What is The Sobriety Prayer?
The Sobriety Prayer or Serenity Prayer is written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Its dissemination was likely from a diary excerpt from Niebuhr’s student and collaborator, Winnifred Crane Wygal. Wygal placed the prayer in newspaper articles as early as the 1930s and then, in a somewhat altered form, in a book of worship in 1940.
The Serenity Prayer brings comfort to many, not just those on their recovery journey. It’s about letting go of situations beyond your control and taking action on things that you can control, like your sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous later adopted the Prayer in 1941. Today, the Prayer has been adopted by many other 12-step organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous.
The popularity of this simple prayer is owed to the deep spiritual meaning contained in its words. What is sobriety and makes it different from recovery? Recovery is the journey of staying sober and achieving the long-lasting sobriety the person deserves. Serenity is defined as peace, calmness, placidity, and tranquillity. Serenity is a calm state of mind. At the same time, the opposite of serenity is agitation, worry, anxiety, and apprehension.
Individuals who are trapped in the circle of drug and alcohol addiction often feel anxious, agitated, and uneasy. Therefore, serenity is, emotionally speaking, the exact opposite of the emotional state experienced by those who are addicted to substances.
The Full Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
The Significance of Sobriety Prayer
- The sobriety prayer is a great thing to tell yourself when you are feeling angry, overwhelmed, or triggered. Saying the sobriety prayer in your head will force you to pause when disturbed and collect yourself .
- The sobriety prayer is a helpful way to reflect on the principles of recovery.
- The sobriety prayer can help you choose whether a situation is worth getting upset over or if it is beyond your control.
- The sobriety prayer is a wonderful reminder that we are powerless over other places, people, and things.
- Saying the sobriety prayer first thing in the morning is a wonderful tool for beginning your day on the right foot.
- The sobriety prayer is even helpful to those who are doubtful of what it means exactly. Reciting the serenity prayer regularly can help a person get a better and personalized understanding of it.
- The sobriety prayer can help a person develop a better relationship with their own higher power.
- The sobriety prayer is helpful in learning to trust the process that you are in.
- Reciting the sobriety prayer is a selfless way to ask for help.
- The sobriety prayer is helpful and applicable to nearly every situation life has to hand you.
What Does the Sobriety Prayer Mean for Recovery?
The Sobriety or Serenity Prayer is not specific to recovery from alcohol or drug abuse, but it is frequently used in this topic because it applies well to what many individuals in recovery go through.
The first few lines, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” are sometimes the only lines individuals will recite. With recovery in mind, these few lines take on a profound meaning. The recovering alcoholic is asking God for guidance and yielding some control of circumstance, an important aspect of progressing through the 12-Step program.
The next few lines of the sobriety prayer talk about this control in more detail. While they may have gone through rehab and gotten sober, there are still events and people from their past they cannot change, a fact many recovering alcoholics struggle with. Also, in early recovery especially, the recovering alcoholic may encounter trials and tribulations out of their hands. While so much is out of their control, there are still matters they can control: their attitude, their actions, and their sobriety. The sobriety prayer is a reminder that when you can learn to accept what can and cannot be changed, you can move forward peacefully in life.
While not always used, the remaining lines of the sobriety prayer bear other essential lessons for individuals in recovery. Because the first few months following alcohol or drug addiction treatment can be challenging, “Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time” is a meaningful reminder for individuals to take recovery day-to-day as it makes it both more manageable as well as more enjoyable.
These challenging times in early recovery should also be seen as a “pathway to peace” and better days, achieved through long-term sobriety and accepting “this sinful world as it is.” Finally, the sobriety prayer ends with more lines about submitting to God’s power to reap the benefits in heaven. These closing lines support the idea that through God’s grace and guidance, one can someone fully heal and find happiness.
Why the Serenity Prayer is Difficult?
There are a number of reasons for serenity being an abstract concept for someone struggling with a substance abuse disorder. Primarily this is due to the fact that people afflicted with addiction frequently have an intense obsession with achieving complete control over their surroundings. This, of course, is something impossible for a person to achieve.
In relation to addiction, this obsession with control materializes on two levels. Level one, the effort to influence other people, becomes apparent in the frequent attempts at manipulation. Level two, the effort to influence your own feels and emotions through self-medication using drugs or alcohol. On both levels, this strategy is destined to fail.
An addict becomes more miserable the longer they pursue absolute control, which paradoxically leads to greater issues with substance abuse. We continue down this cyclical self-destructive path until we accept that difficulties will always arise in life, and there will always be occurrences out of our realm of control or ability to change.
10 Benefits of Serenity or Sobriety Prayer
Here are ten reasons why the serenity prayer can benefit everyone in recovery.
