Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer was the topic in a recent meeting, which I must admit to often reciting absentmindedly, when in line at the grocery store, or in traffic. As with all the tools of the program, the Serenity Prayer is just words unless I'm willing to actually apply myself to the meaning.

Someone in the group described the "acceptance" called for as often being a trigger for grief. Ah yes. If I'm in a place of not accepting something, it's usually because I can't make peace with my powerlessness. True acceptance means releasing the illusion of control, of acknowledging the reality of a loss, whether a person or a dream, or simply not getting my way. Acceptance, at its core, is a spiritual mountain to climb.

Others spoke to the dichotomy inherent in "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change," in that sometimes, the quest for serenity can mask people-pleasing, or the tendency to not make waves. Damn, truly practicing the principles calls for SO much self-awareness and accountability. Are there places I use the principles to hide from myself, an excuse of sorts? I'm less able to ignore my motives these days - the whole "road gets narrower" bit, but sometimes, still, need the conversation with my internal committee around what I can and cannot change, or if I'm simply trying to avoid conflict.

And what about the "courage to change the things I can?" which, in reality, is me and my attitudes. I can change my shoes, I can go to different meetings, I can elect to see or not see certain people, but mostly, the" thing" I can change is me, and even that isn't necessarily possible on my own. If I could've changed myself, I would've, decades ago. That's why our 12-Step programs are called "mutual-aid" groups, not self-help. How many books did I read back in the day ("I'm OK, You're OK", etc) in my misguided efforts to "improve?" In my dear father's belongings, I came across "The Power of Positive Thinking," along with some info from a local Episcopal church. It makes me sad to think of how he struggled for answers, of how his psychiatrist believed that "curing" his depression (shock treatment, medication) would stop the drinking. Turns out it was the other way around. 

And then we ask for the "wisdom to know the difference" between what I can impact and what I can't. In my opinion, wisdom isn't granted, it's earned. Earned and learned, sometimes the hard way, so that my history won't keep repeating itself. I'd say that wisdom is the ability to learn from experience. When I was younger in sobriety and in life, so much of what I went through was new - new to me anyway. Navigating jobs (to stay or to go), interviews, school, relationships, (again, to stay or to go). to accept myself as ok, whether or not I have a romantic partner, understanding I can't change another person's mind - all took effort - effort, Step work, some outside help, and watching how you did it. Wisdom means paying attention, filing away what works while releasing what doesn't.

And wisdom means letting go of my formerly rigid ideas of what constitutes recovery. In earlier years, I would've been aghast when someone stopped going to meetings - and maybe rightly so: early recovery is not the time to dink around with what works. But now? Now I'm less invested in what others are doing or not doing, especially those who are already an arm's length away. It can be harder to detach from those near and dear - I'm grateful for Alanon and the reminder that we are all on our own path.

Today is the 6-month mark since my surgery for breast cancer. All is well, and it's been a ride of acceptance, courage, and growing wisdom, and current serenity (in that department anyway!). Thank you to all who reached out to share your, or your loved ones, experience, strength and hope.

How do you utilize the principles of the Serenity Prayer? Do you struggle more with acceptance, wisdom, change or serenity? How do you apply the concept of detachment in those relationships closest to you?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

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