The Serenity Prayer is arguably the most renowned and quoted portion of AA/NA literature. Its message, while easy to understand, takes a lifetime to practice successfully in our daily lives. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” How can we begin to live the serenity prayer in early recovery so that we may know peace in sobriety?
The first part of this prayer asks that we be blessed with acceptance, but our higher power does not simply wave a magic wand and we are suddenly able to accept that which we have no control over. We have to put forth a conscious effort every day, and part of this is our diligently working the third step in the twelve steps of recovery. When we turn over our will and our lives to a God of our understanding, we are relieved of the heavy burden of control. No longer do we seek to manipulate everyone and everything in our lives, instead leaving these concerns to our higher power and turning our focus to ourselves. This is where the second line in the serenity prayer comes into play.
When we recite the serenity prayer, we also ask for courage so we may take action rather than become paralysed by fear and indecision. Our ability to take action in life is directly correlated to our relationship with our higher power, as when we feel his presence in our lives our fears evaporate and we proceed confidently under the umbrella of his care and protection. As you can see, your relationship with a God of your understanding is the primary source of serenity and courage, but from where do you acquire the wisdom to know which to apply to a given situation? Wisdom is a gift of life experience, meaning in early sobriety you must use your best judgement to determine God’s will for you, and learn from any missteps you make. These are the experiences that will build your wisdom and enable you to better practice the tenets of the serenity prayer in your daily life.
The serenity prayer offers everyone a path to achieve peace in their lives, regardless if they are an addict or not. For those of us recovering from a substance abuse disorder, it is especially important we strive to live by the guidelines set forth in the serenity prayer, as any attempt to exert control over things outside our purview will only lead us to frustration, anger, and relapse. As is said in the rooms of 12-step recovery, we seek progress rather than perfection. No one lives by the principles of the serenity prayer perfectly in their daily lives, and in your early recovery you will frequently fall short of success. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes so you may grow in your recovery and improve in your ability to discern when it is time to apply courage and take action, or to step back and give it to God!