“One day at a time.” “Easy does it …but do it.” “It’s the first drink that gets you drunk.” “Life on life’s terms.” “This too shall pass.” “First thing’s first.” “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” “Meeting makers make it.” “Stick with the winners.” “Stay in the middle of the herd.” Blah blah blah.

The 12 step recovery slogans are cliché, dorky and shallow-seeming. Why do otherwise smart seeming, eloquent, articulate people keep vomiting them out all the time when talking about these programs?

These sayings are extremely cheesy, but they’re really helpful at encapsulating big ideas into small, bite size, memorable ways. They’re numonic devices for transmitting worlds of sober experience to one another.

As a self-righteous, self-important smartie, I used to hate all the 12 step mottos, until I started talking about them in depth with people who have 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years of sobriety, started hearing their stories, and then realizing how much data is packed into some of these mottos.

I really can’t stand cheesy twee shit. I hate most multicamera, joke-a-page sitcoms. Chuck Lorre shows hurt my soul. There is nothing deep or interesting about Young Sheldon. Vom. But there is more to these seemingly cheeseball 12 step slogans.

Take, “one day at a time,” for example.

Early on in my sobriety, I couldn’t stop craving. I was still suffering from obsession with that feeling of oblivion I was so addicted to. And if something bad happened that day — and when you’re in that mental headspace, everything is the end of the world, so something bad happened every day — the temptation would become almost unbearable. So I would tell myself, “okay, I’m going to try not drinking over this today, and if it continues to get worse, I will reconsider tomorrow.” I would tell myself that every day, whether or not I felt better.

Eventually, I did feel better.

Eventually, and VERY gradually, the cravings became less intense and less frequent. At the same time I would see people who I thought had stronger programs than me relapse. I realized no matter how many years we have, we all have to wake up and start the process of this program fresh from go all over again every day. All of us is working on a 24 hour clock. We’re all just facing this same problem, one day at a time.

Now, I could, every day, repeat to myself those above whole paragraphs I just wrote out, or I can remind myself of all that valuable information quickly by just saying “one day at time.”

We’re addicts. Our brains are not our best friends. We lose ourselves quickly and easily. The 12 step mottos are a quick, simple, memorable way to snap us back to reality. Yeah, they’re dorky. But they remind me of deeper concepts and that keeps me sober.

This post from Amethyst Recovery goes into more of these slogans, if you’re interested in going deeper on these subjects.

What is your favorite of the 12 step slogans, and what does it mean to you when you dig deeper?