For the record, I got my first tattoo in 1986. Long before tattoos hit the mainstream popularity of today. Even though my M.O. is to rebel against anything that becomes popular, I didn’t rebel against tattoos.
And no, not just because it would be annoying to get them removed (although I did get that first one covered, as it was supposed to be a cobra but it looked more like a worm).
The reason I’m still in love with tattoos is because they represent different stages of my life, growth and recovery. That, and they look dang cool.
Why tattoos for recovery?
Tattoos for recovery are amazing for several reasons, as they can serve as:
- Reminders of how far you’ve come
- Acknowledgement of specific recovery breakthroughs or anniversaries
- Reinforcement of people, places, things – or dogs – that have helped you along your journey
- Motivation to keep up the fabulous work
- Quick way to reinforce a favorite saying, quote or action
- Hope, love, inspiration and all those other groovy things that keep us going on a daily basis
Recovery tattoos do’s and don’ts
Rushing out to get a new tattoo on your first day sober probably isn’t that dandy an idea. In fact, if your head is anything like mine was on day one, the first day of sobriety isn’t a good day to make decisions about anything.
For best results you’ll adore forever, you’ll want to really think about WHY you want the tattoo, WHERE you want the tattoo and WHAT the design will be. Give yourself a couple of weeks or more to ponder it.
Make sure it’s in a place that’s compatible with your lifestyle. Will you be compelled to cover it during certain situations or for your profession? Would you be FORCED to cover it based on the game plan you have in mind for your life?
Pick a design that has deep and long-lasting meaning for your soul. A lopsided Budweiser can may not be it. And you may also want to steer clear of names – one tattoo artist told me those are the most-regretted tattoo of all time. He was consistently doing name tattoo cover-ups after the breakups.
Think about how often and/or frequently people may ask about it. Large, obvious tattoos and unique designs may get plenty of questions from sincerely curious folks. Are you comfortable discussing it if people ask? Or would you rather have a smaller, less visible tattoo that is more like your own personal good luck charm?
Ask the final question everyone ALWAYS used to ask me. “What’s it going to look like when I’m 70?” Since people are living longer while looking and feeling better at every age, this question may not be as relevant. Or you could have the same answer I did: “Who cares?”
Recovery tattoo examples
Once you’re triple sure about having a lifelong piece of artwork on your body, all you have left to do is go for it! While my earlier tattoos were dragons designed by someone else, my more recent ones have all been designed by myself (or my dog). Recovery tattoos in my own gallery include:
Rynski Recovery Club Logo: Sunshine Snail Spiral
Not only is this illustration the logo for my new life and recovery coaching practice, but it represents the milestone of 20 years of recovery. It combines a sun, spiral and snail. The sun is indicative of the brightness of my life in recovery. The spiral is the vortex of creation and creativity that fuels my soul. And the snail is a reminder that some things can take time to happen (sigh). Designed by Rynski.
A big shout out to Kyle Eaton at Enchanted Dragon Tattoos in Tucson, AZ, for the incredible work. Not only is he talented, precise and enjoyable to chat with, but he has one of the newfangled tattoo machines. They’re quieter, more streamlined – and I swear the entire process didn’t even hurt.
‘God Help Me’ Bracelet
The story behind this one is a good one. I was talking with a mentor about asking God for help and I mentioned how I frequently forget to do so. She said we should get bracelets reminding us to ask God for help. I came back the next week and excitedly showed her my “God Help Me” tattoo. She laughed, saying she meant beaded bracelets!
The French text is “Aidez-moi mon dieu. Merci.” It translates to: “God help me. Thanks.” Designed by Rynski.
Another Enchanted Dragon masterpiece, this one done by a woman (forgot her name!) who had the most gentle touch. This one didn’t hurt, either, even with an old-fangled machine.
Dog Sawyer’s Paw Print
Sawyer was my soulmate dog who was with me through some pretty heavy stuff in recovery. I knew I wanted a way to honor him forever. So I stuck his paw in red food coloring, plopped it on paper, and took a refined version of the print to a tattoo artist. Designed by Sawyer.
Note: Be quick to rinse off the paw. Sawyer decided to take off running through the house right after I did his paw print, leaving nice red tracks on beige carpet.
Once again, Enchanted Dragon in Tucson was the place.
Snake in the Shape of a Number 5
This was my first official “recovery tattoo,” done at my five-year anniversary of sobriety. I was still hesitant at that point to tell the world I was in recovery, but I went for it anyway. Most folks don’t really register that it’s in the shape of a 5 unless I point it out. Designed by Rynski.
This one was done by Designs by Michael Angelo in Brooklyn, NY. Still recall how I thought a foot tattoo would be incredibly painful since the foot is so bony. But it really wasn’t.
The top tip for tattoos celebrating recovery is that they have long-lasting significance and a design you’ll adore for the rest of your life – even when you’re 70. Enjoy!
I help amazingly creative souls who want more out of life than sleep-work-sleep get their dazzle back so they rock their world.
For life and recovery coaching, learn more with a free consultation. You can also contact me if you dig my art style and want me to design a personalized tattoo.