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Recovery Tattoos: Special Ink

Tattooing has occurred since before Christ.

My Tattoo, Fresh, 2010

Archaeologists have found mummies with tattoos the world over.

Tattooing was done in ancient China, the Philippines, Egypt, Europe, and India.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, they became popular worldwide.

Why have we been inking ourselves since Neolithic times?

Some societies thought tattoos were therapeutic.

For others, they were the mark of a prisoner.

They can be cultural symbols, a source of expression, or for spiritual use.

The Recovery Tattoo

A trend that has become popular in the last few years is the “recovery tattoo”.

Recovery tattoos are ink art pieces put on one’s body to symbolize their mental health recovery, quest for sobriety, or hope for a better future after a traumatic event.

It seems to have originated in sobriety recovery, but this type of tattoo is becoming more popular among those with eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and those that engage in self-harm, et cetera.

In 2010, before I even heard the term “recovery tattoo”, I got inked on my upper arm.

It is the image of artist Banksy’s piece “Hope” (see picture).

This was my third tattoo, and I got it because a)I wanted an arm tattoo and b)I wanted to symbolize what I had gone through since the age of 12 and what I hoped for the future.

I also wanted a reminder that I needed to hope always.

It’s been a great weakness of mine, feeling like nothing will go right again.

“Hope” is a fantastic reminder. For some reason, from time to time, it reminds me that I love myself.

It reminds me how I enjoy the pain of the tattoo–it reflects the pain I’ve been through.

It reminds me of the need to express myself.

And it’s not bad to get the occasional compliment, either.

But seriously–I wrote this article because I have seen people talk about their recovery tattoos on Twitter. I think the recovery tattoo is a great idea.

Like in ancient times, it can be a source of therapy. It can be the marking of the beginning or end of an era.

But above all, the recovery tattoo is a gift to ourselves, showing us that we are worth it. We deserve a life of happiness and minimal suffering and sometimes we need that reminder more than other people.

We are trying to get things steady again, we are trying to believe.

Choosing a Recovery Tattoo

Some choose a symbol or image in order to convey their mindfulness of recovery. Some choose words or quotes.

Some websites, like HubPages’ Because I Live , feature quotes that one may use for their recovery tattoo.

There are numerous sobriety forums that discuss ideas for recovery ink. If you type in “recovery tattoo designs” on your search engine, it will give you numerous images of people’s ideas of recovery.

Mine was a Banksy street art piece. Yours may be something quite different. Whatever you choose, make it represent the piece of you that wants to keep going. What will you look at to remind you when you don’t feel like trying any longer? What will lift you up, and remind you of who you are again?

Do you have a recovery tattoo? Describe it. Tell us its story. Maybe you want a recovery tattoo. Tell us what you think it would be. Have questions? Email me at


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Recovery Tattoos: Special Ink

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2013). Recovery Tattoos: Special Ink. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2013
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