I’ve been in recovery for over eight years, and the first five of those were spent very intensely attending meetings, doing step work, and working to figure out why I couldn’t live life like other people did.
A lot of the work I did and lessons I learned were centered around drugs and alcohol, and rightfully so, but I remember thinking that so many of the things I was learning would help ANYONE. I think that we as a society all have these issues from time to time, just some of us are predisposed to take it to another destructive level to cope with them.
I compiled a list of my favorite recovery phrases to help you think about situations a little differently. They’re short and catchy for a reason, so that you can repeat them to yourself at any time. They’ve really been indispensable to me in changing my perspective on life, and hopefully at least one will help you too. 🙂
1. Feelings are not facts — I used to be petrified of feelings, hence the using of whatever I could to numb them, but simply hearing this simple phrase helped me approach feelings in a more realistic way. Simply because I feel anxious about something doesn’t mean that it’s going to end horribly. For me, feelings can also be irrational and I just need to take the time to evaluate what I’m feeling and why.
2. Progress, not perfection — I grew up such an intense perfectionist, much to my own detriment, that this phrase is one of my absolute favorites. There is no “perfect” and therefore any journey to reach “it” is bound to be painful, stressful, and full of disappointment. Simply do the best you can each day, work to improve what you can, and that’s perfect enough.
3. Secrets die in the light — Keeping things secret, acting out in secret, and anything involving secretive behavior was my JAM. It gave me a sense of security and could ensure that I could do whatever I wanted with no consequences if no one knew. Every time that I revealed something that I had been battling on my own — my addiction, my issues with food, or my struggles with depression — they became a little easier to bear. You can’t get help if no one knows.
4. One day at a time — This phrase reminds me to slow down and take it one day at a time. Catastrophizing about every potential outcome of a situation or overwhelming myself thinking about what it’s going to be like never drinking alcohol again is enough to send anyone back to the comforts of destructive behavior. Only worry about what you can do today, do it, and repeat tomorrow.
5. Life on life’s terms — There’s really only one thing you can control in life — yourself. You know what you can’t control? People, places, and things. So basically everything outside of yourself, your reactions, and your behavior in general. Once you understand that, it becomes a little easier to start living life on life’s terms.
6. Hurt people hurt people — I know that I can be the most hurtful when I’m feeling hurt in some way. You know when you’re fighting with someone and can always seem to think of just the thing to say to cut right through them? I’ve said things in a fight that I would never say when things are going well. The more hurt that I am, the more I want others to feel hurt as well. This is an important thing to remember when trying to understand the behavior of others.
7. Can’t think yourself into a new way of living but you can live your way into a new way of thinking — this one is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve tried to think my way into different behavior plenty of times, but until I actually do it, I’m not going to see things differently.
8. Change is a process, not an event — this is something I have to constantly remind myself of. I’ve always said that I want to follow a step-by-step list of directions to get to a desired outcome, but real change comes over time. Changes in my thinking and behavior didn’t happen overnight, but took variable amounts of time and different amounts of work.
9. You can only keep what you have by giving it away — this phrase is meant to refer to the process of recovery, in that we can only keep our time clean and sober by giving away what we have learned to others who are newer in recovery. It can also be used in every day life as a way to practice selflessness and compassion towards others. Try buying the next person in line their coffee, volunteer, or just help out those you know and those you don’t.
10. Nothing changes if nothing changes — I can’t tell you how many times I hear people complain about different life situations. The same behaviors keep leading to the same results, they are also not willing to change the behaviors, and therefore the same negative results continue. If you want something to change, you need to stop doing the things that cause the results in the first place.
11. You can start your day over at any time — Ever have one of those days? You know the kind I’m talking about — everything seems to go wrong as soon as you wake up. You can either let it ruin the entire rest of your day, or you can decide at any point to just start your day again with a new outlook. Sometimes I’ve had to start my day over multiple times. 🙂
12. Insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results — this phrase reminds me of “nothing changes if nothing changes.” The insanity of addiction — doing drugs and drinking, falling behind in school, watching my life unravel around me, then drinking and doing drugs to try and escape that — is easily mirrored in every day life. Say you’re trying to become a morning workout person. Following the same routine of not getting enough sleep, scrolling through your phone in bed, and hitting snooze on your alarm is going to leave you hating life and not getting up earlier. You have to change the behaviors to change the results.