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The Serenity Prayer litmus test

Once we’ve identified our obstacles to abstinence, the real work begins. The Serenity Prayer asks us to find the courage to change what we can and accept what we can’t—and of course the wisdom to know the difference.

In my three decades of recovery, I’ve learned that the “accept what we can’t change” group is really very small and mostly centers around death and permanent loss. The rest of our obstacles take the courage to change them, courage we may at first believe we don’t have.

We can start with changing the small things: We can ask our friends to change the venue of a restaurant even if our tradition of eating and drinking there has been going on for years. We can screw up our courage and take a class or join a meetup group to counteract our shyness and loneliness.

We can move on to the larger things (or start with those). We can quit a job where the break room offers too many triggers. We can separate from an abusive or demeaning or cheating spouse even if the kids will be unhappy. We can even refuse to have lunch every Sunday with our mother-in-law, sending our spouse to have lunch with her and taking ourselves to a movie or a 12-Step meeting instead.

Change isn’t easy but energy comes from it, energy that can serve more change and help us create a life we really love. Staying stuck in our old ways gives us only the old life and most of us are eating addictively because that life doesn’t fit us anymore.

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