When a word or phrase resonates with you, it can become a helpful mantra to help you stay balanced and on track with your recovery.
Finding your way in early recovery is hard—many folks feel completely lost as we try and navigate life sans substances. It’s a time that we feel all the feels and learn how to deal with life’s challenges without returning to use. The great thing about being in this stage of recovery, though, is that we’re usually super teachable—at least I was. I was willing to try anything that gave me hope or provided some comfort as I was really struggling. This is where I found mantras most helpful.
What is a mantra?
The word “mantra” originated from Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a word or phrase, and repeating it was seen as a way to help one concentrate during meditation. In other words: a mantra is a guide. You can repeat it aloud or silently.
Mantras can be super useful for people in recovery, as they can:
- Provide wisdom
- Strengthen your resolve for recovery
- Help find peace and comfort when struggling
- Keep you focused
- Remind you why you’re in recovery
- Help to reduce the overwhelm of recovery
- Keep you in a positive frame of mind
Just like most aspects of recovery, you have to find a mantra that works for you, personally. It could be any collection of words that you find helpful: an affirmation, saying, statement, reminder, quote, or prayer. One thing worth noting is that which mantra is most helpful to you may change over time. The key is to remain open-minded to changing your perspective on recovery.
I’ve been in recovery for nearly ten years now and over that time I’ve found mantras and affirmations very helpful. They help me to feel grounded and to remember why I’m in recovery and that I don’t have to tackle all of my challenges at once. They give me much-needed perspective when I’m either stuck in a problem or knee-deep in life. And I know I’m not alone in finding mantras helpful.
I asked my friends in recovery about some of the mantras/sayings/slogans/affirmations that have been helpful in their recovery and combined them with some of the ones I’ve found beneficial.
- HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) – when you’re feeling out of sorts, you may find that you’re experiencing one of these markers. Commonly used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
- “One day at a time.” AA
- “I can. I will. Watch me.” Unknown
- “I am. I can. I will. I do.” Christine D’Ercole
- “Talk about everything, drink about nothing.” Jessica Ellen Foody
- “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” Mike Marshall
- “Just be kind, and don’t be a *&%$ to people who recover differently than you.” Jen Nagel-Fischer
- “Any positive change.” Dan Bigg
- “Little and often.” Jonathan Wadsworth
- “There is no problem so big that I can’t run away from it.” Tom Pynenberg
- “Never question the decision.” Adele Harth
- “No matter how sh*tty the day, I still won when I chose myself over substances.” Kara Jean
- “Never use, no matter what.” Narcotics Anonymous
- “I have what I need to get through this.” Psychology Today
- “Remember how far you’ve come.” Unknown
- “Sobriety is self-love.” Kelly Fitzgerald Junco
- “Progress Not Perfection”. AA
- “Do the next right thing.” AA
- “Do what’s in front of you.” Kendall McCallum
- “We teach people how to treat us.” Maya Angelou
- “I’d like to think that I’m winning a war in my own mind every day, and the strength and courage it takes me to do that makes me a superhero.” Christine Crites
How to use mantras
As I mentioned, in the early days you’d find these stuck to the walls of my studio, or written on my mirror in the bathroom. Today, you might discover them in my meditation area or pinned to my computer. It’s helpful to give some thought to where placing mantras might be helpful.
Here are some ideas for where to center a mantra:
- Save to your phone screen
- Keep on your computer desktop or lock screen
- Print and pin to your computer
- Add a sticker to your journal
- Print a picture of your favorite mantra and frame it
- Make a chain of mantras tied by a piece of string and pin them where you spend most of your day
- Use a book of mantras and read one randomly before meditating or journaling every day
- Repeat the phrase to yourself while sitting for five minutes
- Find a Kundalini yoga mantra to chant and practice a kriya