Wisdom from the Serenity Prayer in Uncertain Times

Even before coming to SAL 12-Step, I have always loved the serenity prayer. My father was raised Catholic and quoted it often.

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.

In early recovery, these words were a life raft I clung to in moments of confusion and despair. They are still a welcome refrain at every SAL 12-Step meeting I go to, and a mantra I rest in whenever I lose my grounding. No matter how long I work recovery, these words bring clarity in almost every situation. The wisdom contained in the serenity prayer is most certainly a recovery tool that applies to all aspects of our lives, not just our struggles with sexual addiction.

It is quite shocking to consider how drastically our lives have changed in the past 14 days. In one 24-hour period, I learned that I would not be teaching classes anymore at the 2 Universities where I have worked for over 10 years, would not be speaking at UCAP, my son’s first high school soccer season would be postponed or cancelled altogether, my children would be home with me 24/7, and my church was shutting down any gatherings or activities. Certainly, most of you have experienced similar changes to your daily routines, and maybe some more drastic.

It seems that just as I wrap my mind around one change, another change comes flying in. Our upcoming vacation was cancelled. What I first conceptualized as a 2-week hiatus from work, church, and school seems likely to turn into 2-months. News of states rolling in tighter and tighter restrictions escalates daily. It is hard to find a grounding.

It has been interesting to observe myself as the world quickly unravels around me. It feels….well, familiar. In fact, it feels a lot like Rock Bottom.

When my husband disclosed his online affair, I felt like the entire Universe truly was unraveling around me. My identity, my past, my future, my family, my imagined love story, my memories, my financial stability…everything seemed to be crumbling at my feet. And every few days or weeks, new information came trickling in. When I had wrapped my mind around one aspect of his disclosures, I was inevitably met with more details, new wounds to heal. I was floating in outer space with nothing to catch me. I melted into a puddle on the floor, and no matter how desperately I flailed and grasped, I couldn’t find anything solid to hold on to.

However, as JK Rowling said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Today, my recovery tools and practices help me to face uncertainty feeling much less uncomfortable than I did six years ago. Compared to losing my entire identity, adjusting to a different schedule and restrictions on my social calendar seems like a piece of cake. I may not know what the future holds–the economic impact of all of this chaos, or even the health and well-being of myself and family members that I love, but today I feel like I am standing on solid ground. Today I know that even if I am in lock-down for months on end, I have everything I need inside the walls of my own home. In fact, everything I truly need is inside of me, and nothing can take it away, at least, not without my permission.

Recovery has given me solid ground to stand on because it has taught me how to put God at my center. This is not to say that there aren’t moments the Fear Bug bites me. But the Serenity Prayer guides me one day at a time to change what I can, and surrender what I can’t.

God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change.

What can’t I change?

-The coronavirus

-The government and/or community response to the virus

-My children’s attitude

-The way the media presents information

-How many more restrictions will be put into place

The Courage to Change the Things I Can.

What do I have the power to change?

-Limit how often I check the news.

-What I choose to focus on. Am I feeding my fear or my faith?

-Make healthy choices for myself and my family.

-Incorporate movement and meditation into my everyday routine.

-The energy I choose to put out into the Universe.

-Make responsible choices as a considerate member of a global community.

-Make gratitude a conscious, daily practice.

-Take accountability for my own actions and reactions.

-Practice compassion and empathy for others.

While there are many challenges to both our global and personal circumstances with COVID-19, there are also so many opportunities.

There are so many, many things I can change. And there is beauty in truly surrendering the things I can’t into the hands of a Higher Power. Because of all the beauty for ashes He has already given me, I have come to trust Him with my whole heart and my whole life. If He can handle ugly lies and infidelity, trauma and gut-wrenching pain, pendulums of rage and depression, and a lifetime of addiction…He can certainly handle a global pandemic.

Rock bottom cleared the space inside me for something new, something different. Without the pain, the disruption, the absolute halt that came from ground zero, there would have been no space for the growth and new perspectives that recovery has brought into my life.

Rock bottom carved out a huge cavern in my soul, and Recovery filled it with a desire for God.

As I experience this new challenge, six years down the road from my darkest moment, I feel again the sweet stirring of Divine discomfort. I feel a Higher Power at work, cleansing the entire globe to create space for something new. To wake us up.

What does He want to show me this time? I don’t know, but I am sure that it is something beautiful.

Can you feel it? What is your heart whispering to you? What is it most longing for?

Find the ground under your feet. Find your breath and feel it move through you.

This is your chance to pause. To find Him. To feel Him.

To come face to face with real and justified fear and willingly surrender it to Him.

To witness how He shows up in your darkest hour.  That Light makes the most sense in the dark.

Don’t miss this chance. Keep working your recovery. It Works.

It Works for Trauma. It Works for Global Pandemic. Why?

Because recovery points us to God. And He is the answer to all of it.


2 thoughts on “Wisdom from the Serenity Prayer in Uncertain Times”

  1. I am just 3 weeks into betrayal trauma, but I realize I have layers of scars of betrayal throughout my life with many different family members and loved ones. I am gripping onto Jesus because I am a Christian and I love HIM. I realize I put 100% into my relationships, only to be deeply hurt repeatedly. I realize it is my sin to put my husband, children, friends in such a high place in my heart that belongs only to Jesus. I am repentant and am studying my Bible and books on betrayal trauma.Is there a virtual group I can join to discuss things with?

    1. Yes, just go to sal12step.org/find-a-meeting for a full schedule of weekly meetings you can join at any time, for free. Attending a weekly SAL 12-Step meeting to work my own recovery from betrayal trauma has been one of the most important things I have done to find healing. God bless you, Paula!

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