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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Originally Posted @

Recited at the beginning of nearly every 12-step meeting, the serenity prayer is perhaps the most well-known prayer related to recovery. Anyone in recovery or associated with recovery has heard the prayer and most know it by heart. But do we know what makes the prayer so popular? Or how it came to be ingrained with recovery? Read and find out how the serenity prayer was created and what lead it to become the landmark prayer of recovery from drugs and alcohol.

The Origins

Contrary to some beliefs, the serenity prayer was not created by Bill Wilson and the early founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The prayer was written by an unknown theologian and minister named Reinhold Niebuhr. Although the specific publication of the prayer doesn’t appear until the early forties, Reinhold was using the prayer as early as 1934. The prayer came across the desk of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 by a member who was captivated by the simple prayer. The early members of A.A were so taken by the prayer that they printed in and passed it around to groups all over the country. The prayer quickly became a staple of Alcoholics Anonymous and is an informal tradition of every meeting. Other 12-step groups quickly began using it as well and has led it to mainstream status.

The Principles Behind the Prayer

What is it about the serenity prayer that resonates with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts? Aside from the short and catchy nature of the prayer, I believe that the principles represented by the prayer deal directly with some of the most basic 12-step ideals. In the prayer we are asking God to give us the serenity to accept the things we can’t change. One of the basic tenets of recovery deals with acceptance of people and situations. We strive to be satisfied with what God gives us and only to focus on ourselves and how we can grow and improve. Many of us have run into stress, disappointment, and frustration when trying to change another person or a situation that is out of our control. It also touches on the importance of tolerance in our lives. When we practice these principles we can experience the blessing of serenity. The next line deals with having the courage and strength to change the things in our life that we can. The principles that stand out to me are willingness and motivation. Sometimes change is uncomfortable or unpredictable. We resist change because we are stuck in our ways or fear the uncertain. We seek the courage to become willing and ready to change our lives. These principles are common in Alcoholics Anonymous and in recovery. Getting sober requires a lot of courage to change our habits, our beliefs, and our environment. The last part of the serenity prayer asks God to help us in differentiating between the things we can and cannot change. It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing the right thing or being helpful, when in reality we are trying to change things we cannot. Likewise, it is easy to sit back and not take action on a situation that we should do something about. The serenity prayer asks God that we be given the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

An integral part of recovery groups, the serenity prayer is renowned for its simplicity and profound truths. Surpassing its 80th year of existence, the serenity prayer will continue to be a favorite prayer of people in sobriety.


Posted by on in Alcoholism

In recovery, we go through the steps with our sponsor.  However, the steps also must be worked in our daily lives.  As the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests, we must practice these principles in all our affairs.


In everyday life, powerlessness is constantly affecting us.  Specifically, we must always remember our powerlessness over our addiction. Keeping close the memory of what happens when we indulge helps drive us every day to work the steps.  Remembering what our addiction looks like is a great motivator.

After working the steps and gaining insight, we discover that we are powerless over much more than our addiction.  Essentially, we are powerless over everyone and everything except ourselves.  We must stop trying to control outside events.

Dr. Paul O. said, "When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation- some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment... When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God's handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God."

We must stop trying to control and fix things.  Although in the First Step we are not yet examining a power greater than ourselves, the point still stands: we must recognize our own powerlessness over the world around us, and focus within.  In our daily lives, we must turn our concentration inward, and cease trying to control the external.  This is a simple, yet difficult task; recognizing our powerlessness and letting things go is very counterintuitive.


Unmanageability affects our daily lives as well.  With the powerlessness over other people comes the unmanageability.  Other people, external events, and anything else outside of ourselves is certainly unmanageable.  When we don't recognize our powerlessness over these things, unmanageability grows even stronger.  Trying to exert power over external phenomena creates distress and anxiety.  Recognizing our powerlessness, we must see that everything is unmanageable to us.


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