which means to be fully present for your sobriety – jump into recovery with both feet, not a little here, and a little there.


Faith without works is dead


Having faith is important to recovery. But having faith alone doesn’t cut it. The power of faith is manifested through action and the 12-step program is an action program. By actively being of service, finishing step-work, making amends, having commitments and taking all this into the world in order to live a full life is the action. But without doing the work you need to do to recover, faith alone is pointless.


You’re only as sick as your secrets


Our secrets keep us sick. The only people who truly recover are those with the capacity to be rigorously honest, with others and with themselves. If there is even a small secret that we are holding onto out of fear or shame, it is going to continue to keep us from getting well.


FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real


This is an acronym people use when they are feeling fearful. Most of the time, the things that we are afraid of are not based in reality. They are old stories and false beliefs our minds tell us are real. Addiction is a disease of “stinking thinking.” Once we realize and believe that most of the things we are afraid of are old stories we have told ourselves, fear will have less power over us.


There are a million little phrases and addiction recovery quotes that you will hear in 12 step meetings to help us on the road to recovery. What are some of your favorites?



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