7 Of The Best Recovery Mantras

By Beth Leipholtz 08/02/16

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Sometimes I’m still baffled by the fact that this didn’t resonate with me the first time I heard it.


When I stumbled my way into the world of recovery, I was met with many words of wisdom from people with good intentions. At the time it frustrated me, as these sayings about sobriety did not seem to ring true for me. They sounded too grateful and enthusiastic, and I was not in a place to be grateful or enthusiastic. I was angry at the world and resistant to recovery. I was early in my sobriety and had yet to realize what it had to offer.

As time passed and I built up days, weeks, even months of sobriety, these stupid little sayings began to resonate with me. I found myself leaning on them for support, reminding myself of them daily and even repeating them to newcomers. They suddenly made sense to me, as sobriety became something I worked toward rather than against. But my favorite thing about these sayings are that they don’t just apply to sobriety—they apply to my life on a daily basis.

The following is a list of my seven favorite recovery mantras and what they’ve meant for my sobriety journey.

1. Strive for progress, not perfection. I have always been a type-A perfectionist. In fact, that mentality is part of why I drank the way that I did. I was hard on myself when I didn’t meet my own standards, so I drank to lighten the load. But since getting sober, this saying has been a lifesaver. I no longer feel the need to excel in everything I do, as long as I know I am doing what I can to improve that area of my life. This applies to sobriety, but also to life as a whole. For example, I competed in my first triathlon last week. I had quite a few hiccups along the way and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. In the past, I would have been disappointed in myself, and bitter about my results. Instead, I was just proud of myself for finishing. I know that I have a chance to compete in another, and hopefully progress in my performance.

2. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Sometimes I’m still baffled by the fact that this didn’t resonate with me the first time I heard it. I kind of shrugged it off, thinking it was stupid and meaningless. But actually, it’s pretty deep. As far as sobriety, this saying has taught me that I have to make small changes in my life in order for the larger ones to take root. Maybe this means changing the places I go or the people I go with, in order to change my mindset about the situation as a whole. This mantra can apply to many aspects of life including health, relationships and finances. It’s so versatile, and that’s what I love about it.

3. No matter where I go, there I am. This one sounds so simple, but means so much. It’s basically saying that no matter where life takes you, you’ll be there. In a way it means that unless you make life changes, the same attitude you’ve always had will be the one you continue to have, so your life choices will lead to the same outcomes. Your “self” will always be present, so you should do your best to make that a self you are proud of.

4. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I heard this often when I first got sober, and at first it didn’t really make sense to me because I hadn’t yet reached that point of desperation. In my own opinion, I didn’t feel sick or tired. It was only after remaining sober for a prolonged period of time that I realized I had been living in a sick and tired manner. Once I realized what living healthily felt like, I was able to recognize how draining the day-to-day motions had been when I was drinking all the time. Though it took some time to resonate with me, I think this is a saying most people in recovery can identify with.

5. Easy does it. When I was drinking, everything that happened was dramatic. If it was a good thing, it was dramatic. If it was a bad thing, it was dramatic. I didn’t go with the flow, ever. Relaxed was not how I’d have been described. But in recovery, I started hearing this saying, and then I started to see it take form in me. While I still overreact to certain situations, I’m much more relaxed as a whole. I tend to believe that things will work out, rather than trying to force them to. "Easy does it" is a slogan that anyone can take to heart, not just those in recovery.

6. Live life on life’s terms. Most alcoholics in active use like to live life on their own terms, and will fight it if things don’t go their way. The truth is, it’s impossible to control life, not to mention, it’s draining. We can spend so much time and energy trying to dictate how things will unfold, but in the end it’s just out of our hands. The sooner we realize that and adjust our thinking, the happier we will be.

7. One day at a time. This is perhaps the most well-known slogan when it comes to sobriety and recovery. It’s what people are told immediately upon entering recovery—just take it one day at a time. The thing about taking it one day at a time is that it works. Focusing only on 24 hours at a time is a lot less intimidating than focusing on a lifetime, a year, a month, or even a week. If you approach sobriety as a daily decision rather than a life decision, it’s a lot more likely you will find success there. You will also feel less anxious and overwhelmed. And then, before you know it, the days will add up and you’ll look back in amazement.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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