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8 Best AA cliches

During meetings, you’ll start to hear the same slogans over and over. You might get a bit sick of hearing them after a while. However, I’ve come to accept that they serve an essential role in sobriety.

The repetition helps you absorb them. At first, the cliches went in one ear and out the other. After a while, however, I started to contemplate what they mean for me. Below I outline the ones that to this day serve me as I try to wade through each day in sobriety.

HALT = Hungry, Angry, Loney, Tired

HALT is an acronym that helps me get centered and focus on what’s driving my emotions. Although the slogan serves as insurance against picking up a drink, HALT makes me question the essentials of what drives emotions. I tend to over-complicate my feelings. HALT brings me down to earth.

Hungry. I’ve encountered countless situations where I felt over-anxious, fearful, and frustrated, and then I had a good meal. Immediately after a meal, the sharpness of my feelings has softened, and I wonder why I got so worked up in the first place.

Angry. It should go without saying, but stewing with anger makes us more vulnerable. We tend to blow up over small matters when there’s an intense resentment at another person or situation. We take it out on bystanders who have nothing to do with the real culprit.

Lonely. Feeling lonely for long periods also makes me less resilient. I get strange plans in my head and waste energy trying to achieve them when I am by myself too long. Getting exhausted then makes life that much more stressful. When I make myself spend time with others, despite my “grand plans,” I feel more attached to real life and handle events better.

Tired. When I have an impulse to buy a big-ticket item, I harken back to the adage “sleep on it.” For me, impulsivity usually accompanies fatigue. Fatigue makes me reach out for external things to feel better — usually caffeine, merchandise, or over-exercise. When I recognize the fatigue, I have to drop whatever I’m wrapped up in, such as work or shopping, which can always wait. I need to take a nap.

Easy Does It

Easy Does It was essential when I first sobered up. I was on a pink cloud of excitement. I had grand plans to conquer the milestones that I had put off for so long — all in a weekend. I wanted to immediately finish college, start a new job, saving thousands of dollars, and get my own place.

These goals were all in the back of my mind, and I switched activities that would lead me to accomplish them hour-by-hour. It was exhausting.

It was easy to forget that my sobriety was the most crucial goal I had had all my life and the time I put together was already miraculous. Anything was better than the cluster my life had become.

First Things First

Early on, it’s easy to get distracted by goals that impede sobriety. For example, you might think you’re not paid enough, and you need to get a new job — in your first month sober.

Instead, it would be wiser to acclimate your mind and body to absolute sobriety and build your foundation. The job can wait. There will always be work. Your initial steps into long-term sobriety are much more critical.

Even after you build substantial clean time, the slogan remains useful. We often start to drift from meetings and recovered friends when things are going well in our life. For example, it could be tempting to miss another meeting for a dinner party with coworkers–even though it’s been a few weeks since your last meeting.

There will be more dinners in the future. Taking action to keep your sobriety strong is a more worthwhile commitment in this scenario.

Think, Think, Think

Most people don’t like the “Think, think, think” slogan because we already are in our heads too much. You’ll hear the refrain, “If you’ve thought about something three times already, it’s time to get advice from someone else.” Good advice there.

For me, the slogan reminds me to think things all the way through. For example, if I want to buy a new laptop, it’s easy to feel caught up in the excitement of research and buying. However, if I imagine what it would be like when I received the laptop, I must reconcile the novelty arch that always happens. I use it a lot for a few weeks, and then it sits in the closet because I prefer my desktop PC.

When I look at the result, I start to question the purchase, and I usually find that I don’t need the item.

Selfishness is the root of our issues.

You often forget that 12 step recovery places the responsibility on you. This means that your issues usually originate from your selfishness.

This philosophy isn’t meant to put you down but instead empower you to realize you’re not at the mercy of how the world treats you.

When your boss passes you over for a promotion, the first reaction is to get mad and resentful. If we’re honest with ourselves, we may find the candidate they chose had more seniority and put in more effort over the long haul than you do.

Instead of stewing over management and the candidate for months or hastily quitting an otherwise good job, we’d be better off accepting that the person deserved the position more than us at this time.

We can’t change the world and other people. We can change how we perceive them and react to them.

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference

The Serenity Prayer is a cliche in my book because we say it at every meeting. However, I still use it daily outside of meetings.

It’s a reminder for perceiving the world in light of my recovery. It reminds me that I don’t have control over as much as I think I do. I have a slight grasp of control of myself and my reactions.

One day at a time

One day at a time is a slogan that centers you on the present moment.

I’ve heard complaints from newcomers that the slogan isn’t helpful because it implies you shouldn’t prepare for the future, such as saving for retirement or home projects. This slogan doesn’t mean you have to become a near animal in your pursuits, only focusing on the current minute.

It does imply that you don’t get carried away with anxiety over the future or shame over the past. As someone who sobered up young, it helps calm me that I have to stay sober for a long time (decades) if I want to die sober. When I fret over all the events in my future that might call for a drink, such as weddings, this slogan reminds me that today’s problems are enough for today.

Spot Check Inventory

The spot check inventory is a description for a section of the Big Book that describes step 11. It explains a type of inventory we can do at any time of the day as needed.

It boils down to examining yourself when you feel scared or angry, and you aren’t sure why. It helps by getting to the root of your current feelings so you can improve from then on.

The spot check has been beneficial for me. For example, it nearly always helps when I am “spinning my wheels” or burning up energy over a work or relationship problem. When I put my work down a moment and examine my feelings, I find that I am approaching the problem wrong or putting too much pressure on myself.


Love ’em or hate ’em, the cliches aren’t going anywhere. For me, they serve as easy-to-recall reminders of how I should manage my day-to-day affairs.

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