Tattoos are more accepted in society now than they ever were before, but people who have them are still considered edgy. Tattoos are personal, and they’re all unique. Some people have a single, small tattoo that they got just because they could. Some turn their bodies into artistic murals. Others have tattoos hidden under their business suits.
When people get a tattoo, it usually means something; they got it for a specific reason. In the recovery community, tattoos that signify sobriety are fairly popular, especially among people who already have other tattoos. A recovery tattoo is like a badge of honor, and it’s a permanent reminder of a horrific battle against addiction. So why do people actually want recovery tattoos?
Remembering What It’s All About
Teena W. of Pennsylvania has several tattoos that she got before she entered recovery for alcoholism. Once she quit drinking, she “wanted to come up with something to signify this milestone.” Teena has two recovery-related tattoos. On her left side, she has words from the Serenity Prayer (which she recites everyday) - “Serenity, Courage, Wisdom.” On the inside of her left ankle, she the Alcoholics Anonymous symbol inside of a heart, because “for AA to work, it has to be embraced with my heart.”
For Teena, tattoos are “symbols of life events and spiritual experiences that have changed me for the better.” The AA tattoo in particular helps her to “remember what the program is all about.” Recovery tattoos for people like Teena are reminders of the positivity of sobriety; they help them remain grateful for the better life they have today because they overcame their addiction. Teena just celebrated her one year anniversary of sobriety in June, and she plans to get a tattoo to commemorate that.
Rising from the Ashes
Jason R. of Colorado has so many tattoos that he’s lost count. The one tattoo he says means the most to him, however, is the tattoo he has on the back of his left shoulder. The tattoo is an elaborate, colorful drawing of a Phoenix with fiery wings. Jason got this tattoo shortly after his thirty-day mark in recovery. A former heroin addict, Jason said, “After I made it a month without dope I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually do this.’ I felt like a new man, and that’s why I got a tattoo of the Phoenix rising from the ashes - because I was rising from the ashes, too.”
Jason, like many others, got his tattoo to remind him of the struggles he went through in his addiction and, most importantly, how he overcame them. For Jason, it’s a symbol of his “strength and determination. It’s a symbol of how hard my life used to be, but how I made it to the other side into recovery.” It’s a reminder of his ability to change the worst things about himself.
The Story Behind the Ink
Everyone with a recovery tattoo has their own story behind its meaning, and they have their own story about their struggle with the disease of addiction. For some people in recovery, getting a tattoo is a way of taking back control of their body and doing something to it that isn’t deadly.
What’s the story behind your recovery tattoos? If you don’t have any tattoos, what have you done to signify your recovery?