Updated: Oct 12, 2020
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I was lying in bed the other morning in a both awake and asleep state, which I have learned to enjoy as I wake up. My mind was trying to wake up quickly and began to fret over my kids—now adult young men. I could feel an old pull toward fear and the feeling that I have to figure out their life issues and fix them. Luckily, I resisted that temptation and stayed mostly asleep and recited the Serenity Prayer in a mantra. I felt peaceful again, and the serenity of letting it go washed over me.
This prayer has been a tool that I have begun to use almost every day in my last 2 years of recovery. It is a funny thing that you can say the same words day after day and at different times the words can mean different things. Sometimes the Serenity Prayer has been a cry in desperation, a beseeching prayer, begging for help. At other times, it is a quick reminder that I need to stay on my side of the street and not get involved in other people's business. As I have had more time to grow and learn in recovery, I am grateful for the power of this prayer. “The courage to change the things I can” is only about changing my thinking, my attitude, my view of the situation, my response, my actions. It was humbling to accept that it is not about changing everything around me. Humbling to accept that I am not helping by thinking it is my responsibility to change everything around me to what I think will be good for everyone.
In my past I have been a ‘fixer. This started from a very early age when friends would come to me for advice; my parents praised me for being able to figure things out—it felt GOOD to be a fixer, even if people had not asked for the fixing. As a matter of fact, I used to say with great pride that I was a Peace Keeper, and that I was only okay if everyone else around me was okay. I did not realize that I was sick in my own right with the desire to control and change all that was around me in an attempt to help people. That need to make things different was making me unreasonable and unhappy.
I have thought a lot about how my drinking correlated with my anxiety and discomfort around conflict, other people’s unhappiness, and the myriad of situations that I had no control over but wanted to help make better. The truth is that it doesn’t matter, they are inextricably intertwined and this inner work is about looking at all of it. I am learning about humility and not thinking that I have answers to everything. As a matter of fact it is freeing to recognize that I don’t know all the answers and don’t have to have an answer, even when asked. More and more I just say “I don’t know.” But I have also learned to honor the inner wisdom that I do have. The value of what I am learning is to better me, and through bettering me, I may have an influence on the world around me. I am learning that unless I am asked for advice or an opinion, it is not mine to give—that staying silent is an opening for Higher Power to do the work. I am learning that even when asked for advice, to not hold tightly to the outcome as what I have to offer is only a piece of the journey.
This brings me back to the other morning and beginning to fret over my kids. My oldest Son just lost his job, and my youngest Son is moving out of state… my mind wants to save them, fix it, find an easier and softer way for them in this harsh world. I want to help one Son find a new job, I want to help the other son plan his move. But as I said, the words of the prayer hit me in a way that I have not felt before. “The serenity to accept the things I can not change.” The serenity comes from the acceptance—real acceptance—that we can not change things. Serenity will be given to us when we let it go.
There is a long version of the prayer that goes even further to say “ Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.” How many times had I heard or said this prayer, and not known there was more to it?! More direction for peace and serenity if I just live one day at a time—not in the future or the past. Enjoying one moment at a time—a reminder to see the beauty in the now. Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace—this is the biggest reminder that each of us must walk through the hardships of life to find peace. This includes my children and all those around me. I must accept their journey and the world as it is and not feel that I have to fix it.
Recovery has allowed me to see that I can trust in my Higher Power, and that I do not need to be controlling or fixing the world around me. As a matter of fact, the more I have stepped out of the way, the more I have seen miracles happen in my life, for me, and for those around me. I will continue getting out of the way and letting the miracles happen.