If you have been around the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous for any length of time (even if you have just been to one AA meeting), you have likely heard a large assortment of clichés and slogans. AA adages seem to be a major part of the very fabric of the program – you will find them framed and hung-up throughout meeting rooms, said together in unison at the close of certain meetings… even tattooed on the arms of some especially dedicated alcoholics. If you ever strike up conversation with an old-timer, you can be sure that you will hear at least five or six of these time-worn mottos before the conversation comes to a close. At first, all of these maxims may seem a little goofy and unwarranted. However, upon further investigation, you will find that each slogan bears a great amount of significance. Let us take a look at several of the more common AA sayings, and explore the deeper meaning behind each.
- First Things First
Essentially, this saying is about priorities. When we first get sober, we tend to want to tackle the entire world immediately – right all of our past wrongs, settle into a lucrative career, find somewhere to live… the to-do list goes on and on. The first thing we must do, however, is stay sober – learn how to live sober lives, work the steps, and get right with ourselves. When an old-timer reminds you, “First things first,” he or she is likely saying, “Slow down kid! What’s the rush? All you need to worry about today is staying sober.” Of course, like all AA sayings, you can interpret this one in any way you deem appropriate. Perhaps you use this saying as a means of remembering to hit your knees and pray first thing in the morning. Whatever appeals to you, cling to it. AA is all about finding what works best for you, personally.
- One Day at a Time
For many newly sober addicts and alcoholics, the idea of a lifetime of total abstinence can be a bit overwhelming. After years of excessive drinking and drug use, staying sober for a week at a time may seem like too much to manage. Fortunately, we have this age-old AA slogan to remind us that all we need to worry about is the day ahead of us. Taking our recovery in 24-hour increments is very beneficial, because it allows us to live fully in the present moment. Recovering addicts will often say, “Just tell yourself that you’ll have a drink tomorrow.” And the beautiful thing is, if we continuously do this, tomorrow will never come!
- Let Go and Let God
It is often difficult to trust God (or whatever your higher power is) with absolutely every component of your life. You may want to hold onto your finances, or your health, or your relationships. This slogan is reminding us that God is everything or else he is nothing – when we let go of whatever it is we are trying to control, we allow our higher power to step in and take over. When we try to dictate our own lives and the people in them, we often wind up setting ourselves back more than is necessary. By having faith in the universe and trusting that everything will work out just the way it is supposed to, we open ourselves up to ultimate fulfillment.
- Easy Does It
As addicts and alcoholics, we tend to take things very seriously – especially ourselves. Essentially, this slogan urges us to take things slowly and carefully – a relaxed effort is most likely to produce the desired results. Rather than take ourselves too seriously and overwhelm ourselves with the perceived rules and regulations of recovery, it will behoove us to take things slowly and do our best to remember that we can take our sweet time – healing does not occur overnight. Take it easy! Be easy on yourself and trust the process.
- Keep it Simple
In addition to taking things too seriously, we have a tendency to make everything significantly more difficult than it needs to be. When we are reminded to keep it simple, we are being reminded that early recovery (and the recovery process in general) is really very straightforward. Go to meetings, find a sponsor, work the steps, clean house, help others, and don’t drink or use drugs. When we overcomplicate things, we begin to feel overwhelmed – and feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and incompetent can be a relapse trigger. Remember that recovery is a very simple process, and though it may not always be easy, there will always be someone to help you out along the way.
- Don’t Use No Matter What
This may be the most straightforward of all AA sayings and slogans. No matter what you are going through emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually – do not pick up a drink or a drug! We tend to be rather fatalistic, and may convince ourselves that things will never get better; we’ll never love again, we’ll never get a job as good as the one we lost, the sun will never rise again, leaving us to live in a world of darkness for the rest of eternity. The truth is, of course, that the sun always rises. Everything is temporary, and we will safely make it through every unfavorable experience so long as we never pick up.
- Principles Before Personalities
When we begin working the steps associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, we are introduced to a set of spiritual principles by which to live. This specific slogan is essentially reminding us to keep those principles in mind at all times – even when we are forced to deal with people that we may not be all that fond of. There are bound to be certain situations and circumstances in which we will have to tolerate personalities that might rub us the wrong way – perhaps a coworker, a sponsee, or a fellow homegroup member. If we keep our set of spiritual principles in mind, we will be able to handle every situation (and every personality) with tolerance, patience, and grace.
As far as AA sayings go, these few are truly only the tip of the iceberg. Since AA was first founded in 1936, these sayings, slogans, mottos, and maxims have been successfully passed down and kept alive by generations of recovering addicts and alcoholics. And there is a good reason for this! Each saying is significant in terms of recovery from addiction and alcoholism. Please feel free to share your own AA slogans below!