Five 12-Step Cliches that Work in the Real World

Categories: Articles, Life in Recovery

The truth hurts. While not a 12-step cliche, it was my introduction to them. All of those trite, so-called words of wisdom emanating from the lips of the old-timers felt like someone was jamming bamboo sticks under my fingernails.

Most annoying was that everyone who was dropping these lines had been sober for years. These pithy little expressions worked for them, but they all sounded too simple to work for me.


And then it happened; I actually found myself using one of them. I was having a horrendous day and feeling very overwhelmed by all of these random thoughts. Guilt from something that had happened yesterday and fear of the repercussions I was likely to have to face tomorrow, I began thinking seriously about I had perceived as silly little expressions and how to actually apply them.


Once my eyes were opened, I realized that having a basic understanding of these truths wasn’t enough. I had to learn how to apply them to my particular daily struggles.

1. One Day at a Time – Perhaps the most vilified, but also the most useful, this golden piece of advice is universal, which makes it the perfect place to start. While I initially felt like it was an oversimplified piece of fluff, I came to understand what it really meant, and that the beauty of it is its simplicity. By staying in the present, I am no longer regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.

2. First Things First – All I could think of when I first heard this was, “Well, duh!” What this really means, though, is that I must put my sobriety first. It is the foundation of the positive, new life I am continually building, and that requires learning to listen before speaking and establishing trust with other people.


3. Fake It Until You Make It – My initial reaction to this was, “Really? I have spent most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I thought getting sober was about truth and honesty.” I had to learn what this really meant. It wasn’t about faking my feelings. It was learning to work the program, not giving up in the process, and waking up one day and realizing it was working.

4. Pain is the Touchstone of Spiritual Growth – Hadn’t I had enough pain while I was drinking? Not to mention the long list of casualties I had left in my wake. Now I have to go through more pain? I was vehemently opposed to this idea until I realized it was the only way I would grow in my sobriety.

5. You’re only as Sick as Your Secrets – The thought of having to confess any of my deepest, darkest secrets to anyone was simply horrifying. I came to realize, however, it isn’t about what anyone else thinks of my confessions. It’s about putting it out in front of me so I could examine it.


A wise person once said to me, “You never stop learning, no matter how old you are.” Learning is a natural part of life, because everything around us is always evolving. Often times, it’s so slow or subtle that we don’t even see it. But no one is exempt from it.

Once I realized that everyone is taking this journey, mine didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. Nor did it matter that mine was shaped by addiction, because we are all fighting our way through something. It was then that I knew I really could take one day at a time.

If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.

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