Serenity Skin: Sober Tattoos

Before they were adopted by hordes of hipsters, tattoos were the badass symbols of rock 'n' roll rebellion. But many people in recovery have also taken up the trend, permanently marking themselves to celebrate their sobriety and remind themselves of their plastered past.


1 of 16

ART_sober bastard.jpg

ART_sober bastard.jpg
Title: 
Sober Bastard
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"My sobriety tat. The skulls represent a few horrible car accidents I've had while using. The Latin script at the top reads, 'The gods decided otherwise.' The whole thing isn't done yet, so you can't see the third skull. I also am planning to tattoo another skull in a spade on my calf. More to come!!"

ART_confuciusquote.jpg

ART_confuciusquote.jpg
Title: 
Confucius Quotation
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"My recovery-oriented tattoo. It's a Confucius quote which says, 'Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.' And the cherry blossoms symbolize the transient, ever-changing flow of life."

ART_fingertat.jpg

ART_fingertat.jpg
Title: 
Finger of Fate
Description: 

"I decided to imprint the AA symbol on my index finger because it's my first finger and I wanted to always remind myself that sobriety was my first priority in life. I got the tat exactly when I had two years sober. When I first stopped using, I got a 'First Things First' bumper sticker for my car, so I guess you could say that was a test run for the tattoo."

ART_lancejubel.jpg

ART_lancejubel.jpg
Title: 
Truth Is In God
Description: 

"I had this tattoo done about two years ago now. It was my first tattoo and a fairly large one at that. I'd given the design quite a lot of thought since it would be plastered across my chest for the rest of my life. I wanted the piece to convey that one can find true happiness in life if willing to believe in something greater than oneself. As for the font, I wanted something a little dark to remind myself of where I have been and where I never want to go again. Plus it looks kind of badass!"

ART_treeoflife.jpg

ART_treeoflife.jpg
Title: 
Tree of Life
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"I got my first recovery tattoo on my 40th birthday. I was a little over two months sober. It is a Tree of Life to represent my new life and my new focus on my emotional and spiritual growth."

ART_AAbutterfly.jpg

ART_AAbutterfly.jpg
Title: 
Feeling Butterflies
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

A perfect expression of new-found freedom and change.

--Tatoo artist Tim Baxley

ART_selfdiscipline.jpg

ART_selfdiscipline.jpg
Title: 
Self Discipline
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"Self discipline is my motto to carry me through my cravings. I'm soon going to get another tattoo in the same script on my other arm but I'm still thinking about the exact words."

ART_bythegraceofgod.jpg

ART_bythegraceofgod.jpg
Title: 
By the Grace of God
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"My only AA related tattoo."

ART_NA.jpg

ART_NA.jpg
Title: 
NA
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"Three of us got it, two are still going."

ART_sobermonkey.jpg

ART_sobermonkey.jpg
Title: 
Sober Monkey
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"Did this one on Lucas, an old friend from Heidelberg High School. This piece was put together in late '09 at Ghost Print Gallery Tattoo."

--Tattoo artist Jesse Smith

ART_crosstat.jpg

ART_crosstat.jpg
Title: 
Cross/Galatians 5
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"I got this tat after being sober six months. I've since relapsed, but this tattoo's giving me the strength to get back on the wagon. I'm a Christian—the cross represents Christ. The triquetra centered in the cross represents the Holy Trinity. The light at the top is for John 8:12 (I am the light of the world). One side of the wings represents Psalm 124:7 (We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare). The other side of the wings is Isiah 40:31 (But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles). At the bottom it says Gal 5 (Galations 5:1): It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, stand firm therefore, and do not let yourself be bound again by a yoke of slavery."

ART_serenityprayer.png

ART_serenityprayer.png
Title: 
Serenity Prayer
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

A great cheat sheet for the person standing nearby who forgets how the meeting ends.

ART_chesttat.jpg

ART_chesttat.jpg
Title: 
Be Sober Be Vigilant
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Must have been a different kind of chest pain.

ART_onedayatatime.jpg

ART_onedayatatime.jpg
Title: 
One Day at a Time
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"Faithful member of the program, seven months sober. I live by this."

ART_wantneet.gif

ART_wantneet.gif
Title: 
Want and Need
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

Two different things.

ART_sober.jpg

ART_sober.jpg
Title: 
Sober
Credit: 
Photo via
Description: 

"I think that this was a reminder, of what he didn't want."

--Tattoo artist Darrin White

 

Dr. Belisa Vranich is Sex and Health Editor at Men's Fitness, life coach at Shape magazine, and a Fitness Advisory Board member at Golds Gym. She's a clinical psychologist with a specialization in sex and relationships and an expert contributor to The Fix.