When I relocated from east central Iowa to northwest Iowa for a new job when I was three years sober, I not only changed addresses, I changed how I was approaching my recovery. I needed to, otherwise my approach to life and my job were likely to lead to drinking and other unhealthy choices.
Hanging out with people in recovery more regularly, I sought the advice of friends who I also saw as spiritual advisors. As I spent time with these grace-filled women and men, I wanted to find some of the peace they had.
I began doing some of the things that were suggested, including staying in today, just for today. It also included learning to pray differently than the way I had been taught growing up. The faith of my upbringing was heavy on ritual, hands folded, on bended knee.
There is a time and place for that, but I needed easier access to praying in my daily life. One prayer that I started hearing more regularly was the Serenity Prayer. The short version goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things
I cannot change.
Courage to change
The things I can.
And the wisdom
To know the difference.
It’s a powerful prayer for any of us, but especially applicable and appreciated by recovering alcoholics and addicts trying to let go of unhealthy thought patterns and actions. Trying to let go of unreasonable expectations of self and others.
So I was learning and growing more in recovery and also realizing that I would get out of it what I put into it. Daily work for daily recovery from a daily disease.
What about that raging workaholism that I had developed early in recovery? It had come with me to my new job, but I was slowly getting a handle on it. And also realizing that the same efforts I was applying to overcome alcoholism could also be applied to overworking.
I had a moment of clarity somewhere around the time I was 5 years sober. The lessons were still coming slowly, but they were sure making an impact in my life.
There was a particularly tough day at work. I don’t recall the details, but it wasn’t unlike many days. I was more confident as a teacher and co-worker than I had been, but still a perfectionist and my own worst enemy.
On this day, I can guarantee you I was feeling sorry for myself while simultaneously beating myself up for the mistakes I had made . . . ego’s double whammy.
Tough day in the classroom. Tough circumstances in my day. And then it happened. I remember it to this day. I walked into my apartment. I can still picture it. Pondering my difficult day, a loud and clear moment of clarity came through.
The Serenity Prayer came into my consciousness and I felt better. It needed to be loud and clear to get through the clutter in my head and heart. Most of the day’s happenings simply needed to be put in perspective and I simply needed to let up on myself a little.
When the prayer came through, my load was immediately lightened and hope took hold. I knew that the work I was doing in recovery was starting to carry over in all areas of my life. That is the beauty of it. It is so much more than not drinking.
That moment of clarity years into my sobriety and recovery marked a turning point. The path I needed to be on became clear. Prayers needed to be part of my daily routine, a way for me to get out of my own way and ask for help. The Serenity Prayer continues to be one I start each day with, and use throughout the day when my noisy mind tries to take over. Loud and clear, help is available.