What You DO Have Control Over

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.”

This is the Serenity Prayer. It is uttered by MILLIONS of recovering addicts every single day in meetings all around the world. As a recovering addict myself, I’ve personally found the message contained within it to be a principle philosophy by which to live my life if I want to grow and enjoy freedom from addiction and its subsequent oppression.

It’s All About Control

Humans strive for control. The primary reason we use and abuse is because we have an overwhelming sense of having lost control in our own life. So we use and abuse in order to escape. Using gives us the illusion of control because through it we think we can control how we feel. And how we feel is THE determining factor in our quality of life.

I’ll be the first to admit that many people have actually experienced such terrible and unimaginable things in their life that one can hardly blame them for wanting to escape through drugs or alcohol, in a desperate effort to control something.

But this sense of control is illusory, delusional. Obviously, using does not give us more control. It just seems like it does because it provides a temporary escape from the things haunting our minds.   When we use, we feel better. When we feel better, we feel more in control. But only for a little while.

Gaining genuine control, however, requires us to deal with our problems head-on rather than seeking escape from them. You never can completely escape your past. You can’t escape the reality of what you have already experienced. But you also don’t have to focus and dwell on it in a way that gives the experience power over you.

The reason the Serenity Prayer is so popular is because it contains within it a life principle to live by: What you DO have control over is infinitely more important than what you do not.

It’s a lot easier to fight addiction when you aren’t also fighting such things as the fact of your birth, that your parents were monsters, that you were raped or brutalized, or that you lost everything and everyone you love. That stuff is done, over with. Signed, sealed, and delivered. There is no chance that you can change it.

But what CAN you change?

Simple. Your self. All those things about yourself that influence your quality of life and how you feel. Your thoughts, beliefs, attitude, attention, and effort. These things matter. Because these are the things you have complete control over. Everything else is just details. And there are countless details of each individual’s life. If you get caught up in those details – or in trying to control them – that’s when you actually lose control and feel the need for escape.

Focusing on what is within our control amplifies and enhances our personal power. We can’t control the economy, the government, the weather, or circumstances that happen TO us.  We can’t control other people or the choices they make. Those are the details. All we have control over is our self.

What separates us from everyone else is focusing on controlling what we can and not stressing over the rest.


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