The Serenity Prayer is often said at the beginning of many twelve step meetings. It is a cornerstone of different teachings in AA and Al-Anon and it gives hope that those in recovery can find peace and serenity in the midst of difficulties. Here’s what the Serenity Prayer means to me, a fellow recovering addict:
God grant me the serenity
When I think about God granting me the serenity, I think about two things. First of all, that my higher power is one of understanding, compassion, and above all, help. He provides the resources for me to arrive at a place of peace. Sometimes, when I am feeling powerless over something in my life, I have the desire to clean my house. My house cannot talk back to me, or argue with me, or refuse to change. I begin cleaning in a frenzy and arrive, at the end, with some small sense of satisfaction. However, it never usually changes the peace in my heart. It is something of my own method to try and change something within myself that I am not meant to be the one to change. I must go to God for that. My goal now is to be, rather than to do. If I get to a place where I can just be, then if I clean my house, I can do so with a happy and peace-filled heart and not one of anger and anxiety. In order to let go of anxiety, I think about the AA phrase “Let Go and Let God.” It is acknowledging that I cannot always control my circumstances, but that God is in control and he cares about me and will help me to have peace in spite of my circumstances.
To accept the things I cannot change
I cannot change the past. Coming to the program, I can see now with great clarity the things that I should have done differently when my children were younger. I am sometimes haunted by the types of controlling behaviors I have had and how it has hurt other people. However, there is absolutely nothing I can do about the past. Still, at times I feel weighed down by guilt. Guilt, however, does not accelerate the process of change. Accepting the things I cannot change also involves the future. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. The fear of the unknown can loom huge in my mind. My tendency is to think of the very worst things that can happen. Acceptance about the things I cannot change can only happen when God grants us the serenity. For me, I had a very impacting time of meditation one day and imagined myself in a prison cell. It was a prison cell made of my guilt and fear. I didn’t realize it, but the door to the cell was actually unlocked. I could have walked to freedom, but I chose to stay in the cell. Then my higher power came and opened the door. He said he would help me and he held my hand. If I held his hand, we could be one and I could be at peace. He said, “You’re okay and it’s going to be okay.” He said we would travel through life together and sometimes things would be overwhelming, but if I kept hold of his hand, then I could still hold on to serenity. I could be in this world, but not of this world. I could let go of my past mistakes. It was okay. I was okay. I could let go of the future fears because I know that my higher power has my future in his hands also. There will be nothing I cannot face if I am doing it in the strength my higher power gives me. I can also hold on to hope. If I have hope that at least some of my future will be good and that some of the things that I fear will probably never happen or happen to the extent with which I am thinking about it, then I can even get to a point where I can laugh at the days to come.
Courage to change the things I can
For me, one of the biggest areas of changing the things I can, revolves around self-care. Taking care of myself is one of the things I can do to get healthy. This is very difficult for me. I am so often tempted to solve other people’s problems for them, which is really none of my business to do, rather than focusing instead on myself, and areas which I can grow. I tend to put off taking care of myself, saying things like, “I will start painting pictures once the kids grow up and leave the house.” Or, “when I retire, I will really do the things that I want to do like knit sweaters for babies.” For now, my goals are small. When I feel the need for peace, I am a pianist, and it relaxes me to sit down and play for awhile. Sometimes I do yoga or listen to my favorite CD. I regularly take time to improve my conscious contact with God and enjoy reading AA or Al-Anon literature. Sometimes taking care of myself can mean something as small as putting on a sweet smelling hand lotion and taking a deep breath. I also love to go for walks and I love to cuddle with my dog. It is hard to let go of the idea that taking care of oneself is selfish. I know now that it is really a gift to others to take care of myself. When I feel replenished and at peace, I can give to others without feeling cranky and resentful. I am so thankful for the reminders that I get at AA and Al-Anon to take care of myself, because I forget this simple thing so often.
Wisdom to the know the difference
I really believe that I don’t know what the wisdom is on my own. I think “we” are the wisdom to know the difference. AA and Al-Anon are the wisdom. When I go to a meeting and hear the wisdom of the program and the wisdom of the steps, it reminds me of how to let go and let God. It helps me to keep things simple and it helps me with loving detatchment. I especially learn wisdom when I listen to other recovering addicts. I really believe that both addiction and codependency are a disease of the mind. I think it is a mental disease and it is a disease of forgetting. At different times in my recovery when I have regularly come to groups, I have started getting better and then for one reason or another, have felt that I didn’t need the program. It has backfired every single time. The disease creeps in bit by bit and then I soon find myself wrapped up in fear and being the controlling person that I hate. When I come back, AA and Al-Anon shines a light on the disease of my mind, the scales fall from my eyes and I remember why it is so important that I come on a regular basis. Thankfully, I hope that I have finally come to a place of acceptance that I desperately need this program to remain sane. My life becomes unmanageable without it. When I go to meetings and listen and relate my struggles with other people, I feel like I can go forth and know the difference between what I can change and who and what I cannot. I will not work my program perfectly, but when I leave the meeting, I feel like I have a target to shoot for and a light for my path. I aim for “spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” Progress forward begins one step at a time. The Serenity Prayer can guide my path on a daily and even hourly basis as a I seek to grow in my recovery.