Changing the things I can

Many people will be familiar with the wording of the Serenity Prayer, often heard at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step fellowships, and often use das almost a type of mantra by many people in recovery.

Indeed many people say that the wording of the serenity prayer in effect sums up many of the principles of the AA 12-step program, especially perhaps the most important principle about that of control.

The wording of the serenity prayer reads “courage to change the things I can” and many people will focus on the word courage.

In fact, whatever one’s understanding of courage, the most important thing is to recognise the sense that there are things you can change, and there are things that you cannot change, and know the difference between the two.

This is more than an issue about semantics. It is a fundamental sense about knowing what you are in control of and what you are not in control of.

Psychologists refer to this process as a ‘locus of control’ which really goes to the heart of the whole recovery process.

In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the section on Step Three refers to a scenario of an actor on a stage trying to control the environment around him.

The real value of this analogy, may take a while for many individuals to really understand, as it goes to the core of an individual trying to control the life.

Many people in AA and in recovery generally understand this message to mean that they are not in control of their alcoholism, and more widely not really in control of anything that happens to them.

This can lead to real problems, and an inverted sense that if they are not in control of their life, someone or something else must be.

This can have huge implications for an individual’s sense of self, their understanding and their sense of God, and their sense of power or control over their own life.

This understanding of themselves as people, what their sense of God is or isn’t and how it impacts on their lives is hugely important in a recovery context.

Any rational human being looking at their life, what ever the context, would readily understand that at some level they have control or power over some things, and there are other things that do not have control of power over.

Being able to consciously understand this, and make adjustments where necessary is an absolute key to any peace of mind and inner stability. For many alcoholics and people heavily affected by alcoholism it is a lifesaver, often quite literally.

The alternative is that your feel you have no control over anything your life, in which case you are likely to feel that you’re simply drifting through and reacting to life, or that something or someone else is in control of your life.

That scenario is more akin to a cult setting, than the reality of a free human being.