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

At the end of each Toughlove® meeting we say the Serenity Prayer. I find that I often say it by rote, without being aware of what I’m praying for. So I’ve decided to unpack this prayer, looking deeper into exactly what it means to seek serenity, to accept what I cannot change, and with wisdom to discern what it is I need to change.

God, grant me the serenity..

I looked up the definition of serenity and found the following which expands on this elusive concept:

  • Deep inner peace
  • Composure
  • Tolerance
  • Ease of mind
  • Clear, calm and tranquil

I realized that at the start of the crises of discovering that my child was taking dugs, I was living exactly the opposite of all of the above. Zero inner peace, certainly not composed – ease of mind and tolerant – hell no! Yet the muddy waters in which I found myself immersed slowly cleared and became calmer. With my group’s support and looking at the fact of my child’s addiction squarely in the face I have steadily gained inner peace. I no longer berate myself for what I may have done wrong as a parent to precipitate her taking drugs. I have become tolerant, most especially towards myself through allowing myself to recover at my own pace. I have achieved a more even keel, a steadiness which doesn’t blow me too far off course should a problem arise.

to accept the things I cannot change…

There is an inner acceptance that I gained when I stopped trying to force unchangeable circumstances into a particular mold. I reminded myself of the three C’s often quoted at Toughlove® meetings:

You didn’t cause it;

You can’t control it;

You can’t cure it.

This gave me a sense of freedom from guilt and responsibility over my child’s addiction.

I could not change the nature of the addict or addiction. I needed to accept reality – to be at peace with ‘what was’. It was, as Melody Beattie said in her book Codependent No More:

“If we are ever to replace our lost dreams with new dreams and feel sane and peaceful again, we must accept reality. Acceptance does not mean resignation. It means, for the present moment, we acknowledge and accept our circumstances, including ourselves and the people in our lives, as we are and they are. It is only from that state that we have the peace to change our dreams” Note ¹

I needed to come to terms with the damage and losses my child’s drug taking had caused me. To accept that there were some dreams that were not ever going to be fulfilled. She and I had lost precious years of her youth through her drug taking. There was a loss of trust, of the relationship between us, and the loss of my innocence as a mother that this would never happen to me. Yet It was through grieving and acceptance of what I couldn’t change that I was able to begin healing and which would lead to the granting of the serenity I sought.

the courage to change the things I can…

Changing meant coming out of denial and taking responsibility for my recovery, my attitudes, my long term stand, and my non-negotiable conditions – in short taking responsibility for myself and where I stood as the parent of an addict. It was far more comfortable to expect my problem person to change. But when it became evident that she was unwilling, or unable, to change to suit me that I had to decide my reactions, my triggers, my shouldering of the problem.

I checked myself for enabling and codependent behaviours. I appreciated the gentle input from my support group who were able to spot my blind spots more easily than I! I knew I didn’t want to live like this – feeling helpless, out of control and fearful of what may happen next. I became tired of the drama and crises associated with an addict. I wanted my life back… So I armed myself with The Language of Letting Go – a book of daily readings – and Codependent No More, both by Melody Beattie,and opened myself to changing what I could. To this day I use these books as a tool to keep myself open and receptive to the furthering of my recovery. I ‘got it’ that applying Toughlove® principles is a life skill, a cumulative process that enables me to be OK, not only in my relationship with my child but also in other areas of my life.

and the wisdom to know the difference…

Wisdom is:

  • Recognising that wanting to control/enable/rescue our problem person is futile.
  • Knowing that it is only ourselves we can change.
  • Wisdom goes beyond ‘what if’, beyond making movies, to allow your loved one to experience consequences, knowing that it is their growth that is the end goal.
  • Going beyond listening to your fear filled voice, your doubts and concerns, to knowing that you will be, at the end of the day, OK.
  • Knowing you did your best you could, and forgiving yourself for what you didn’t do.
  • Knowing how much you love your problem person no matter what thay have done. and sometimes feeling helpless in the face of that love.
  • Accepting that it could have been different, but that this is the way it was.
  • Wisdom is recognising and applauding yourself for the growth and wisdom that you have gained through loving and living with an addict.

Article excerpt from the publication:

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE ADDICT – Recovery for families dealing with Addiction

By Madeleine Visagie 2008 (c)

The interpretation of this subject is an individual insight and does not necessarily represent a mainstream view of addiction.

Note ¹ : Codependent No More, Melody Beattie, Page 133