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Tattoo Ideas: Quotes on Addiction, Sobriety, Recovery

All images courtesy of

All images courtesy of

After writing over two dozen hubs on tattoo ideas that showcased pictures as the majority of the content, I started noticing that a large portion of the comments were from people asking for ideas on what to say, not so much on how to say it. Like Lindsay, for example, who commented on the hub Tattoo Ideas: Words & Phrases and said: "I want some sort of latin script with a phrase having to do with karma." Or Jesso, who said: "I have a colourful fish on my left lower back, but next I want a script.. .. just what I don't know... something positive to remind me every day is mine, I am in control of my destiny."

The tricky thing about quote tattoos is that nine times out of ten they can't be too long. Unless you have a huge expanse of skin that you plan on dedicating to the tat, like a forearm or your entire back, you're going to need to pick a quote that's short enough to fit in a small area. A few years ago my girlfriend wanted to get something I had written tattooed on her in my handwriting. The quote she wanted was twenty-one words long, and she wanted it somewhere on her inner forearms. As she is already fairly heavily tattooed, there was no criteria such as having to get it on a place that could be easily hidden if need be. She's lucky. She ended up getting it running lengthwise down her arm next to the word GIRL that was already there. Most people don't have the same flexibility as her. Maybe your job is too professional for tattoos and piercings, or you don't want your mother to see it. If that's the case, then a quote tattoo can be challenging to find space for. And if you think you're going to fit an entire poem (unless it's a haiku) on your wrist by shrinking down the letters to a size 5 font, you're mistaken. Good tattoo artists will only let you make the lettering so small, because they know that tattoos blend, fade and bleed over time. The smaller the font, the better the chance that you'll be left with a meaningless blob ten years down the road. So although there are millions of wonderful quotes about the beauty of love, I've tried to only assemble the ones that are on the shorter side, while still being meaningful.

I went back through all 2,000+ comments on my previous hubs and tried to identify the most common themes people requested when asking for help with quote ideas. In addition to being a voracious reader, I've been compiling quotes in notebooks and journals since I was thirteen. This hub is fifth in a series of hubs broken down by category.. Please, if you have any ideas or would like to share a favorite quote of yours, feel free to comment! The examples I've chosen for this particular hub may not resonate with everyone. You might read it and get nothing out of it. But my hope is that something will resonate with someone, somewhere, and the words written here will inspire you to take a step you may not have taken otherwise.

Quotes--Addiction, Sobriety, Recovery


It is never too late to be what you might have been.--EliotThe woods are lovely, dark and deep.But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleepAnd miles to go before I sleep.--Robert Frost I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. --MichelangeloOut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.--Khalil GibranBecause we choose to live the dream instead of choosing to live the life.--Hubert Selby, Jr.Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tidesjust like hopes springing high, still i'll rise.did you want to see me broken?bowed head and lowered eyes?shoulders falling down liketeardrops weakened by my soulful cries.i rise. up from a past that's rooted in paini rise. leaving behind nights of terror and feari rise. into a daybreak that's wondrously clear.--Maya AngelouWe played a game you couldn't win.Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself.--Rob LoweReligion is for people who are afraid they'll go to hell.Spirituality is for people who have been there.The quality of your recovery is proportional to the quality of your surrender.Uncover...Discover...DiscardThe power behind me is greater than the problem in front of me.Bring the body and the mind follows.Change only happens when the pain of holding on is greater than the fear of letting go.You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.--Albert CamusA smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.It is not length of life, but depth of life.--Ralph Waldo EmersonA designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothingleft to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.--Antoine de Saint-Exup'eryDon't give up five minutes before the miracle occurs.To gain that worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.--Bernadette DevlinMay you live all the days of your life.-Jonathan Swift



Tiff on January 08, 2019:

I am lying in bed wishing i would just die. I am 8 years clean off everything but not really. 8 years ago i heard about this miracle for addicts. Only if i had known now what i didnt then id have know better. I thought i was done with that chapter of my life but her i am 5 days off suboxone. I tried asking the doctor who perscribed me this miracle to help me yesterday and was told to make an appointment and get back on them, after all he has a buisness to run. Are you kidding me. Im so furious. I dont know what it will be yet but if i make it through this one last time. I want to have a tatoo to show the world im not ashamed of any of what ive been through because ill be really clean.

