Grant Me Serenity
The Prayer of Those Living with Alcoholic Loved Ones
Twelve Step recovery programs around the world often begin or end their meetings with The Serenity Prayer. This prayer has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Alanon and similar groups. The prayer was originally written in the 1930's by a minister named Reinhold Niebuhr. It has since become even more popular and well-known since it was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous in the early 1940's. Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, liked the prayer, and had it printed so AA members could hand it out at their meetings. It has been an accepted part of AA meetings since that time. Today it is considered a non-denominational prayer, and has become popular with many 12 Step groups.
The wall decal displayed above is just one example of the many types of items you can buy that display the Serenity Prayer. If you would like to purchase wall plaques, jewelry or coffee mugs that display this powerful prayer, use this direct link to Serenity Prayer gift items on Amazon.com.
When the Serenity Prayer is spoken in an Alanon meeting, what do these words mean to the people who are speaking them?
Alanon and God
Alanon, like most 12 Step Programs, has a very liberal view of God. Our literature often describes Him as the God of your understanding. This means that it does not matter what religion you are, or what your personal beliefs are about God. Sometimes we simply refer to the God of our understanding as our Higher Power. This means you are free to have your own beliefs about God and how he works in your life. You are welcome to participate in Alanon no matter what religion you belong to, or even if you are not part of any religion at all.
The Alanon attitude about having a Higher Power means only that we are committed to turning control of our lives over to a Power or Being that is more powerful than ourselves. It is part of the process we go through in admitting that we are not in control of the universe! When people look at it in this way, they usually have no trouble recognizing that the rest of the world is out of their control. This is a very freeing concept for the average Alanon member. It is extremely helpful to realize that we are not responsible for the decisions that other people make, no matter how much we love them!
Alanon and Serenity
Serenity is the goal of most Alanon members, whether they initially realize it or not. By the time most of us have had the courage to attend an Alanon meeting, we have usually lead extremely chaotic lives because of someone else's alcoholism or drug abuse. We have had our hearts torn apart, been frustrated by the poor decisions that our spouse, parents or children have made, and spent many sleepless nights worrying whether or not they are even alive or how much longer they can continue to survive if their behavior does not change soon.
Serenity is the simple peace of mind that comes from turning our life, and the lives of those we love, over to our personal Higher Power. We realize that their health and safety are in the hands of the God of our understanding, and we have to trust that He is in control of what happens to them. Consequently, we are free to live our own lives the best way we know how.
Alanon and Acceptance
Acceptance is, perhaps, the real key to finding the serenity that we long for. Acceptance does not mean approval. We may continue to disapprove of the way our loved ones are living; yet, we accept that this is the reality and that they are free to live the way they want. We eventually come to realize that we did not cause our loved one to drink or use drugs, we cannot cure their substance abuse problems, and we absolutely cannot control them! All we can do is love and accept them just the way they are! This is the essense of the Serenity Prayer.
Alanon and Changing the Things I Can
Consequently, if I can't control or cure the alcoholic or drug addict in my life, what can I change? We know that we can't change other people, places or things. That only leaves us! We can change ourselves.
We can change our attitudes about the alcoholic, we can change our attitudes about ourselves, we can change the way we behave. We can also change the way we spend our days. We learn that we no longer have to spend long hours worrying about someone else. Remember, we are leaving them in the hands of our Higher Power, right? Now we can spend our days enjoying the life that we have been given, totally free of guilt. We can take up a hobby, spend time with friends, listen to music, go see a play, and sleep well at night, because we realize that we are no longer responsible for trying to change someone else. We are only working on changing ourselves!
Alanon and Wisdom
Ahh … wisdom! Isn't that what we all ultimately crave? In the Serenity Prayer we ask God for the wisdom to know the difference between the things we can and cannot change. Sometimes, you will still be tempted to try to change someone else. It happens to everyone. However, gradually, you will learn that it is very rare for us to have much influence on anyone else … particularly as a result of anything we may say. Occasionally, other people will change because we have changed the way we behave around them. However, this does not always happen, and we have to accept that reality.
When we try to tell other people how they ought to feel, think or behave, we say that we are having an Alanon slip. This is our version of an alcoholic slip, when a member of Alcoholics Anonymous goes out and starts drinking again. The fact that we use the same term to describe our slips shows how seriously we take these lapses in our good judgment. When we become critical and controlling or we begin to nag and complain, we are doing as much damage to ourselves and the people we love as the alcoholic does when he starts to drink again.
You may not believe at first that being critical, angry, hostile and condemning could possibly be as serious a problem as drinking alcohol. However, countless adult children who grew up with one alcoholic parent have said that it was the non-drinking parent that they grew up resenting. This shows how much damage can be done when we Alanon members do not follow the Twelve Steps and the intent of the Serenity Prayer.
If you wish to learn more about the Alanon program, listed below are a selection of articles which may help you.
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