The Serenity Prayer for Acceptance and Change in Alcohol Recovery

The Serenity Prayer for Acceptance and Change in Alcohol Recovery — Talk Sober at

Today I want to talk to you about the Serenity Prayer. What’s the nature of this prayer, and how can it help us stay sober?

The Roots of the Serenity Prayer

You know the one. “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.”

The Serenity Prayer came from a man named Reinhold Niebuhr, who lived from the 1870s to the 1950s. This prayer is very old, but the roots of the prayer are actually older than that, and they have nothing to do with Christianity. It comes from ancient Greece, it and started with the Stoics.

Now, the Stoics were very big on taking a look at your life and looking at everything as a whole. Often times in modern culture, everything gets fragmented. The Stoics recognized that this was happening back then as well. And they were smart people. They knew how to break things down and make sense of everything. They said to separate life into the things that we can’t change.

Recovery Culture

The AA recovery culture of today’s modern world started way back in the early 1900s. And back in that time, they equated recovery with Christianity, the Bible, the spiritual, and things like that. Back then, people looked at a lot of different prayers.

A lot of western thought, and our current culture, believes that we need to go out there and deliberately change every single thing. We’re the masters of our destiny, the creators of our world. We manifest our thoughts, and all of this mumbo jumbo that really doesn’t work. The current thought process of western culture is the idea that we control everything. This will trap us, until we’re digging ourselves out of a ditch. Because we have to realize what we can and can’t control.

Back when I was active in my addiction, I was a little more narcissistic than I am right now. Back then, I thought I could control everything. I thought I could control money, make people think the way I wanted, make people see my point of view. I thought I could change everything. I was trying to control every aspect of my reality.

What We Cannot Change

And let’s face it: As alcoholics, and addicts, we have to ask ourselves: what are the things that we cannot change? We can’t change other people. The best we can do is ask for their cooperation. We can’t change the weather. We can’t change our health. We start to realize that there’s a lot in life that we cannot change.

You might know that you get mad about things you can’t change. How is that working for you? If you’re still drinking over every little bump in the road, carrying the thoughts of what happened to you two hours ago, or even two years ago, how is that working for you?

What We Can Change

What about this word serenity? You’ve heard this over and over, in lots of different places. What does this mean? Does it mean we just need to be calm and collected and chilled out for now? Or is it a life process? I believe it’s actually a life process. Serenity comes by recognizing what you can’t change, and what you can, and knowing the difference. It comes by asking, “What can’t I do? What can I do?”

But there are some things we can change. I can change my business, I can change my direction, I can change the way I look at things. Most important, I can change my perspective.

Perspective is the number one thing that got me sober back then, and keeps me sober today. That’s because it changes the way I look at things. Instead of having to get inside every argument, having to deal with everything as it comes, I can step back and ask myself: “what are the things I can’t change, what are the things I can change, and can I have the wisdom to know the difference?” The key in this prayer is the wisdom to know the difference.

I know what it was like. I used to have to drink. I’d say, “Today, I’m not going to drink.” Then someone would argue with me, or someone would cut me off in traffic, and it would make me angry. And I was living my life as if life happened to me. As if I was the only person in the world.

But is life really happening to you, or is it happening to everyone? Are these things that are coming at you, are they things that you can rise above? Things that you can look at and take in stride?


What’s the point of getting argumentative and what’s the point of stewing about it?
What are the things in life that we can’t change that we carry with us? What are these stories that we carry with us? What are these irritations? What are these things that cause us to not be serene, and not be calm? Why are we carrying them with us? Why do we continue to keep these things going on? Why do we continuously torture ourselves with things that we can’t change?

We can’t control the thoughts, actions, beliefs, motives, desires, words, and outcomes of other people. You can’t change the past, and you can’t change what you did in the past.

All we can do is control what we do, and control our response. You can’t change who you were in the past, but I can tell you, you’re a different person right now. You can’t change what happened back then. But knowing that you can’t change it makes all the difference, because it changes the way that you think. It changes your perspective and tell you that you’ll be okay right now.

If you have to drink to make it through life, it’s time to change your perspective. It’s time to change your perspective of things you cannot change, and things you can change, and get the wisdom to know the difference. Start to understand this. When something happens and you want to go drink, pause and think about what you can and cannot change in the situation. The more you do this, the more you train yourself to think this way, the better you’ll start to feel.

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