Robb. on November 24, 2014:

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I have one already in mind as my day 365 gift to myself (currently on day 33 and never felt better) its quite simple yet powerful

A semi-colon with the scripted words across my back that say


"Your story isn't over yet"

(since using a semi-colon when a sentence could have ended but it didn't)

Angie Power from North Cali on June 01, 2014:

Very inspiring. I definitely plan to get some type of written statement related to my recovery journey, after I have the baby. I heard that it is not safe to get tattooed during pregnancy. I suppose I should ask my doctor. I'll have 2 years in August. Baby is due on Xmas day. The LIE IS DEAD. WE DO RECOVER. I have never been happier! Thank you for this post. Voted up.

missi on January 15, 2014:

I have been clean for a year from Meth it tried to kill me .the day I walked into treatment.Was the day I was reborn.I thank god everyday for that one min of light in the dark hell I was calling my life.Recovery is great life is great . And to anyone still living in the dark hell you can come out of it just take that first step we will love you till you can love yourself.god bless ever one.

Jen on August 16, 2013:

Yesterday you said tomorrow

Jennifer Counts from Ware Shoals, South Carolina on May 30, 2013:

I got a dragon on my right shoulder in Jan-1 month shy of my 1 year "sober" mark. I battled a pain killer addiction for 4 1/2 years. 4 years into my addiction I lost my brother to an accidental OD of pills. I decided then to slay my addiction "dragon". Glad to say I walked in treatment and never looked back. my dragon tattoo reminds me of what I went through-both during addiction and recovery-so when I look over my shoulder I know I wanna stay on the path of recovery. Prayers and best wishes to all of you fellow recover-ers. I'm almost 16 mos clean!

Chelsea on May 16, 2013:

Started using drugs at 14. Everything from psycadelics to coke to ecstasy an pills. In July of 2011 my dad died of a heroine overdose. As a result I started using heroine. I have been sober for almost 7 months now and It is the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, it's an everyday struggle. These quotes are great, but the comments are what really helped me today. It's sad how many people struggle with addiction but its comforting to know I am not alone.

Lorah on May 12, 2013:

Recovering addict of everything! Started with smokes, drink, pot, pills, coke, ice now a heroin addict of 3 years, as much a day as possible. And thT was A lot. I have a 14mth old daughter and she couldn't even force me clean and I've wanted kids from the age I could talk my mum always tells me! So I hope that explains or helps people to realise what heroin does to lives!!! I've had 5 rehab attempts to get clean and few on my own. 2 weeks clean tomorrow ( day after mothers day) I'm really happy, my head has changed, everything has. I said so many times this is it no more but obviously never really ment it but Neva realized it until This time, everything just feels different,it won't be easy but I know everything will be ok. "Chasing death I found life" is my next tat!! Love it. Wana chat feel free to hit me up all the best thoughts are with u all. Stay strong. If one day at a time doesn't work for you try one step at a time :) peace

jorjor8992 on April 10, 2013:

On 4/13/13 I will have 60 days clean. I am having a hard time right now. Heroin was my lover as well as my demon. I have been through hell and back. Being 20 years old and going through rehab for daily use of heroin for a year and a half shooting up. I legally died 3 times but was resuscitated. So the quote "chasing death I found life" really hit home with me. I'm planning on getting another tattoo soon of a bonsai tree with that quote written in the box the tree is planted in. What do you think?

shay on March 30, 2013:

Reading these comments has really put a lump in my throat. I felt so alone on this road of addiction (I've been clean now for 3 months off of Heroin and Meth) but now I see that I'm not and that makes me feel 20x better! Still taking it day by day, but I'm planning on getting a recovery tattoo to keep me focused on not going back to that life. I really liked the quote, "Chasing Death, I Found Life." That speaks so much to me (: Thank you so much you guys!

donna on March 21, 2013:

Im celebrating 10yrs of being clean from heroin 18/04/13 and gettin a tat: "chasing the dragon until the end that's when I realised you were never my friend.

