Those Curious Cliches

A cliche is an expression that, although it may expresses great wisdom,  feels tired or cheapened by overuse.  Example: The first time I saw this quote, I thought: “Damn! That’s so true.”


Then I heard the same line in a movie and thought: “Damn! That’s so trite.”

Among people journeying through recovery, we encounter many clichéd expressions, things it seems everybody says. While we may feel that our own experience in recovery is such an intense feeling as to be totally unique,  the truth is none of us are alone, that millions of people walked this road before us, creating sayings and expressions that were helpful to them.  

While at first glance such pithy expression of hard experiences are frustrating, underneath these expressions we can encounter a great deal of wisdom.  Here are a few cliché-seeming expressions I’ve heard in recovery and the way their central message still rings true.

1) The Recovery Shuffle – two steps forward, and one step back 

Some days we may feel like we’re making a lot of exciting process, feeling better then ever. Then, maybe the next day, things may be a lot harder, and we may be tempted to get discouraged, give up, feel like a failure.

Doing the “two steps forward, one step back” shuffle means this: take the long perspective; see and appreciated your growth.

Pursuing a life in recovery is hard work.

It is rarely a linear process.

Even though some days may be harder, we must learn to identify our growth.  Learning to appreciate the little day-by-day victories encourages us with the stamina to keep going.

2) K.I.S.S – Keep it simple, stupid 

One of the most difficult tasks in early recovery (and even long-term, stabile, recovered living) is that we are not as complicated as we think, our problems are not as overwhelming as we believe, and simplicity of action is often the cure for depressed and difficult days. Go to a meeting and be honest. Call your sponsor. Read some literature. Pray. Spend time with a supportive friend. Go to another meeting. Eat. Sleep.

Face it.

We’re surprisingly bad at doing things that are clearly good for us.

Stick with the basics and you’ll never have to return to them.

3) Fake it ‘till you make it

Honestly, some days I haven’t felt like being a sober person.

What’s more, I couldn’t get and stay sober until I learned to ignore my negative feelings (fears and doubts), my impulse to do nothing (laziness), my longing for the easy way out (entitlement), my wish for what I now call cheap recovery (childishness).

We are all this way.

Fake it until you make it means simply this: don’t wait until you feel like you’ve gotten your act together to start living a recovery-oriented life.

Don’t feel like going to a meeting? So what? Go anyway. Don’t feel like calling your sponsor, getting honest, working on that damn fourth step? Do it the-hell-anyway.

Healing & new ways of thinking follow sustained right action (not waiting till I feel like it).

4) You’re only as sick as your secrets 

We live in a world where most people hide their true selves. Addiction in particular creates and thrives under conditions of denial and self-delusion.

Denial is the chief medical indicator of addictive thinking.

Number one.

Numero Uno.

Recovery in turn means breaking these patterns of hiding our true selves from ourselves and from each other, learning how to be honest about what we have been like and what we are like today, to share honestly what we hope to grow towards tomorrow. Admitting (and living in) the truth is vitally important to living the recovered life…  so trying to hide something or confronting the reality of our thoughts and feelings keeps us imprisoned.

So sing along with Queen and break free, baby!

5) Keep coming back; it works if you work it

No matter how hard it gets or feels in a particular moment, the overriding, encouraging truth is this:

Recovery is possible.

This expression, and others like it, remind us to keep trying, to refuse to give up, to know that things will and do get easier, that you are capable of change.  The most important thing to remember about recovery is to steadfastly cling to hope. If you keep trying, one day you will be sober, free, and healthy. Live in this hope; by following suggestions, by showing up, by doing the deal (even the parts you think are stupid)… you WILL learn joy.

Here’s a few more of cliches and sayings as they relate to AA groups:

We are not God’s gift to AA; AA is God’s gift to us.

We are not reformed drunks but informed alcoholics.

When you clean up after your group, you leave the signature of AA behind you.

And my favorite:

An AA group will be judged by the worst behavior of its members.

For many, many more, please visit TransitionsDaily


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