Dr. Noeréna spelled out in white letters

“Up Until Now”: A Powerful Recovery Quote for a Positive Way To Look At Patterns of Failure



Words are powerful tools, so it’s no wonder that we’re in constant search of the most impactful recovery quote. In recovery from alcohol and other drugs it is especially important that we choose carefully and begin to listen to what we say about our past. A great tool to empower our thinking and speaking when wanting to change something from the past is to use the phrase: “Up Until Now…”

With each day, week and month we remain sober we gain a distance from the people, places and things that once held us captive to physical and psychological addiction. Far from the chaos that was the result of our using drugs and alcohol we find ourselves sitting in a group talking about how we got here.

Much of the time we describe our failure as a pattern that cannot be broken. “I always relapse”, or “I can’t connect to a higher power” or “I don’t like meetings so I stopped going and found myself using again.”  Words like these flow from newcomers and can become a living, breathing mantra of self-declared failure.

Yet here we are in a room filled with like-minded folks who are gathered together having identified the problem. When in recovery, we are sitting in the solution, yet some of us speak about our old behaviors as mandatory baggage that defines our past and indicates our future.

Over time as we learn from one another we start to listen to our self-talk. We begin to choose words carefully. We suddenly have the tools to acknowledge what used to happen as we strongly claim the right and commitment to walk down a different path.


Recovery Quote: “If you want to know your past, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.” —Sogyal Rinpoche, in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


It is rewarding to hear clients express their perspective on the phrase:

“Up Until Now” placed before a past negative statement has allowed for the possibility that the change I seek is in process: that I am in the solution rather than in the problem.”

 “Up Until Now” means all negative statements are my past self – up until this present moment in life. I can acknowledge my faults and change them and my perception by committing to the change I want to see happen in my life.”

“The phrase ‘Up Until Now’ signifies an end to old patterns of thinking and old patterns of action.  The phrase is a catalyst for change — it allows me to be unstuck and get into positive action. I can step away from my negative self-image and claim that this time can be successful.

It’s not just a lucky choice that the first word in the first step of the Twelve Steps is “We”.  That one word describes an important part of the solution for millions in recovery as together we gain wisdom from one another about what we can and cannot change. Choosing to say “Up Until Now” is a declaration of a new commitment that can strengthen our connection to limitless positive possibilities. We may not be able to change our past but we sure can act our way into a successful future.

Perhaps this client said it best: “I have a new understanding of what is possible if I get out of my way. No one is keeping me in my destructive past but me…Up Until Now!”

About Dr. Réna

Dr. Réna holds a Ph.D. from New York University’s School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions. She has 25 years of personal recovery from a variety of addictions; multiple advanced degrees and certifications; and decades of working in the field of relapse prevention at the local, state and federal levels. As the lead instructor of trainers for Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, and an past National board member of the National Association for Prevention Professions and Advocates, Dr. Réna has been a consultant for the United States Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.