Jay on March 07, 2013:

Life long alcoholic a drug addict. I have had everything and nothing all at the same time. I was locked in a prison cell in my head for what I thought was a life sentence without parol. I've lived on both sides of the tracks, million dollar home to holding a sign begging for money. Hopeless is what my life was and hope is what I found. Today I live by faith. I'm in recovery striving for freedom. Step by step, day by day.

jep on March 04, 2013:

I am addicted to pain pills I have been now for 6 yrs. my best friend/Cousin started this addiction together just for the fun of the high to let go of every day.worries. I lost my brother this year to his. Long battle of kidney failure he has always.been my strength my whole life after he passed away my Cousin and I.reached out for help we were turned away.and.told we was to sick basically to far gone I lost my Cousin a month later to overdose here I what's left of me trying to fight my demons alone and IM failing miserably but reading other peoples.stories really helps I .I am wanting a tat to represent what I've been through IM hopes that it will help everyday with reaching for my sobriety

Jeff on February 17, 2013:

I have been fighting heroine addiction for ten years. More on then off for sure. I now have a 3 year old son who looks up to me greatly. Reading some of these posts gives me the hope to be the dad and husband I need to be. Thanks everyone. I am only 2 days sober again and taking it day by day. Good luck everyone

janeo on February 08, 2013:

Hi I have an angel tattoo on my shoulder.Makes me feel like she is watching over me. I am 6 months clean and serene today.One day at a time. One of my favorite sayings is You are no longer alone.Which is how i feel in the rooms. Work it your worth it.

toughlove1 on January 11, 2013:

How about using the AA triangle? Each leg stands for something, Recovery, Unity, and Service. As long as you are doing one of these things, you can't relapse. You recover by going to meetings, getting a sponsor, and working the steps. I know they are only suggested but if you were going to go skydiving and someone only suggested you pull the ripcord, would you do it? Working those steps saved my life! Unity is finding out that we are all equal or right sized. We are people who would not normally mix, but we have to put principles before personalities or we could end up back out there again. I think the service part of the triangle is the most important. Make the coffee, put the chairs away, pick up cig. butts outside, help the next person who may be struggling. You know how it works!

nat on January 10, 2013:

Hey, I am 19 and looking for a quote to tattoo on myself as a reminder through treatment to stay strong and not give up as it will be my 4th attempt. does anyone have any suggestions, it will greatly appreciated.

sue on December 25, 2012:

my daughter is a heroin addict..right now on her way to prison and looking at a two year reabilitaion thru the prison....i am hoping this time...she will stay clean..and we decided to get tattoo together matching ones and the one i like the most is..ITS NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHAT U MIGHT HAVE BEEN...shes only 23..she still has time to be...

Ray D on December 11, 2012:

If I do not go within, I go without.

Nataliespark on November 18, 2012:

Just wanted to add my 2 cents here: very short and yet meaningful quotes that someone might like to use for their tattoo art.

Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.—Charles F. Kettering

It’s always too early to quit. —Norman Vincent Peale

I love beautiful art, even though would not have it on my own body, maybe just temporarily.

Amy on November 08, 2012:

A very dear friend of mine , who recently lost her battle with addiction, had a small tattoo on her right shoulder blade, Ive been looking into gettting the same one but incorporating a recovery quote, I too am an addict, however on March 10th 2011, I checked into rehab and have been clean ever since, and even though every day is a struggle I still could have been me, and I am thankful every day that it wasn't. I have so much to live for...and I know that now :)

thatguy on September 29, 2012:

18 years old 7 months clean from heroin after 4.5 years daily use. its the craziest thing you can go through and if you can not use you can do anything. i am and always will be an addict it all depends what i do about it and its the same for every other addict. i wish the best of luck for everyone whos clean and i pray for all those in active addiction. love from the 608

majesta on September 21, 2012:

matt .... there are places you can gt help if you have the willingness and are ready to stop using. I just happened to get onto this page those are nice.. I my self have been clean for 1 yr. I have a tattoo as well recovery based. It was my first clean tattoo. I am truly greatfull to be clean today it is a beter way of life.

