As someone who has participated in 12-step meetings as part of my recovery, I’ve heard a plethora of AA’s daily affirmations. At first, they didn’t really resonate with me. I became irritated upon hearing them over and over, and impatient with the people repeating them to me. None of the little sayings felt true in my life because of how early in sobriety I still was. They all felt forced and overly enthusiastic. I didn’t think I’d ever feel as grateful for sobriety as the people repeating these little sayings.
But as time passed and I was able to maintain my sobriety, some of these little affirmations I’d heard so many times began to apply to my life more. The person I was changed right alongside my lifestyle, meaning that these mantras began to make sense. As I gained more time in sobriety, I became more grateful for the life I was leading.
Even today, at three and a half years of sobriety, I often remind myself of the affirmations that accompanied my daily life in the first year of my sobriety. The following are some of the daily affirmations that stand out the most to me, and that are applicable in day-to-day life, not just sobriety.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
It sounds so simple and self-explanatory, but it was hard for me to grasp initially. When I was drinking, I always expected things to change or improve over time, as if by magic. It didn’t occur to me that to change the things that were happening as a side effect of my drinking, I would have to change the way I drank. If I didn’t, nothing would change. Once I got sober, this realization hit me quickly. Life started to improve in many areas, such as my physical appearance, my relationships, and my self-esteem. And the common factor in all these things was that I had made a change and taken alcohol out of the equation. Making that change was the catalyst for making other positive life changes.
Sobriety is a journey, not a destination.
I’m the type of person who always wants to complete and task and move forward, and it frustrated me that sobriety didn’t allow me to do this. I wanted so badly to check “get sober” off my to-do list, and it took me a long time to realize that this was never something I was going to be able to do. People would talk about sobriety being a lifelong journey, and that just sounded so daunting to me. I didn’t want to think about the fact that sobriety would be something I have to choose every single day for the rest of my life. But today, I am content with that idea. Sobriety truly is about the process rather than the final outcome, and that process has taught me so much about life and who I am as a person. I know it will continue to do so in the years to come as well.
It works if you work it.
In early sobriety, people were always telling me, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.” This annoyed me. I didn’t want to keep coming back, because again, it seemed too daunting to do that forever. I eventually found my way and found a program that worked well for me. And I realized that yes, this was because I worked it and put forth the effort to heal and be a better version of myself. If I had failed to do any work in a program, I likely would not have stayed sober as long as I have. It’s true; it works if you work it.
We’re responsible for the effort, not the outcome.
I like this one because it basically means we are responsible for doing our part in situations, but we cannot control the overall outcome of a circumstance. When I was drinking, I spent so much time trying to control the outcome of every situation because I didn’t like being caught off guard. Today, I can put that need for control aside and take comfort in the fact that I always do as much as I am capable of doing, and that maybe the rest isn’t up to me.
Strive for progress, not perfection.
I have always been a type-A perfectionist, and this was the case when I was drinking too. I would set these standards for myself and then not live up to them, resulting in a feeling of defeat that I then covered with alcohol. I never paid attention to whether or not I progressed in certain areas, as I cared more about being perfect in those areas. But in sobriety, I’ve realized that perfection is truly unattainable. I will never be a perfect human being. No one will. So the best I can do is continually strive to be a better version of myself and do better than I did the day before. Perfection is no longer on my radar, but progress always is.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz