“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.”
Most of us in recovery are failed control freaks. Read those words again. You and I have been miserable failures at controlling our lives. Lord knows we did our damnedest to cajole, manipulate, wheedle, urge or threaten loved ones, family and friends to think and do the ‘right way’ which, of course, was always our way. I see some of you out there denying it, but let us just take a moment of truthful inventorying our past behavior before claiming innocence. Yeah, just as I thought. Guilty as charged!
Sometimes our game of controlling others actually worked and we felt victorious. But our success came at the expense of ruffled feathers, resentments, anger from our victims. The end result was that we distanced ourselves from those around us who loved us the most. Ultimately, through the progression of our disease, we reached a point where, in the depths of our self-imposed exile from reality, we could not even control ourselves. In those depths, alcohol was the victor controlling every aspect of our being.
Enter sobriety and the grace of a Higher Power. We repeated in the recovery rooms of AA the Serenity Prayer. Sometimes our discussions centered on the words of the prayer analyzing each word and each part of the three statements. What do they mean? What do I control? What can I not control? And when does the wisdom appear in my life?
Sobriety is not a commodity to be purchased at the recovery store. It does not happen miraculously on the first day of not drinking. We hang out with others like us, we listen to the wisdom spoken in the rooms, we take our thoughts to the quiet space within and begin to process what sober-living means. Contrary to the previous drinking before which carried us to the depths of our personal hells, sobriety becomes our beacon of hope, our lifestyle resurrecting us to a purposeful place in society.
And eventually we discover the truths of control. I accept that I control no other human being on earth, I control no other entity on earth, I control no political undertaking, no politician, no corporate CEO. I do not control my spouse, family nor friends. I don’t even control Max, the cat. Lastly, I do not control the recovering friend who decides to go back out and do some more ‘field research’ on drinking.
“Pheeeew! What a relief,” we exclaim, “I am not responsible for anything.”
Whoa, not so fast. Yes, we are responsible. “Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to be there. For that I am responsible.”
“Courage to change the things I can.”
In order to be a helping hand, I must change the only thing I can…and that is me. I must change my thinking, my attitudes, my responses to others, my behavior, my prejudices, my lifestyle. I must change myself to reflect the grace freely given on that first day of recovery when I walked into my first AA meeting a scared, hopeless drunk. And therein is the wisdom to know the difference. Today, I know how and when to surrender Larry, the control freak. Not always easy, not always first choice, but always the path to serenity.