Matt on September 17, 2012:

I wish I had a chance to meet and talk with all of you. Your post's are very inspirational. I am currently still struggling with my addiction and pray one day that I have the strength to be sober. I am on 200mg of adderall right now and cannot remember the last time I actually slept or had food. I feel like I am going to die.

jd on June 16, 2012:

This page is inspirational for all addicts I've been sober for 1 yr 6 months and 11 days from being addicted to opaites for 7 and half we all battled our demons and fought with our self courage and strength my idea for a tattoo is a puzzle piece sleeve symbolizing iv finally putting my life back together piece by piece as i am on my way to start my degree in substance abuse counseling bc I want to help people like us that were addicts to give them a reason to life clean and free of those demons

Lil'Bit on June 08, 2012:

Sup! I am a Oxycodone addict and Im in a 90 day recovery progam... im slowly getting my life back together for me and my son. Im only 19 yrs old and my lil mijo is almost 3! he is what keeps me happy every day. What i go by is "JUST FOR TODAY"... It works if you work it! Thanks for letting me share :)

Jq on May 31, 2012:

I live in a small coastal town i have never gotten into drugs. I have had great friends all through primary school who have gone off the rails and have recently lost my partner to meth. Iam thinking about getting a full sleeve dedicated to my mates and partner ad im about to move away

Ines on May 30, 2012:

July 2012 will be 10 years of being drug free! I want to get a tatoo that represents my sobriety. A lot of what I've read is deep but my fav is "Chasing death I found life" that is the truth! Thank you to Melanie

MakeItRight:) on April 29, 2012:

I'm felt so relieved and inspired after of what I've read. Somehow, I can say that I'm not totally alone.. I consider all of you as a rare and strong person despite of being involve in this kind of addiction that really ruins one's life.. But we have to really settle ourselves and our minds to take away those addiction til it's not the end for us, don't be deceived for what had happened in the past just take it and make it as a motivation like I do. If that's our fate, then let's face it. Heads ups everyone! Don't let yourself regretful in the end, bcos theres always time for CHANGE and it's up to u. I hope this could help. God bless us!

Ice queen on April 03, 2012:

Ex meth addict.. 6 years everyday. "Anything lost can be found again except for time wasted"

Brittany on April 02, 2012:

Looking for a quote to get as a tatto for my mom who is still an addict I like "Dear Mom, Are you willing to give up what you love for the ones you love" any other suggestions?

BillyB on March 23, 2012:

Been up all night looking but found them Im a GRATEFUL recovering herion addict and went thru so much shit i don't kno how im alive but i learn from everything and always make the best of the hand im delt so im putting Nothings a Failure... across my right forarm and Always a Lesson! acroos the left so they can both be read together when my knockels meet and Dead Man Walking across chest to remind me to be thankful for everyday im upright and breathing My good friend i grew up with, who actually does all my ink now, always told me that Death was certain... Life was not! so to thank who ever or what ever you believe in for ever last breath u take

cause it may be your last

Jessica on March 13, 2012:

Wow, this is amazing to read. I have been an on again off again user of all sorts of drugs since I was 17. I am now 30. I went from weed, cocaine to a long 5 year crack binge that involved trying every drug out there to being clean for almost a year. When I had my son, things went bad. I had some problems and was prescribed opiates to take the pain away. Little did I know by the time I was no longer prescribed them, I was addicted. Which also got my husband involved and he became addicted to. When the pills were no longer available here came good ole Heroin to save the day...wrong! Of course it made us feel better but it was in a whole different category. We became more addicted to it than I have anything in my entire time using. I never shot it or smoked it, never let it get that far. Then I found a little miracle drug, Suboxone. Wrong again. It was another 3 years before we both had exhausted the dr and couldn't seem to stop taking just the smallest of piece. Now we are 5 days clean. It wasn't hard at all. I feel great actually. But it is harder for me. I have always had a drug addiction and my husband has not. He don't understand that pit in your stomach that is trying to claw its way out. Wow. Now I feel even better. I know we are both done and we will not go back.

