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Tried and True: AA Slogans That Everyone Can Subscribe To

Each June 10th, AA commemorates “Dr. Bob’s Last Drink Day,” which took place on June 10, 1935. (Dr. Bob was the co-founder of AA, with Bill W.). This date is generally regarded as the “founding day” of AA. In recognition of this historic event, I am sharing some of my favorite AA and 12-Step slogans.

Recovery Process Slogans

  • Recovery is a journey…not a destination.

Recovering from substance abuse or addiction is a process…a journey, not a destination. There is no “end,” no stopping point when the work is complete and one can take a deep breath, relax, and say, “Good. Now that I have that behind me, I can go back to “life as usual.” Sober living is the new “life as usual” and it continues forever, if you want to remain sober and healed.

But rather than be disappointed that the work is not over once you have been through rehab, or have gotten back on the wagon following a relapse, why not re-frame, or change your perspective of, the process? Consider recovery and the stages that it includes (making a decision to get sober; taking the first steps and committing to the necessary lifestyle changes; initial abstinence; maintenance of abstinence) to be a new lifestyle that you choose to embrace because it creates a better life for you.

If you put a more positive spin on your mental perception of the recovery process, you can actually change your emotional attitude about it, as well as the meaning that it holds for you. Rather than being a “chore” and representing deprivation, recovery can represent personal empowerment, wisdom and healthy living.

  • Is your program powered by Will Power or Higher Power?

AA and many 12-Step programs have as a core belief the necessity of calling on “a power greater than ourselves” to obtain and maintain sobriety. It is left up to each individual to define their own “Higher Power.” Many consider it to be God; others consider it to be an expanded part of themselves – a Higher Self – that connects them to the spiritual realm. Nature itself is sometimes viewed as the source of Higher Power. The important element is not what the Higher Power is for an individual, but what it means to them.

Spirituality is a key component in 12-Step programs because it allows a person to believe that they have access to help that lies beyond themselves and their own resources. A person who is addicted or in recovery often does not feel that they have within them all the resources they need to succeed. It is true that the “little self” or “ego self” alone doesn’t have to have all the answers or the ability to make the necessary changes. But by believing that they can ask for, and receive, assistance from something greater than themselves that does have the resources, the individual gains hope and motivation to reach out for such assistance. This is called grace. (For more about grace, see my article Amazing Grace.)

Spirituality is a key component in 12-Step programs because it allows a person to believe that they have access to help that lies beyond themselves and their own resources.-Rita Milios

Maintaining Abstinence Slogans

  • HALT = Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

This slogan is a staple among AA and 12-Step members. It is great advice simply stated in an easy-to-remember format. These four conditions are often triggers for trouble. During recovery it is important to maintain adequate physical, mental and emotional balance in order to think clearly and make good decisions. Slip-ups often happen during times when one of these states has been compromised. Because addiction can alter physiology (for instance, diminished awareness of hunger) and emotion (increased irritability, chances of depression), using HALT to remind yourself to be aware of the dangers is a good tip.

  • SLIP = Sobriety Lost Its Priority.

Yes, recovery must always be a priority in your life if you want to remain sober over the long haul. You can’t ever “forget” to “work the process.”  But just as you can re-frame the meaning of recovery itself, you can re-frame the need to prioritize it–from a feeling of being  inconvenienced and having a “taskmaster” to a sense of having a “guardian” that protects your improved lifestyle and health.

  • Don’t quit 15 minutes before the miracle happens.

The “miracle” is the “spiritual awakening” that comes from turning your substance use or addiction problem over to your Higher Power rather than trying to resolve it yourself. It is usually accompanied by a change of attitude that breaks you free from a self-destructive spiral. Signs that you have achieved this change in perspective may include: an increased tendency to let things happen rather than try to make them happen; reduced worry; increased acceptance and decreased judgment; and feelings of gratitude and acceptance.

This motivational saying is intended to encourage you not to quit your program or give up on your goals for sobriety, because you never know when the “miracle” will happen.

Emotional Growth Slogans

  • We are only as sick as our secrets.

Emotional growth is a key element in recovery. It is not enough to stop drinking or using substances. True recovery means becoming more emotionally mature, responsible for yourself and your actions, and committed to improving your life and the lives of those affected by your use or addiction.

Secrets and lies are often commonplace in the lives of substance abusers and addicts. They may start with secrecy and lies about using (I don’t use that much; I can handle it; I deserve this small pleasure, etc.). The secrecy and lies then often escalate to those needed to maintain the habit (I need the money to pay back a friend; I’m just going out for a walk).

Coming clean about lies and secrets is a big step in the recovery process. If you are not being honest – to yourself or to the important people in your life – you cannot  truly respect and value yourself. And the amount of shame you feel because of this is directly related to the amount of “sickness” that your addiction will cause you. (For more on this, see Liar, Liar: How to Break Free from Habitual Lying.)

  • Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.

This slogan is a reminder that emotional maturity and personal growth does not happen automatically, simply as a result of aging. Each of us, whether we are in recovery or not, are responsible for acquiring our own mental and emotional maturity, no matter what age we are.

AA and 12-Step Slogans at Work

The helpful and clever slogans from AA and other 12-Step programs provide simple, easy reminders to gently prod us in that direction. Share some of your favorite recovery-related slogans in the comments section below.


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