God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
This is part of a prayer written many years ago by Reinhold Niebuhr. It is called The Serenity Prayer. I have included only the first three lines to it for the purpose of this article. The rest of it is equally beautiful and insightful, and you can find it in it’s entirety on the internet. Alcoholics Anonymous uses this prayer to open meetings.
Alcoholics and addicts have a difficult time with accepting things the way they are. We will worry and stress over things that we have no control over. We will worry about things that are none of our business. I think it is safe to say it is part of the reason we have to drink or use drugs. Letting go of things is almost impossible for us. Our list of what ifs is impossibly long.
Having courage to change the things we can is equally as difficult. My daughter recently ended a relationship of 10 years to a heroin addict. She had tried to help him get clean and sober to no avail. Many times she spoke of leaving him, but she had no strength to do it. She had alienated family members and close friends in an effort to keep them from knowing how bad his addiction had gotten. I am proud of the courage she has shown in this situation. Addicts and alcoholics have spent so much time being afraid; it will take time to find the courage in ourselves.
It takes wisdom to know the difference between what we have the power to change and what we must accept that we can’t change. Addicts and alcoholics haven’t had much experience with wisdom. Most of our time has been spent just keeping our heads above water. We have a trail of bad decisions running behind us. It takes time in sobriety to start thinking clearly.
I have used this prayer often over the years. In difficult or fearful situations, I use it as a mantra. I say it over and over again and I will find courage and wisdom.