Schroedes on March 12, 2012:

A few days away from having 5 months clean, I'm 23. Been thinking of getting a recovery tattoo, but didn't expect to cry while reading this. Reminds me how lucky we really are. I think I've decided on Chasing Death I Found Life, thanks Melanie on March 01, 2012:

I am not an addict,however my son is a recovering addict.He has been sober for 4 months now and I get it.I can feel the Power in all of you through these quotes. Your struggles are You strengths.I have never Listened to more courageous people in my life. You are all stronger than your addiction. Keep up the GREAT work and god bless each and everyone.

Tyler on January 28, 2012:

I think that the phoenix bird is a great symbolic tattoo to represent sobriety because the myth is that it is reborn through its own ashes. Even though a person may destroy themselves through drug addiction, they can be reborn through sobriety. Here is a link to a great phoenix bird design.

Bill12Steps on January 26, 2012:

and more recovery and serenity prayer tattoos, over 150 on

Kelly on January 23, 2012:

im not an addict but my mother my whole life foster homes and back with her and im looking for a saying for her but to be out on me ... she getting worse :'(

Tatiana Dillon on January 18, 2012:

" You become what you believe" love that saying

Louise on January 16, 2012:

Thanx for inspiring me with all the quotes, you can tell they all come from the heart & soul of the recoverer. It proves we are all beautiful people, when on the outside we may not have looked like it during our most difficult times. Im recovering from a 14year (on/off) heroin addition and was feeling slightly unsure of myself this morning until i read the comments, now i know i will conqueur another day.. Thankyou.. x

Melanie on December 05, 2011:

Chasing Death I Found Life

Sabre on November 24, 2011:

"Life is like a waterfall: we're one in the river and one again after the fall."

Kc-lee on October 16, 2011:

I'm a recovoring addict and a quote that was/is helpful is from Big Sean," Are you willing to give up what you love for who you love."

Lander on August 24, 2011:

I find when I read other peoples comments and stories it reminds me that I am not alone. When I was in recovery I couldn't understand why people always wanted to talk about their problems and secondly why they were so happy. Well here I am wanting to talk and more important wanting to listen and I haven't been this happy in years. I just want to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences they really do help A-Lot!! I want to get a sleeve tattoo that represents my sobriety. Recovery is very new to me and I am open to suggestions. I like the chinese and hawaiin styles of tattoos the best. I would like something that resembles strenght,courage,change and moving on or turning the page. Thanks for listening it means a lot to me.

pinkpixie on July 18, 2011:

These quotes are all beautiful, as are all these comments. I feel I have to add the phrase "Just for today" as it has meant a lot to me in my recovery. I wouldn't have made it through my first week of recovery if it wasn't for that reminder, it has been more than 2 years now. I also liked seeing the quote "Don't give up five minutes before the miracle", its always been one of my favorites. Voted up and shared. :)

Bdvs8 on May 31, 2011:

Salvation lies within

Flyboy on May 30, 2011:

Been clean for sometime now. Its was refreshing to read these qoutes :)

Taydm1226 on April 17, 2011:

I'm 19 and a recovering herion/oppiate addict. My first and only tattoo (so far :) ) is a clover with the quote "remember to live" written in irish Gaelic text. "Cuimhnich mair" This quote is so important to me because when I was using, I wasn't truly living. It's a nice reminder everyday to live everyday to the fullest. (cheesy but so true)

Brittany on March 29, 2011:

I am recently getting off heroin. I was a user for only 4 months but it tore my life apart. Every day is a challenge, every day I feel like giving up. Today was one of those days until I read those quotes. You have no idea how thankful I am to have found this. I want to get a tattoo because I know that every day when I see it, it will help me stay strong. This is the hardest thing I have ever tried to overcome and it seems like the journey is never ending, but with people like you, I know there is hope. It would be nice to talk to recovering addicts because I don't think I can do it alone anymore. Email me if you would like to talk at

rajeev jung sijapati on March 23, 2011:

i read all the comments n i m very inspired of it. my feelings towards recovery are similar to all of you,recoverings. thank you

steve on February 09, 2011:

Love the stuff here...