1. Acceptance as the Key to Happiness
The sobriety prayer reminds the person of the significance of acceptance. People have the ability to exert an impact on the world, but there are many things that we have no power over. For instance, there may be very little that an individual can do to alter the way other individuals think. This inability to change some aspects of life can leave individuals feeling frustrated and full of self-pity.
The person may have used the justification that life is not fair to justify their drug or alcohol abuse. Attempting to fight against the way things are is a waste of energy, and it can only ever lead to suffering. Individuals find happiness by just accepting.
2. The Sobriety Prayer Gives Comfort When Times Are Hard
When individuals give up an addiction, it doesn’t mean that they will get a free ride in life going forward. The sober individual still has to face day-to-day reality, and this implies haggling with the bad times as well as the good. When times are hard the person can begin to examine things. They may even start to wonder if staying sober is worth the effort. By thinking about the sobriety prayer, the person can find inner power. They can accept the present situation as what they have to work with and take it from there.
3. Developing Faith in Recovery
Developing faith in recovery does not mean that the person is foreseen to adopt any certain religious ideas. It refers to faith in the idea that when individuals do the right things, it will mean the right things will happen to them. There will be a great deal in life that the person has no control over, but the fact that they are now attempting to live a better life should mean that their life will get better. It is only by developing this faith in recovery that the person is able to start developing some serenity.
4. It Takes Courage to Build a New Life
The reason why so many individuals settle for a less-than-perfect life is fear. There is consolation in the familiarity even when the person is experiencing suffering. The change indicates taking a step into the unknown, and not everyone will be equipped to take this step. In order for the person to escape the misery of addiction, they will need to be brave. They will also need the courage to keep on making the needed changes that will lead them to a better life in sobriety.
5. Importance of Becoming Wise in Recovery
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the members will sometimes talk about how their best thinking got them drunk. This points out the reality that despite a tendency to arrogance, alcoholics do not tend to have much wisdom. This does not mean that they lack intelligence, but their behavior does suggest that they have lost the ability to make a good decision. When individuals first become sober, they can still fall victim to illogical thinking. In recovery, they can develop enough wisdom to be able to make better decisions.
6. Serenity Means Developing Equanimity
Carl Yung once suggested that: Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
Equanimity can be defined as emotional or mental stability from profound acceptance and awareness of the present situation. It is closely linked to serenity, and if a person has developed serenity, they will almost certainly also have developed equanimity. Spiritual seekers will often use techniques such as meditation to help them develop equanimity. It means that they deliberately focus their attention on the present moment without passing judgment on it. The development of equanimity is of particular importance to Buddhists and Hindus.
7. The Serenity Prayer Empowers the Individual
The words in this prayer are not only about acceptance but also about empowerment. It reminds the individual that there are many things that they will be able to change, and that they should take action when such actions will improve their life. The serenity prayer redirects the individual’s energies away from things out of their control and towards those things that they can control.
8. Increased Contact with the Spiritual
Many people view recovery as a spiritual path. This prayer reminds them that they are not taking this journey alone – they can rely on a higher force if they just have faith. When the individual hands over those things that are beyond them to a higher power it lightens their load significantly. This means that they can go forward with their journey feeling supported. The individual may not have the strength to overcome every obstacle in life, but their higher power will have this strength.
9. Serenity Power and Positive Thinking
There is a great deal of positivity contained within the few short lines of the serenity prayer. It suggests that the individual can have a positive impact on their future. It also points to the idea that higher forces are at work. Those things that the individual recognizes as beyond their control may actually lead them to great things if they just learn to accept. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that thinking positively puts the individual in a position where they are more likely to find success in life. Negative thinking (also known as stinking thinking) should be avoided in recovery because it can easily lead to relapse.
10. Serenity Prayer and Humility
Saint Augustine advised: Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
In order for people to find success in recovery, it is vital that they develop some humility. This means that they have developed the ability to accept their own limitations and weaknesses. Humility is the opposite of arrogance. The individual makes the amazing discovery that by accepting their own weaknesses, they become stronger. This is because when people are arrogant, they are unable to learn anything new, and they regularly end up out of their depth because they have overestimated their abilities. There is nothing wrong with admitting weakness – in reality, it is the key to success.
At We Level Up New Jersey, we passionately believe that the best chances of success at alcoholism recovery are when clients are given the right tools. But that is still only half of the battle; making those resources accessible and convenient plays a significant role in the possibility of proper recovery.
The Sobriety Prayer is a wide door, one that’s open to individuals of all faiths and backgrounds. It conveys wisdom to alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike. Individuals who live this prayer learn how to balance acceptance and change. This gift is special, and it’s one that we can enjoy for a lifetime of serenity.
If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, especially if you have experienced multiple relapses in the past, then look no further. With an incredible success rate for long-term recovery, We Level Up NJ offers one of the most comprehensive addiction recovery programs available in The United States, bringing hope to families every day.
 NIAAA – https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/projectmatch/match01.pdf