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what your sobriety tattoo says about you

You all know what I’m talking about. People get a little clean time and suddenly, they feel it’s necessary to advertise to the world how much they believe in “Faith,” “Hope,” or the Serenity Prayer, by having these words and sayings tattooed permanently on their bodies, and usually in very obvious places. Which is cool. I am a fan of ink. And of recovery. But let’s just talk about this trend for a minute and specifically what your “sobriety tattoo” says about you.


Many people will rock a sobriety tattoo that incorporates the AA symbol or NA symbol, a cross, or praying hands with a rosary among other symbols. These are some of the more popular ones that people choose to get in recovery. Other times, people choose symbols that have a more personal meaning to them and might even incorporate these more common ones, too. People who get tattoos of symbols in their sobriety are obviously open about being in the program and don’t mind letting others know.


Usually something uplifting like “Faith” “Hope” “Breathe” “Free” “Serene” and so on. To a “normie,” these tattoos may appear inspirational yet they don’t know the deeper meaning behind them. To those of us in recovery, seeing someone with one of these tattoos is a sure-fire giveaway that the person is also in the program; ‘one of us’ if you will.


Another common sobriety-themed tattoo is one that incorporates dates: clean dates, also birthdays of family members and death dates of friends lost to the disease. These are commemorative tattoos that can also blend in with non-recovery folks’ tattoos but, again, to the trained eye (read: recovering addict) it’s pretty easy to decipher the meanings of these. Sometimes, the tattoos with the person’s clean date will also incorporate a fellowship symbol like the AA triangle within a circle. I’m just too superstitious to get my clean date tattooed on me.


When people get clean and begin to work a recovery program, they get to know their Higher Power and build a relationship. Sometimes, recovering alcoholics and addicts turn to religion, especially the one they were raised in, when they want to feel closer to their Higher Power. These folks are the ones who like to get religious-themed sober tattoos such as excerpts of Bible verses. Other times, people in recovery will get quotes from the AA or NA literature and the ever-popular Serenity Prayer inked in their skin.


Yet another easy-to-spot sobriety tat is one that incorporates one of the following sayings: “One Day at a Time,” “This Too Shall Pass,” “Let Go and Let God,” “Stay Strong,” “Clean and Serene” and so on. These ever-popular tatted sayings are a quick way to spot a brother or sister in the program and might be lost on the normies who probably think: “what a neat saying!”

The bottom line is, when we decide to get clean and sober many of us want to get ink to commemorate our struggle and we wear that sobriety tattoo like a badge of honor. And I say, go for it. I am proud of the work I have done and so should you be. If you want to celebrate it and yourself with some fresh ink that might inspire or, at the very least, cause an instant connection with someone who might be struggling, then it’s all been worth it.

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