But the 3 serenity prayers shown here are misquotes .There is no "the" before the word "wisdom".Every meeting I have been to from memory has had it hung on the wall and still 90% percent of members say it wrong .Check if you don't believe me.Asmall thing and Im sure the prayer means as much to you either way God Bless you all

alyssa on December 25, 2010:

I'm a recovering Meth addict of only 5 months so far which has been a miracle for me anyways but one I'm thinking about getting is

"To whom do I owe the first apology? No ones been crueler than I've been to me."

alessia on December 13, 2010:

Some of these sayings are so beautiful they have really lifted me,thanks.

Brenda on October 05, 2010:

Freed Me From Me


I got this surrounded by flowers symbolizing strength and power. It is massive and was 20 hours of work. Totally worth the time and money. -recovering meth addict

kathrynq on August 19, 2010:

I got a couple of tattoos that mean recovery to me I have honesty openmindness and williness on my arm. I also have a cross and praying hands and my sobriety date on my leg and I have mi vida loca on my lower back to remind my me everyday how crazy my life was before. That's why put it on my back to symbolize it is in the past.

jamie on July 28, 2010:

I am a recovering alcoholic and I got a ambigram tattoo that reads temptation one way and addiction the other. Two things we all live with everyday.

Mitch on January 03, 2010:

Yeah! Hi, Mitch, recovered addict/alcoholic. I just got a variation of the buddhist AUM symbol on my ribs for my birthday as it is a very setimental picture of how my life is. That the aim of all spiritual activity is to get past the illusions of the mind and ego manifested by the physical phenomona.(i.e. the 12 steps and our road to recovery, and brotherely harmonious action). I loved the quotes! and am already definatly conjuring up maybe another one in at another milestone down the road. God Bless.

SD HA on December 29, 2009:

My favorite quote as a recovering addict...

"The Door to Hell is Locked from the Inside."-Kurt Vonnegut.

The day I realized that-and ACCEPTED it, and PRACTICED it, as best as I can...well that was the day that I knew Heroin would no longer control me. Maybe that'll hit home with someone...congratulations to those reading this-you made it.

Matthew A on December 28, 2009:

I held it together til I read the one about our darkest moments, then I cried.

sally on August 24, 2009:

hi iv been confused not sure of which powerfull quote or sayin i should get .iv had hard life went thru depression learnt everything the hard way.i really want something powerfull dat will feel strong.

Bonnee on August 12, 2009:

An old timer gave me a re-write on the serenity prayer that goes like this, " God grant me the serenity to accept the PEOPLE I cannot change, the courage to change the ONE I can, and the wisdom to know that its ME!" I've always appreciated this twist because when I am in a struggle, its usually of my own making - I can't change others, only how I choose to respond to them

Ashley on July 23, 2009:

I am a recovering heroin addict and i have to say that tattoos have been a constant reminder of my sobriety. I love to see the newness of them , but also how they remind me of a newer life, a clear mind. The ideas were great, now i can plan my next one.

Sean Callahan on July 02, 2009:

That's awesome, I like the serenity prayer one on the scroll. That's nice.

Sph on June 26, 2009:

"The things u own, end up owning u", thinking about getting this one.

ItalianPride65 on June 12, 2009:

I was thinking about getting a nationality pride tattoo one day but was thinking a tattoo about my sobriety out of rehab would mean a lot more the quote "Its never too late to be what you might have been" really touched me deep and im getting that on my back for my birthday thanks a lot

Sheila from The Other Bangor on February 02, 2009:

Thanks for this hub. Folks in recovery are really feeling life for the first time; maybe that's why we want to tattoo ourselves with constant reminders of how lucky we are.

Lawson on January 24, 2009:

If someone would like to commemorate a relative or loved one that has died whilst serving in the army, there is a small quote from the bible that is quite beautiful: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends". The war memorial where I live just has "Greater Love Hath No Man" which i think is even more powerful.

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