What is serenity?
Serenity is a quality of peaceful balance, even amid life’s complexities. It suggests a calm and unruffled repose, a quiet state of feeling. When you think of serenity, picture the moon shining bright and steady, serene in glory.
On one level, serenity is about learning to accept the external circumstances that we cannot change. But on a deeper level, the concept of serenity points to a fact about our inner life: we cannot directly control our feelings. However, we can influence our feelings through two other factors we can control—our thinking and our actions. When you feel hopeless, remember that everything can be taken from you except the last of human freedoms—the ability to choose your own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose your own way.
What inhibits serenity?
What we often seek to achieve, as alcoholics and addicts, is a sense of absolute control—one that is simply not possible for human beings. This hankering for control has two aspects. First, we are trying to control the behavior of others, a strategy that we may cling to despite its repeated failure. Second, we are trying to control our own feelings by medicating them with mood-altering chemicals. This strategy, too, is doomed to failure.
Ironically, the quest for absolute control leads to misery, which may contribute to our substance use disorders. On the other hand, for some alcoholics or addicts like us, the need to control may be a response to the unmanageability caused by our out-of-control use of drugs. Either way, seeking serenity will help you loosen your grip and find peace in the present circumstances, whatever they are.
What is the Serenity Prayer?
“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.”
In early recovery, the Serenity Prayer can take on a very simple meaning: we cannot change the fact that we have the disease of alcoholism or addiction. We must pray for the ability to accept this. But we can change how we respond to this fact. We can choose to continue to drink and use, or we can courageously choose the road of abstinence.
Later, as we gain more time in sobriety, this simple prayer will take on richer and deeper meanings beyond simply a prayer for abstinence. As the prayer says, it is our Higher Power that ultimately gives us the serenity to handle life’s challenges.